This Writer’s Life In A Nutshell

This is the 9th post in a series entitled “Reflections On Being A Writer In The 21st Century.” (Link to other posts in this series is at the bottom of this post).

I have a condition known as tic syndrome, which is a mild form of the nervous disorder, Tourette’s Syndrome.

I have been this way pretty much all my life and what I have found is that one of the things, (besides avoiding extreme stress), that makes this condition tolerable is being totally engaged in whatever I am doing.

Ergo I write a lot of stuff. Because writing is what I do.

If you are one of those people who writes a lot, outside of what you’re getting paid to write, you probably, maybe even subconsciously adhere to some sort of loose schedule.

I call mine the split shift, in which I break the work day up into distinct parts.

The Genesis Of The Split Shift

The way I work now is really a carryover from the days before I worked in advertising. I was a store manager for United Cigar stores. A merchant of death. LOL. But back then it wasn’t considered to be that.

I managed 3 stores, 2 at the Pearson Airport in Toronto and one at York University. I had about 20 people working for me most of the time. And because I floated around between these two locations, I chose to work from about noon to 8 at night.

This way I could spend a couple hours writing in the morning and a couple hours later in the evening after I got home from work.

That was many years ago and even though I was supposed to have a 9 to 5ish office job once I got into the ad agency business, I carried on pretty much the same way. Sometimes it would piss people off. But I made them a lot of money so they didn’t really squawk all that much.

I would start work at home at around 8 in the morning, then go into the office around noon, staying till about six, mostly in meetings and presentations, Then in the evening, I would hang with my family until everybody went to bed, then go up to my study and write till about 1:00.

My family is all grown up now and I haven’t worked in an agency for about 26 years, but my schedule is still more or less the same.

In a weird way, writers need this sort of schedule in their lives. And every writer will have his own take on it.

How My Split Shift Works These Days

My days start at around 7:30. Weather permitting, I head out for a 5 or 6 KM bike ride. This actually wakes me up and gives me a chance to think about what I have to do that day.

When I get back I make some coffee and toast or whatever and sit down with my laptop at the dining room table. Mostly because I like the light in the dining room.

I tend to do my blogging and personal writing on my laptop and my copywriting and art direction on a big IMac in my front porch office, where the light is also very nice. That’s the picture you see in the header.

Over breakfast, I will read about a dozen posts on Pulse and other blog sites. I will post whatever blog I wrote the night before, ( I never post on the same day as I write), and then I will cruise around on both LinkedIn and Facebook for a while doing some posting or commenting.

This generally takes about 2 hours.

I then do a little housework. Clean the kitchen or vacuum or do laundry or yard work, since I am in charge of all that stuff, because my wife works as a school administrator and is more than happy to let me do it all.

Then I head to my office and fire up the big Imac. I deal with all my email and work on whatever I have to work on for about three or four hours.

I might make a sandwich or something light for lunch and just eat it while I work.

You’d be amazed at how much you can get done in three or four hours if you know what you’re doing, and you know that’s how much time you’re going to spend.

Then I take a siesta, and by that I mean, I head out on my bike (weather permitting) and do the shopping for dinner.

I usually get back around 3 or 4 and make some coffee and work for another 2 hours. This can be either blogging or whatever or paid work depending on my schedule.

I knock off around six and hang out with my wife, go to dinner with the kids or some friends…you know regular life stuff, till about ten or eleven.

Then I write for a couple of hours before going to sleep. Which is what I am doing right now. Since I only sleep about 5 hours a night I can manage this kind of schedule with relative ease.

Now, this is not regimented or right on those numbers every day, meaning that I’m not religious about adhering to it. But it’s more or less like that most of the time, mainly because that’s just the way it’s always been and I have never had any compelling reason to change it.

My day is also punctuated by mini breaks where I comment or start a discussion on LinkedIn or Facebook. I’d do this often enough that some people get the impression that it’s all that I do. A clever deception, if I do say so myself.

The Importance Of Routine

For me there’s a great deal of comfort in having a routine like that, because there’s a certain amount of mental preparation that you need to do to take on each segment of the day. And breaking it into distinct segments lets your brain reboot itself and get ready for the next round.

It would be easy to think that I am extremely disciplined because I work this way. But that’s not really true. This is a schedule that has evolved based on the rhythms of my body and my mind. It’s nothing I ever really think about much, if at all. Because it’s just the way I get things done.

I think that if you’re an independent professional, you need to do everything you can to make sure you are doing something meaningful every day.

In a way, I am grateful for sites like LinkedIn and Facebook, and the other blog sites where I post, because they provide the impetus to keep a strong rhythm going in my work.

If I were a novelist or a screenwriter or a poet, my schedule, I imagine, would be completely different. But I’m a communicator and this is what works for me.

There’s not a lot of separation between work and life, because, but over the years and out of necessity I have managed to find time for all aspects of both.

Have you figured out what works for you?


JIM JAN 2015Jim Murray has been a writer pretty much all his life. For most of his adult life, including now, people actually pay him to do it. They also pay him to art direct a lot of the stuff he writes. He is also a mentor, blog post editor and a photographer. Fancy that.

Jim writes to help people and companies with their marketing and he blogs primarily to help people get better at communicating. In today’s world, that’s almost a public service.

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Images Credits: Jim Murray


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