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.

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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:

13 thoughts on “How We Spend Our Days: Heidi Durrow

  1. Every time I sit down to write a new story or chapter or blog post, I “am deathly afraid of the page again.” It’s such a comfort to know Heidi Durrow feels the same way. Wonderful post! Thanks, Cynthia and Heidi.

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  2. I love your farmer’s market routine, the people you say “hi” to, and the fact that you only bought plums. It’s these little glimpses that make reading how we spend our days so special.

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  3. So happy to see you here, Heidi, and to get more of a glimpse into the girl who wrote, ‘The Girl Who…’
    I love two things: that you only write in Moleskine, (do you write everything by hand, first, then?) and, that you drink coffee from a bendy straw.
    I’m wish you well on your next project as I am eager to read it.

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  4. Pingback: Daily Link Love | Volume 63

  5. Hi Heidi!

    It’s so nice to see that you and your fabulous book have connected with Cynthia. You look so happy in this photo for obvious reasons. I’m pleased to hear that The Girl has been on such a long and successful tour. That’s very unusual with a debut. I sympathize with the pain of lacking time to write as I struggle with that when my kids are home or when we are traveling. We go to the farmers’ market on Saturdays too, and I need to exercise daily in order to write. I also need a laptop for everything other than notes on the go – how interesting that you write longhand. Best of luck with your next novel – I’d love an ARC to review on my blog.

    Cynthia, thanks for inviting Heidi here. Sorry to be so slow to visit. I just sent a rewrite of my adult MS to my agent yesterday after working 7 days a week for 4 weeks around the kids. Things are much easier now that they are back to school. Today we’re going to the beach and tomorrow we’re getting a puppy. Life is good.

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  6. Hi Sarah! How great to find we are connected by another writer! I do write long-hand first, then type it in, then print it out, then write long-hand, etc. etc. I have learned to recycle paper-I use a lot of it! I will keep you posted on the new book — it’s a ways away from being an ARC at this point, but stay tuned! heidi

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