Existential Ennui (or where is Danielle’s Daily Routine?) by Deb Danielle Younge-Ullman

My daily routine is having a crisis.

It is not quite sure whether it even exists, which makes this an existential crisis.

It needs therapy, vitamins, feng shui or possibly a cleanse of some kind. (But not the colonic kind, please.)

Seriously, I am not the most regimented of people, though you’d think having first a dog and then adding a child, would have forced it upon me by now. To some extent it has, but I have to fight myself every step of the way to achieve anything. Left to my own devices I would sleep late, spend the remainder of the morning drinking coffee and eating pastries in my PJs while curled up on the couch with a few books…and ideally my husband, my kid and my dog, not that they’d stay on the couch for very long, much less let me read, but hey, I can fantasize.

I’m not saying I don’t get a lot done and I’ve always been very prompt and fairly responsible, but in terms of routines and things that take ongoing discipline, writing is the first thing I really got disciplined about. My ability to set a routine for writing was one of my first clues that I was finally on the right path in my life, and it did a lot for my belief in myself just to finish the first book, and then the second, regardless of what the eventual outcome would be.

Right now though, and for the past few months my routine, especially my writing routine has suffered. (Not to all writers: getting published is bad for writing–at least at first.) Needless to say I’ve been a bit distracted with Falling Under being sold, edited and now (finally!) launched.

So here’s my ideal routine, one that I’m hoping to get back to very soon. Like today.

8-10am: (with Oppressor) wake, shower, dress, dress & feed daughter, walk and feed dog, drink coffee, have breakfast, respond to any urgent emails–not necessarily in that order

10am: internet OFF, in office, writing until 2pm, with one coffee/snack/water break

2-3:30pm (during little one’s nap) respond to all emails, deal with all other work related stuff

3:30-8pm: hang with family, walk dog, do all house-related chores (did this today with 2-year-old “helping” fold laundry) make/eat dinner, bedtime for munchkin

8pm: relax?

How does that sound? And what’s your secret to getting everything done?

No really, I want to know.

Deb Danielle

By the way, you can read some of my 1st Book Story this week over at Meg Waite Clayton’s very cool blog.

14 thoughts on “Existential Ennui (or where is Danielle’s Daily Routine?) by Deb Danielle Younge-Ullman

  1. I’m going thru a schedule makeover at the moment and love reading how other writers divide up their day.

    What I’m curious to know, and no one has mentioned is how friends fit into the picture, how an hour for grocery shopping figures into a day. What about exercise or calling an insurance company and sitting on hold for 40 minutes?

    When my kids go back to school my plan is to be regimented. I just don’t have that regimen set yet, and they go back next Wednesday.

  2. Amy, I hear you. That’s why the “ideal” schedule never quite seems to work–too many x factors! So much of those things end up coming out of my designated writing time, and with only part time day care, it’s really tough.

    Seeing friends? I really have to fight for that time too. Working from home is, in so many ways, fantastic, but no one expects you to do laundry or empty the dishwasher when you’re gone to an office for the day…

    The Oppressor and I both work from home much of the time, though he does have an office he can go to. (He’s an actor/real estate agent.) It’s wonderful because we see each other a lot and our daughter has a great sense of our both being really involved, but the demands of the house really distract us a lot.

  3. My secret to getting everything done (not that I always get everything done) is my daily planner. An old school off-brand Franklin planner. My husband says I should use my computer for scheduling tasks, but I say there’s nothing so satisfying as scribbling off a task that’s been finished. I have a standing joke that I do what my planner tells me, and it’s true. My planner shows me a week at a time when I open it up, and every Monday or Sunday night maybe, I set my goals for the week and sprinkle the tasks across the pages. If I get going really fast one day, I might add more tasks to give myself breathing room later. If I’m going slow, I’ll move a task. And “writing” with a word count goal for the week (not daily, that’s too much pressure) is definitely in the planner.

    My other secret is an incredibly supportive spouse. My husband does the grocery shopping.

    As for friends…we’re ALL so busy we hardly see each other but we don’t beat up ourselves or each other over that. We do what we can.

  4. Kristina, I love crossing things out manually too! My only problem is the ongoing search for the perfect dayplanner. I’ve used the Quo Vadis (daily and weekly) and two different sized of Filofax. I’ve yet to find one that is absolutely perfect, but I’ll get there.

    Re friends–my most enduring friendships–and I have some great ones–survive, guilt free, even if we’re all too frantic to see each other.

    Thanks for sharing your method!

