#91: Writing and Life

Every once in a while, I stumble upon a writing hack or routine that just works. I start doing it every day. It feels like falling in love. I’ve finally figured it out, I say to myself. From now on, I’ll be productive forever.

In 2016, I started meditating every morning. In 2017, I took up daily journaling. In 2018, I wrote fiction for 15 minutes first thing after waking up. In 2019, I’ve committed to using a habit tracker on my phone. These are just the tip of the iceberg.

Things go well for a while. I get done what I want to get done, and that makes me happy. But the longer it lasts, the more anxiety I get about maintaining my precious routine. I’m afraid of the slightest deviation. When planning holidays, the only thing I think about is how will I be able to maintain my writing streak.

What if I had to move house? Or change jobs? Or had children? What a disaster that would be! My schedule has no room for it. The inertia haunts me everywhere I go and makes me into a morose crank, determined to defend this sacred space to the final breath. I start to avoid living in order to write.

However, rigid things are often fragile. No matter what I do, change is going to catch up with me, and the habits that I’ve worked so hard to build will shatter into pieces. I will need to figure it out once again.

In a recent interview on the Tim Ferriss Show that I keep mentioning here over and over again, Neil Gaiman talked about how his writing habits evolved over time depending on where he lived and what was he doing. He used to be a night writer, then a morning writer. Now he writes in the afternoons, but he isn’t attached to the routine. He does it because that’s what works with his current other commitments. (It’s a great interview, available for free on the internet. Go listen to it!)

This idea of life versus writing — that you can either be a writer or parent, that you can’t have a demanding job or social life and write — is a fallacy. Some of the world’s most successful authors like J. K. Rowling and Stephen King wrote their first novels working full-time and sustained a long writing career while raising a family. It’s not easy, but what else is there to do? Move to a cave with a stack of notebooks so that you have enough time to write? But then what will you write about?

These days, I’m no longer looking for the perfect routine. Instead, I want my writing habits to be like water — to flow and adapt to whatever weird shit is going on in my life at the time. No matter what happens, I will find time to write.

What I Am Reading

Believe it or not, I’m still reading Lethal White by Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling). I just passed page 300, and it seems that things are starting to pick up the pace. The beginning just wasn’t pulling me in that much, which is I guess the reason why I’m still not done.

Gnomon by Nick Harkaway

I started listening to a 30-hour monster of an audiobook. It’s a dystopian novel set in near-future totalitarian Britain called Gnomon by Nick Harkaway.

Short Stories

This week, I read these short stories:


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