Hmm, what’s my process? Funny, I don’t think anyone’s ever asked me that before. I don’t really have a “process,” per se, just a simple routine that I meticulously follow every day like a disciplined genius robot.
I usually wake up around 5 or 5:05 A.M., and get out of bed immediately. I do not press snooze. I do not start scrolling through Twitter so that the brightness of my phone’s L.E.D. screen will force my eyes into awakeness, but then continue reading tweets for so long that my eyes adjust to the brightness and I get sleepy again.
I meditate first thing in the morning. I do this sitting down on a meditation pillow (which is not painful, because I have naturally good posture). I do not use a meditation app, because I am not a baby. I just set a timer to emit a gentle gong sound after an hour, and I empty my mind. When thoughts do arise, they are usually really smart thoughts about my writing, but I do not hold on to them in a panic, because I have enough faith in myself to know that they will return when it is time.
Then I run ten miles and make a smoothie. I don’t drink coffee, because that would probably just lead to hours of wondering if maybe I haven’t had enough coffee but being unwilling to drink more because I don’t want to get addicted and need more and more coffee every day just to be able to function. The smoothie usually has coconut oil in it—yum!
Finally, it’s time to write.
My desk is a clean, uncluttered expanse that I use solely for writing, and certainly not as a dumping ground for wedding invitations, gum wrappers, and grocery-store receipts that I’m afraid to throw away in case I need them for “tax purposes.” On the wall above my computer, I have taped up an index card with a quote from Kafka or Don DeLillo or some other cool writer, which inspires me anew each time I look at it. You’d think that I would become blind to it after a while, or that I might occasionally feel embarrassed by its pretentiousness when guests come over, but nope! It’s just constantly inspirational and not embarrassing.
I remain seated at my desk for the entirety of my writing session. (I do not attempt to convince myself that I could be just as productive if I were writing in bed, and that it would be kind of fun and “like college.”)
I don’t need to disable my Internet connection, because—honestly?—I’m not even tempted. I understand that social media does not hold the answers I seek, and that looking at it will only make me feel terrible. And, what’s more, my understanding of this fact translates seamlessly into my actual behavior.
I have a friendly relationship with the mysterious forces that govern my creative inspiration—my muses, if you will. When they visit me, a soft smile alights on my lips. “Hello, old friends,” I murmur fondly. My experience of writing is a giddy, pleasurable one, and does not feel like being trapped inside a cage that is on fire.
When I write, I let my characters speak through me—I am but a vessel for their words. I shut out all distractions and turn off my phone, because I definitely don’t worry that if I take too long to text people back they’ll decide they hate me and never text me again.
In the afternoon, I typically take a long walk. I do not listen to podcasts. Why would I? The music of the natural world is podcast enough. As you may have noticed, a running theme in my process is that I am not afraid to be alone with my thoughts. Not at all.
Of course, some days the muses may not visit me. When this occurs, I accept the situation with equanimity and give myself permission to write a clumsy first draft and vigorously edit it later. This approach is possible because I understand that my intrinsic self-worth is separate from my talent and my productivity, and because I know that I am deserving of love even if my writing is not very good. This gives me the freedom to take risks, which, in turn, actually makes my writing very good. Funny, right?
If I am truly stuck, I read a book. I do not watch a twenty-two-minute sitcom as a “break” from the immense stress of waking up and sitting down at a desk. Not even if there is a new episode on Hulu of a show I don’t particularly like but have seen every previous episode of.
Anyway, I guess that’s my process. It’s all about repetition, really—doing the same thing every single day. No one else in the world cares at all, yet I still do it! Because I, a human being, have the self-control to maintain this routine in a complete vacuum of social interaction or any positive reinforcement.
Oh, and I almost forgot—I go to bed super early. ♦
911 OPERATOR: 911—what’s your emergency?
ROBERT: Hi, I . . . uh . . . I work from home.
OPERATOR: O.K., is anyone else there with you, sir?
ROBERT: No, I’m alone.
OPERATOR: And when’s the last time you saw someone else? Was that today?
ROBERT: Uh, my wife . . . this morning, I guess.
OPERATOR: Anyone else?
ROBERT: I don’t think so. Well, the mailman, but that was through the blinds. I don’t know if that counts.
OPERATOR: I’m afraid not. (Pause.) I’m going to ask you to open the blinds, O.K.? Let’s go ahead and let some light in.
ROBERT: How much light??
OPERATOR: Just a little is fine.
ROBERT: O.K. (Pause.) I did it. (Pause.) It’s bright. It feels so bright on my face.
OPERATOR: That’s good. That’s how it’s supposed to feel. (Pause.) I need you to tell me what you’re wearing, O.K.?
ROBERT: You know . . . just regular clothes.
OPERATOR: Outside clothes or inside clothes?
ROBERT: Hold on, I’ll check. (Pause.) Pajamas. I’m wearing my pajamas. I could swear I’d changed into regular . . . I thought these were jeans!
OPERATOR: It’s O.K., sir. Calm down.