  5. in terms of routines and things that take ongoing discipline, writing is the first thing I really got disciplined about.

    You know, I’m the same way. (Except when it comes to housework, because I am of a tidy nature.) As a kid, I had to be nagged to get out of bed on time, do my homework, practice piano, get ready for ballet or swim team, do my chores (because back then, my tidy nature did not extend to the enjoyment of washing dishes). I’d be the same way now if I didn’t force myself to be a grownup and do what needs to be done, but it’s still a struggle getting to my day job on time.

    Learning enough discipline to Do Writing consistently is something that’s happened only in the last year or two. I’m terribly proud of myself.

    I see only one problem in your “ideal schedule,” or at least, it would be a problem for me. Four hours of writing in isolation with only one break? I could never do it. I like to write at my kitchen table, with my cats and boyfriend going back and forth through our tiny duplex (as long as bf doesn’t read over my shoulder!), with my internet on, browsing writing/publishing-related content, snacking, getting up to do this or that … I don’t even have the option of a private writing space, because our place is too small. I’d like to have an office to myself, but the door would always be open and I would still have internet access. That’s just what works for me. That’s when I get the writing done.

    Or I go to my favorite coffee shop where I know a lot of the clientele and can take frequent breaks to chat or get up for more coffee/snacks. I can’t envision myself writing in a library or a silent, isolated office on a regular basis. I’d have to be in a very rare mood to do that. People tell aspiring writers to get away from distractions, but if I don’t have things going on around me, I start to feel trapped and the work becomes Real Work that I want to avoid.

  6. Danielle – your ideal routine sounds glorious.

    I really don’t have a schedule for writing. I aim to get chunks of writing done on the weekend and some weeknights I do try to sit and eek out a few words if my brain isn’t fried from the day job. But somehow it happens. I’m a fast writer with a horrible memory so I’ll look down and see I’ve added a few thousand words to the WIP but have no recollection of actually doing it. I’m sure the bad memory has to do with my chronic multi-tasking, which means in between writing sentences I’m checking e-mail, looking at posts on Backspace and changing my status on Facebook – this makes it feel like I’m NOT writing. But I guess I am and it seems to work.

  7. Routine! Surely, you’re jesting. Since I quit working full time at a regular job, I haven’t been able to keep a routine. I want a routine back. Please! Also, my dh isn’t any help when it comes to keeping to a routine. He’s the spontaneous type. Grrr.

    Sandy, who is envious of your routine.

  8. I don’t have a regular routine for writing but I wish I did. I’m a dreamer and procrastinator who works really well on a deadline. If I have a critique meeting coming up or a contest I want to enter, I become really focused and productive. Otherwise, I fit my writing in whenever I can, usually on days when the kids are in school and I don’t have to work.

  9. Your routine, Danielle, sounds very balanced with four hours of writing in the middle of the day there’s time to relax in the evening. And, since it’s noon now, here’s hoping you’re writing!

  10. I am coming to accept that I have no routine. My schedule changes willy nilly. I’ve settled for setting weekly goals of what needs to get done. Somedays it means I have my ideal schedule and on other days it means I have to flex.

  11. Oh, I’m with you. Writing routine? What’s that? 🙂 I’m so ADD I’m juggling several things at once, all the time, and I’ve forgotten how I even wrote the first (or second!) novels.

  12. Oohh, lots of responses!

    Sandy, don’t be envious yet–I’m not actually ON that routine at the moment, and haven’t been for a long time.

    Larramie, I did actually go write in a Chapters/Indigo, after signing books. It was the most work I’ve got done in a month. Yay!

    Jolie, you and Joanne seem to like the same kind of multi-tasking and action around you while you work. Personally, I love to sit on the main floor if my house and keep my internet on, but the result is not good–there are just too many distractions! I have to essentially lock myself in a room or go somewhere, like a coffee shop, where there’s nothing else for me to do.

    Annette–I love a deadline too! This is one reason a two-book deal is a good idea (beyond the excellent thing of just having a two-book deal!)–there are strict deadlines and I’m very good at making a deadline.

    Jess & Eileen, we’ll get there! I think this first year of publication is uber stressful and distracting and that we will soon be, you know, older and wiser and all that stuff, which will mean we will have PERFECT writing routines.

  13. Thanks for sharing this, Danielle. And you are SOOO right about how the publishing gets in the way of the writing. Didn’t expect that…

  14. Just think back on University! Talk about no routine. I remember calling friends at 2 am to chat and sleeping past noon. The things you don’t appreciate until later!!

    My secret…I just don’t have a very neat house 🙂

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