So what exactly does a typical day look like when you’re writing for a living? I’ve been asked this several times. And it’s a little hard to answer, actually. I’m not sure there is a ‘typical’ day. Especially, if you’re not specializing in one kind of writing and providing words for a variety of projects. But on any given day, the words must be put down, whether they flow or not. Now my writing schedule is in the evenings or on weekends and looks different. But when I was writing full time, what follows was a real day of writing for this particular writer. . .
7:30 – 8:00AM: Climb into chair, check e-mail to see if there are any emergencies. Answer a couple quickly, then call-up a document of copy for a health care brochure. Got most of it done yesterday. Read back over what I wrote. Shorten one paragraph, clarify a specified procedure and punch up a closing line. Pretty satisfied. Let it rest until late in the afternoon to give it fresh eyes and then make any more corrections and then send off to client.
8:00 – 10:00: Begin a video script for a Northwest resort that is rebranding their image. Somewhere in the 5-7 minute range. Come up with a montage of images for the opening and then begin to write narration that hopefully doesn’t feel too narrationly. More natural, inviting. Finish a draft of the first third of the script and push back from the desk. Take a quick walk outside to stir the gray matter.
10:30 – 11:30: Rewrite an essay for an airline magazine. The editor liked the piece but wondered if I couldn’t punch up an incident that is central to the article. In other words, make it more humorous. And of course, I’m more than happy to do that. It’s really only rewriting part of a paragraph; rewording/structuring three sentences, really. It takes me an hour. Remember, dying is easy; comedy is hard.
11:30 – 1:30: Answer e-mails. Get a little thrill when an editor for a large magazine takes interest in my query (brief summary/proposal for an article) and says she’d be interested in seeing the piece. I shoot it off to her with a little prayer. I’m then brought back down to Earth with the disappointing news that a fiction piece was rejected. The personal note from the editor is only a little solace. Then send out a query for another proposed magazine article. I get a response from a regional corporate producer who has looked at my script samples and said he’ll keep me in mind, which means, don’t call us we’ll call you. It’s now time for a bite, peruse the news on the web, read a writing blog or two.
1:30 – 3:30: Sent out script samples to ten production companies and ad agencies in the region in hopes they are looking for freelance writers. I’ve learned that I have to actively market at the same time I get the writing done. Can’t put it on the back burner or the work flow is too choppy…or stops all together.
3:30 – 5:00: Go back over health care brochure. Make one change. Satisfied and send it off to the client for review. Start some web copy for the home page of a new client. Kind of hit a wall. Writing feels dry and forced. Push away from the desk and call it a day.
And that indeed is a typical day. A fairly productive day. Not everything went well but still got some work done and the promise of tomorrow brings another chance to make the words better.
It’s a hard, exciting, frustrating, enlightening and wondrous way to spend a day.