ROBERT: Wait, this isn’t even a shirt. It’s just my skin! Goddammit.
OPERATOR: So just pajama bottoms, then. Can we assume that you haven’t showered today?
ROBERT: I don’t know.
OPERATOR: I need you to walk over to the bathroom to see if your towel is damp. O.K.? Can you do that for me?
ROBERT: I think so.
ROBERT: I’m walking over there. (Pause.) O.K., I’m here. I’m in the bathroom. I see my towel . . . .
ROBERT: It’s dry.
OPERATOR: O.K., that’s O.K. Let’s get you back over to the window where the light is, all right? Walk toward the light. (Pause.) What’s your name, sir?
OPERATOR: Hi, Robert. I’m Cherise.
ROBERT: Hi, Cherise.
OPERATOR: You did the right thing by calling today, Robert. I’m going to get some people over there soon to help you, O.K.? And I’ll stay with you on the phone until they get there. Do you understand?
ROBERT: I think so.
OPERATOR: Now, Robert, did you eat anything today?
ROBERT: Yes. Many times.
OPERATOR: Are you eating now, Robert?
ROBERT: I keep putting things in my mouth a lot.
OPERATOR: O.K., can you tell me what food you’ve eaten today?
ROBERT: You mean everything?
ROBERT: I don’t know exactly. I mean, I started out with breakfast before my wife left for work . . . scrambled eggs with toast and coffee . . . and then I think I maybe had a bowl of cereal when she left.
OPERATOR: Is that it?
ROBERT: Like an hour or so later . . . I had a banana with peanut butter.
OPERATOR: Did you slice the banana?
ROBERT: No. I dipped it right into the jar, because no one was watching. (Pause.) No one watches.
OPERATOR: So no plate or anything?
OPERATOR: And that was it until lunch?
OPERATOR: What else did you have?
ROBERT: I made a quesadilla . . . another bowl of cereal, I think . . . and some pretzels, the flat ones that are like chips. I love those.
OPERATOR: Those are good. (Pause.) And did you have lunch after that or was that lunch?
ROBERT: (Pause.) I remember ham . . . lots of ham.
OPERATOR: In a sandwich?
ROBERT: No. No sandwich. Just ham pieces. (Pause.) There were also some . . . spoonfuls of chocolate frosting, two or three . . . green peppers, I think, and yogurt. A large tub of yogurt. Peach.
OPERATOR: O.K., Robert, you understand that what you just described isn’t really lunch, right?
ROBERT: It is lunch. When there are no rules, it is lunch, Cherise!
OPERATOR: Did you at any point dip the green peppers in the peach yogurt?
ROBERT: Probably. Sorry.
OPERATOR: That’s O.K. (Pause.) Now, Robert, did you get any work done today?
ROBERT: I don’t think so. I was supposed to make a deck for a meeting and I . . . I started it . . . I started the deck.
OPERATOR: And then you stopped?
ROBERT: The Internet has fun things for me to do . . . so I did them. (Pause.) I think I played some guitar, too . . . oh, and I separated all the dimes from my change jar, which took a while.
OPERATOR: Why did you do that?
ROBERT: I have four hundred and seventy-nine dimes.
OPERATOR: (Pause.) Anything else?
ROBERT: Then I got sucked into watching a YouTube video about meerkats.
OPERATOR: A documentary?
ROBERT: Yeah. (Pause.) And then that led me to . . . other videos . . . that weren’t documentaries. . . . It’s not important.
OPERATOR: So you started to watch pornography?
OPERATOR: You went from meerkats straight to pornography?
ROBERT: That’s right, yeah.
OPERATOR: (Pause.) And how long did you spend watching videos?
ROBERT: It doesn’t matter because I make my own schedule . . . you know? (Pause.) Cherise?
OPERATOR: I understand. Now, since you didn’t get any work done, do you think you may have exercised today?
ROBERT: I don’t remember. . . . It’s possible, I guess.
OPERATOR: Can you look around the house for me and tell me if you see any signs that you may have exercised? Sneakers, gym shorts, ThighMaster? Anything.
ROBERT: Uh . . . I don’t see anything, I don’t think. (Pause.) Wait, I see a yoga mat.
OPERATOR: Oh, O.K., good. Is it your yoga mat?
(Sounds of hysterical sobbing.)
OPERATOR: Robert? I need you to stay with me, O.K.? The E.M.T.s should be there shortly, and I’m going to need you to let them in. Can you do that?
OPERATOR: You mentioned a meeting earlier. What time is your meeting today, Robert?
OPERATOR: O.K., well, the E.M.T.s are going to help you get that deck ready and get you showered and changed.
ROBERT: It’s just a conference call.
OPERATOR: Regardless. And they’ll help tidy things up around there before your wife gets back, O.K., Robert?
ROBERT: Thank you.
OPERATOR: But, until they get there, no more eating and no more meerkat videos, O.K.?
ROBERT: I work from home.
OPERATOR: Shh-shh-shh . . . I know you do.