How We Spend Our Days: Heidi Durrow

Annie Dillard wrote, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” On the first of each month, Catching Days hosts a guest writer in the series, “How We Spend Our Days.” Today, please welcome writer Heidi Durrow:

I only hope that today will be the first of a string of regular days.  It’s not an exaggeration to say that I have been on book tour almost non-stop for a year and a half.  My typical daily to-do list during this time has read: pack, unpack, go to airport. Seriously.

It has been a whirlwind tour of more than 50 cities and some 150 events.  I am fudging those numbers because I don’t want to spend any part of this day actually doing the fact-checking.  Today is my first day to write without interruption on the new book.

I start each day as I always do: a cup of coffee that I drink with my bendy straw, NPR playing in the background, and me with my Moleskine in my favorite chair with pen in hand writing three pages long-hand.  No stopping.  Today, I write: “I am sitting here.”  A lot!  Because I feel like I am just learning how to put the words on the page again.

Travel is not conducive to writing for me—so I feel very out of shape as a writer.  I don’t know if I can “tune” myself today, but I will try.

Once I finish the free-write I write a one-sentence affirmation ten times.  I know that writing this wish won’t make it come true, but it gives my brain a chance to say something nice to me.  In those minutes, I am all possibility.

It’s Saturday morning and so it’s time to go to the farmer’s market.  I’m a sucker for ritual and look forward to saying hello to the melon guy, and croissant guy, and the potato guy.  But first it’s time to workout.

I do my cardio and some weightlifting.  It’s tough.  No, it’s killing me. But that’s what I get for neglecting my workout for so long on the road.

When I’m done, I know it’s been worth it. I’ve imagined a new character for the new book. I’ve also come up with an idea for an essay which may distract me from the new novel, but I am so thankful for these new ideas—for suddenly not being stuck.

At the market, I say hello to the melon guy, the croissant guy and the potato guy.  I only buy plums.

The rest of the afternoon is my own again.  We have a dinner party tonight, but I’m not the house chef.  So I climb the stairs to my office, and sit to write.

My task: write 1500 words in a row.  Wait, let me be clear: write 1500 terrible words in a row.  I have to set the bar low.  I am deathly afraid of the page again.  And I’m not entirely sure of the story of the story.  I know the characters yes, but the story.  I keep writing to see what the characters do then I will know.

I write until it’s time to take my Saturday afternoon nap.  When I wake, I write a little more.  Soon, it’s time to get ready for dinner. The guests will arrive in just half an hour.

I don’t even look at the words I’ve written—just the word count.  Job done for today.  I’ll get back to the page tomorrow.

AND THOSE SAME 3 QUESTIONS…

1. What is the best book you’ve read in the last few months and how did you choose it?

  • Pym by Mat Johnson.  I “met” Mat when I interviewed him some time ago and am a big fan of his work.  I was feeling blue and had his book on the TBR pile—who else I thought could make me laugh and really think at the same time. His book did not disappoint. It is brilliant.

.
2. Would you give us one little piece of writing advice?

  • Don’t show your work too early—the feedback may stop you in your tracks.

3. What is your strangest reading or writing habit?

  • I only write in Moleskine journals. For me, it’s Moleskine or nothing.  (I have not received any compensation for this endorsement BTW!)

By Heidi Durrow: