A Day In The Life of an Author
By Liesl Shurtliff
“Mom? I’m hungry.”
This is my 6:30 wake-up call, compliments of my 5-year-old son. He’s pretty much always hungry. I stretch and growl as I flop out of bed. I am not a morning person, but mornings are the most intense part of my day. I cook oatmeal or bacon and eggs, practice violin with my 5-year-old son, guitar with my 8-year-old son, pack lunches, walk the boys to school, go for a short run by the lake, then race home to get my 11-year-old daughter started with her studies. She’s homeschooled, a decision I made reluctantly two years ago, but something that has been gratifying for us both. I give her a spelling quiz or she delivers a social studies report, then gets to work on her other subjects.
10:00 AM. Now the writing day can begin. Stephen King said that the hardest part of writing is getting started. I thought he just meant starting any one story, and maybe he did mean that, but what I’ve learned is getting started with work is hard every stinking day. Seeing as my writing time is extremely limited, you’d think it would be easy for me to sit and write, but it isn’t. I can actually feel my brain wince when I sit down to write. It knows it will be required to work, stretch, and flip like an Olympic gymnast, and it resists. I have to battle that resistance to the death. I sit down, open my notebook or computer and do the work. It’s a strain at first, but after a while my brain relaxes and I get into a rhythm. If I’m drafting I find joy in the unexpected things that turn up in my story. If I’m revising, I love finding solutions to problems, or ways to enhance the characters and story.
Around noon, it’s lunchtime. Sometimes I eat a quick bite and get back to work, or check social media and answer a few emails while I’m eating, but I have to be careful with that. It can be easy to get sucked into the internet vortex and then I have to start all over again, battling that creative resistance. I keep working through the afternoon until it’s time to pick up my boys from school. The pace picks up. We have music lessons, homework, scouts, choir, baseball… I do my best to get a good meal on the table, but let’s be honest. Sometimes takeout saves us all. It’s why we live in the city.
When my husband gets home, we sit down together for dinner, even if it’s 5 Guys burgers and fries. This is the only time of day where we all get to be together. We each share something good that happened to us that day, and something bad. It’s interesting to hear what everyone is thinking about, what’s important to them and what they’re struggling with. This exercise has shown that though our experiences and struggles vary widely, our emotional reactions are generally the same. My frustration level with writer’s block is the same as my daughter’s anxiety over a math test. It helps us connect and develop empathy for one another. As a writer, it’s invaluable for me to see the world from as many points-of-view as possible. My children are inspiration for character, conflict, and fresh perspective.
At bedtime I read to the boys while my husband reads to our daughter. Even though our two older children are strong independent readers, we haven’t abandoned the tradition of reading aloud to them. There’s something magical about experiencing a book together, and I know my kids appreciate being read to, even though they can read very well to themselves. After the kids are in bed, my brain is too fried for any creative productivity, so I use the last hour or two of the day to accomplish more business-related tasks. I answer emails, schedule school visits, arrange travel, then finally tuck myself in bed with a book. I’m exhausted but I don’t fall asleep easily, so I read until my eyelids get heavy. The day has been full to bursting and all I can think is “My cup runneth over.”
Jack has always been told that giants are not real. But if that’s the case, how do you explain the huge, foot shaped pond in the yard, or the occurrence of strange and sudden storms in which the earth quakes and dirt rains from the sky? When his father is carried away in such a storm, Jack gives chase in the only logical way: by trading the family cow for some magic beans that will give him access to a land beyond the clouds. He arrives to find that the giants themselves have giant-sized troubles. With the help of an overachieving little sister, a magic goose and a chatty cook (who is not interested in grinding human bones into bread, thank you very much!) Jack sets out to save his dad and save the day.
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