interview: a day in the life

(This is a post from 2010.  Glad to say I’m getting MUCH more rest nowadays!)

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Kristina at the blog Owning Kristina just sent an email and asked me to describe a day in my writing life for her.  She wants to know what it’s like to spend your days doing what you love (and doing things to support doing what you love).


Here’s a typical day for me:


Haul myself* out of sleep like some abandoned wreck pulled from the bottom of the sea.

*Sweet husband has pointed out that he does most of the hauling.


Wake kids, gather up their school clothes, make breakfast, make lunches, deposit kids in carpool cars.


Make coffee.*  Call my mom and make her chat with me while it’s brewing.

*I usually forget to drink it.


Back in bed.  To work on laptop, or, if the coffee’s not working and I am beyond all possible human exhaustion, take a nap.  Usually, I work.  Because this is it!  Once I pick up my 4 year old from preschool, my working day is over.  The pressure’s on! The clock is ticking!*  I do a blog post, or answer emails.  I Tweet a little bit, maybe.  Sometimes I go to coffee with somebody.  Sometimes I take a walk if I’m feeling super-ambitious.

*I never feel like I’ve made proper use of this time.


Pick up son, make the carpool rounds, make lunch, build bridges and magical castles out of blocks, water garden, go to grocery store, and generally goof around.  Somewhere in there, I steal away for a shower.


Pick up carpool #2!


Come home, make snacks, read to kids, check email in front yard on laptop while kids ride scooters up and down sidewalk.  After a while, we go inside and dance around the living room.  Then they swing in the backyard while I fuss in the garden.


Daddy comes home from school.  (He’s a teacher.)  Much rejoicing all around.


I make dinner and listen to NPR–oh, how I love NPR!–while children wrestle their dad in the living room.


Lengthy, unweildy, and unbelievably prolonged bedtime routine for children involving bubble baths, requests for water and snacks, bed-jumping, picture books, subtraction flashcards, and reading Harry Potter aloud.*

*Reading Harry Potter aloud is one of my favorite things to do.

9:00-2:00 am*

Work. (Also: visit with husband, read a little, catch up on 30 Rock, and search for vintage Airstreams on Craigslist.)  On a good night, I write.  These days, most of my work relates to my new book that just came out. Or other stuff:  blogging, making videos, answering emails, answering questionnaires, writing essays for anthologies.

*“But that’s only 4.5 hours of sleep a night!?” Correct.


1. That’s a typical day–but not, actually, these days.  April and May are also full of book promotion activities–traveling, reading at bookstores, speaking at luncheons, visiting with book clubs, Skyping with far away book clubs.  It is, as we call it, my “busy season,” and my husband and mom are both working overtime to pick up my slack and make sure that everyone is taken care of.

Signing Get Lucky at Blue Willow Bookshop in Houston.

2. Looking over this list, I feel a happy buzz of gratitude for all the fun things I get to do–especially playing with my kids.

3. It is worrisome that I’m not getting enough sleep.  I’m living on coffee right now, but it’s not really the same thing.  And if the circles under my eyes could talk, they’d agree.  I think when my little one’s in Kindergarten, I’ll be able to get more rest.  In the meantime, feel free to send me those articles about how lack of sleep turns you into apsychopath.

4.  You know how they say “Don’t quit your day job”?  I think of myself as having a “day job.” (Raising my kids–though they’re less a “job” than a “calling.”)  And I actually think it’s better for productivity if you DO have a day job.  In college and graduate school, when I didn’t have much to do, I was far less productive than I am today.  (Unless, of course, if your day job totally annihilates you and makes it impossible to do anything else.)  I’m not sure that wide stretches of nothingness are actually good for creativity.  I think creative people actually do BETTER with limitations.  Necessity is totally the mother of invention.

6. How do I get through moments of self-doubt?  By writing. No matter what, the writing is always a good thing.

And that is the upside to doing what you love.  The fact that you love it.

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  • Carmen May 3, 2010  

    That dinner looks yummy! I’m tempted to ask for the recipe, but don’t dare given all you’ve got on your plate already!

