Monday, May 15, 2006

Diary of a Naked Author

From Patty

I admire authors who begin writing each morning at 5:00 AM and complete a specified number of pages or hours even if the sky is falling. I want to be one of them, so last week I kept a diary on a typical Wednesday just to see how I stacked up.

8:00 AM: Wake up, read Los Angeles Times in bed, drink coffee. Notice disheartening article about the publishing industry’s response to years of declining sales. Is it possible that 200,000 titles published each year are too many? Apparently so. Number of books published in 2005 dropped by 18,000 from previous year. Downward trend projected to continue. Conclusion: I am very, very lucky.

8:30 AM:
Neighbor calls to inform me that buzz is growing in the ‘hood about my appearance with Harley Jane Kozak at the Palms-Rancho Park library on Tuesday, June 20th. Flyer needed to spread the word. Add “create flyer” to things-to-do list. Shower, get dressed, put on make-up (mandatory).

9:10 AM: Put in first load of laundry.

9:11 AM: Turn on computer. Answer email confirming appearance at Palos Verdes Library on Thursday, May 11 with fellow authors Naomi Hirahara, Marcos Villatoro, Gary Phillips, moderated by Diana James. (BTW, it was a great event. Big crowd, lots of laughs.)

9:18 AM: Check for Cornelia’s post. Not there. Remember that it took my Monday post over an hour to register. Remind myself to check later. Ready to start writing. Doorbell rings. My British housecleaner arrives, an entrepreneurial psychology student who cleans houses to pay tuition. I can so identify. Love his accent, even if he’s telling me that my kitchen floor suffers from waxy yellow buildup. Waylay him by the broom closet just to hear him speak.

9:25 AM: Suddenly realize that I can’t remember last time I paid bills. Find credit card statement, which includes monthly charge for gym membership I have never used. Delude myself that exercise takes too much time away from writing.

9:40 AM:
Where has time gone? Must leave immediately!!!!! Will be late to Pilates class. Abandon bills in disarray on desk. Realize I haven’t eaten breakfast. Rush to toaster. Check time. Toasting takes too long. Grab slice of bread. Eat in car.

9:59 AM:
Despite construction bottleneck at Santa Monica Boulevard, arrive with one minute to spare.

10:55 AM: Cut workout five minutes short to be at Cheesecake Factory for friend’s surprise birthday party. Contributed to group present but real gift will be to tell her that it’s time to start lying about her age. No time to change clothes. Go in sweat suit. Tie silk scarf around neck, careful to hide newly discovered moth holes. Hope nobody notices tacky attire.

11:25 AM:
Arrive at CF five minutes before birthday girl. People-watch in lobby while waiting to be seated. Tell myself I’m not wasting time; I’m doing research. See attractive man with gray hair that belies his age. WAIT! He’s embodiment of character in SHORT CHANGE. I watch his demeanor. He smokes. Who knew? Woman enters with two-seater baby stroller that’s almost as big as a Mini Cooper. Consider including snarky remark about strollers. No. Already covered this subject in COVER YOUR ASSETS.

Finally seated. Everyone at table is a police officer except for me. CF could be safest place in L.A. Discuss who will play Tucker when Hollywood calls. No casting decisions made but remind myself to calculate number of calories used while laughing. May make up for leaving Pilates five minutes early.

1:00 AM:
Go back to police station. Eat oversized piece of birthday cake. Center layer includes strawberries. Rationalize that it’s fruit, a good thing. Tell everybody about They laugh and want to check it out but are afraid. The Department monitors computer use and may get wrong impression. Big Brother is everywhere.

2:10 PM: Return home. Discover message on answering machine about important research interview I’ve been trying to set up for SHORT CHANGE. Return call. Make arrangements.

2:20 PM: Notice pile of unpaid bills on desk from this morning. Finish paying to avoid foreclosure on house. Resume laundry detail.

2:30 PM:
Check email. Nothing. Check snail mail. Find postcard from Weight Watchers: “Last Chance for Free Registration.” Ponder caloric intake from super-sized birthday cake and unused gym membership. Save postcard for future consideration.

2:55 PM:
At last, sit down at computer to write.

2:56 PM: Check email once more. Can’t believe nobody is trying to communicate with me. Put in another load of laundry. Write.

3:50 PM: Feel brain dead. Could be sugar from birthday cake. Call mother. Write.

5:15 PM: One hour and fifteen minutes of uninterrupted writing (except for time spent folding clothes and making bed). Have tickets for play at Ahmanson Theater at eight. The Black Rider: The Casting of the Magic Bullets. Still wearing sweat suit sans moth-eaten scarf. Change.

5:30 PM:
Leave for theater. Takes one hour to drive twelve miles.

6:30 PM: Dine at Music Center.

8:00 PM:
Show time. For him, play is avant-garde, wildly creative, and edgy. For me, it’s pure torture. We leave at halftime.

10:00 PM:
Finally read Cornelia’s blog post.

10: 30 PM:
Ponder day’s activities. Discover naked truth about writing and life: Both are full time jobs. Set alarm for 5:00 AM.


  1. Writing and life may both be full time jobs, but you're doing them both beautifully. Compare and contrast your day with my accomplishments: bathed the dog, did six crossword puzzles, read five blogs, unfroze a dinner, stared at the blank screen.

  2. Great post, Patty! And I'm very happy you looked for mine...

    Sounds like my day, Louise. Except for the dog part, of course. And we had de-frosted potstickers and pork buns for dinner.

  3. Bathing the dog is a half-day job. The only thing that takes more time is bathing the cat. One day to bath and dry. One day to replace lost blood with IV drip. And thanks for the kudos, Louise, but I've watched you write compeling books on deadline without breaking a sweat.

  4. You're supposed to bathe a cat? Now, they tell me!

    Paul Levine

  5. Ah, my dream is to shed the day job and actually have time to not write.

    Bathing a cat is pretty much unnecessary and quite dangerous, I imagine. Although I have a cat that needs its teeth brushed daily. Now that's an adventure!

    Patty, your books seem so effortless, so you're doing something right :)

  6. You're NOT supposed to bathe the cat? Now they tell me.