    Like you, I do most of my work in the 2 1/2 hours my twins are in pre-k and after all 4 of my kids go to bed at night. Caffeine is truly no substitute for a good night’s rest, but that doesn’t keep us from trying it right?

    Best of luck getting through the “busy season”!

  • I loved that you shared this. I’ve always wondered what the day in the life of a writer is like. Especially with kids!

  • Lisa May 3, 2010  

    Your beautiful dinner photo reminded me that I hadn’t had lunch yet, and so I scrounged in the pantry and found a tiny thing of easy mac… which is no substitute at all for your obviously scrummy cooking. Drat.

  • Suzanne May 3, 2010  

    I am so glad I am not the only one who struggles getting her child to bed. Most days it takes me over an hour and a half. I had to laugh when I saw Olivia the other day as she talked about reading “at least twelve books” every night.

    • Katherine Center May 3, 2010  

      Oh, yes–bedtime is something I we have never quite mastered. It wouldn’t SEEM like it would be that hard…

  • I love hearing this. Your day sounds full, happy, and wonderful. I can’t believe that you have written three books with this schedule, though. Once 9:00 rolls around, I am done, and thinking–let alone creativity–is not possible.

    • Katherine Center May 3, 2010  

      I know! It’s bananas! I don’t know how it happened, either! But I’m so grateful it did…

  • Edie May 3, 2010  

    LOL–I hate to burst your bubble, but you’ll get even less sleep once they are ALL in school…there’s cub scouts, swim team, homework, school projects, piano lessons–and that’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg…

    What’s clear is that you have wonderful support and that makes doing what you love possible. As long as it works for you and your family, that’s all that matters! Thanks for sharing. 😉

    • Katherine Center May 3, 2010  

      I do actually have amazing support. And that’s so crucial–especially for people who are trying to raise kids. Malcolm Gladwell has an article about this that’s pretty interesting. …Fun to see your cute avatar, Edie! And I’ll happily stay in denial about losing more sleep in the coming years. Maybe I paid my dues early…

  • Tre ~ (Tresha Thorsen) May 4, 2010  

    so humbled by your sharing….wowed by my comparable schedule…:) you have littles i have a dog and a ton of ideas i’ve been mommying;) grateful for your process and open sharing…;) enjoy your book tour…how wonderful to meet fans, followers and readers:)

  • Bev May 4, 2010  

    Another direct hit from your keystrokes to me…”if your day job totally annihilates you and makes it impossible to do anything else” which has been my life for the past 3 years or so. Great news for me…R and I retired on Friday and I am at such peace now. Full of energy; packing the RV for a three week trip!

    • Katherine Center May 4, 2010  

      Hooray! Congratulations!!! And I may come find you for RVing tips. It’s my great dream to cross the country in an Airstream…

  • mindy May 4, 2010  

    loved reading this! my days feel full and non productive most times and then i feel like i’m the only one that is not organized enough or productive enough. it’s good to know that others out there are juggling just the same. (well not the same at all… i don’t have three published novels… so it looks like i may not be so productive after all! LOL!)

  • Jen Lee May 4, 2010  

    My little one starts kindergarten in the fall, too. I feel like we should somehow commemorate that the next time we’re together.

  • David May 4, 2010  

    I became exhausted just reading your typical day and feel the need for a vacation.

  • Imene May 4, 2010  

    Thank you for sharing your typical day with us. I just discovered your blog and work and I already ordered all three of your books. I’m sure I will enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed your blog

  • LLH Designs May 5, 2010  

    Very fun to read, K! You’re making the most of every moment in wonderful ways. You’ll definitely be able to sleep more when your little one is in school full-time, but the old 2 AM habit doesn’t go away on its own. I’ve had to make myself go to bed earlier now that both girls are in school, but it’s totally worth it! I get TONS more done in the day…and am more creative than ever. Loving every minute of it! xo, Linsey

  • whole life ahead June 24, 2010  

    As busy as your regular day sounds, it also appears to be fun. Most moms spend or, rather say, waste a big chunk of their day on house work, which has a tendency to never end.