I’m excited to include David in this series because I know a lot of you guys are part-time freelancers, fitting your writing in around other jobs and projects, and he has an interesting take, plus some smart strategies for jumping around between different genres of writing.
Name: David Moscrop
Job Description: PhD candidate in political science at the University of British Columbia, freelance writer, consultant, bourbon aficionado, sometimes blogger at davidmoscrop.com.
Location: Up until recently, Vancouver, British Columbia; currently in transition back to Ontario and perhaps to Europe.
And here’s how Dave spends his days:
I generally avoid meetings and events as best I can, so I keep my days pretty clear. I’m not too consistent with how I spend my working time, so I don’t let the clock determine what I do or when I do it. Instead, I have a checklist system that lets me stay flexible while still getting my work done: as long as I spend some time working on a project, it doesn’t matter to me when I do so. That said, I do try to keep a rough order of daily events.
My daily “routine” unfolds over broad time spans instead of specific times. Also, if I really don’t feel like doing something that day, I don’t, but I do try to do most things on most days. When I spend more than an hour on something, I acknowledge that with a checkmark in a book in which I keep track of the days that I’ve met minimum work times. This only applies to weekdays, though. I do work on weekends, but there’s nothing even close to a pattern those days.
Morning: Sometime between 8 am and 12 pm I wake up, eat something that’s easy to prepare, make coffee, check e-mail and texts to see if anything is on fire, ignore most e-mails and texts, and then read whatever I feel like reading: essays if I’m curious, news if I feel like being despondent for the day, or maybe some novels or political non-fiction. Sometimes I play video games.
After an hour or two of that, I write fiction or essays or op-eds for about an hour and a half or two hours, depending on what I’m working on at the moment, either at home or at a coffee shop that I’ll walk to. I typically write long hand in a notebook, since this keeps my thinking to a manageable pace and forces me to really consider my options before I write or delete something: it’s easy to type nonsense or to push a ‘delete’ button, but takes a bit more effort to physically mark something down or scratch something out.
At this time during the day, I try my best to focus on one thing at a time, seeing it through to completion before I let my mind wander. I then spend a bit of time working on pitches. Check.
Early afternoon: After that I tinker with e-mails and texts for a bit, usually because the messages I receive are growing more frantic. I might do some errands or do some more leisure reading. If I do have some appointment, I try to make it for this time, since I’m more likely to actually keep the engagement if it’s after I’ve done some work, but before I’ve eaten lunch. Check.
Then I have lunch and watch some TV: usually American late-night shows from the previous night or listen to podcasts or some music while I cook.
Afternoon: After lunch, if I’m not injured (which is rarely), I go to the gym or run or swim. Occasionally I cycle, but I’m terrified of the traffic because, as a driver, I know that drivers are awful people when they drive. I’ve tried training for a few long-distance races over the course of the last three years (a half-marathon, a marathon, and a triathlon), and I’ve become injured each time. Eventually I recover and repeat the cycle. I’m at my best when I’m running though – nothing contributes to my creativity more than running, with the possible exception of a good conversation. Check.
Then I practice the guitar for 45 minutes. Check.
Late afternoon: Technically I’m a full-time PhD student, so I spend two to three hours each day working on my dissertation. I spend about half that time reading and the other half writing or editing. If I’m working on a related side project: an article or conference paper or some grading, I do that after my dissertation work is finished for the day. Check.
I also tend to be working on side projects, which I spend a bit of time on the late afternoon or early evening. In 2012, I drove from London, England to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia for an adventure charity rally known as the Mongol Rally. I spent a lot of time planning that. In 2014, I’m driving from Alaska to Argentina, so I make time to work on stuff like that.
Evening: Dinner. I eat out as often as not, but if I’m home and training and ambitious, I cook something healthy. But I prefer to go out to meet a friend or two for dinner. I eat a lot of sushi. I mean, obscene amounts.
Night: By now I’m probably meant to be at some event or engagement that I regret having agreed to attend. Most times I’ll try to find a way out, but I end up going slightly more often than not. If I don’t have anything to do, I’ll read more, maybe answer some more e-mails, or watch a movie or play video games. I often edit work for friends – they do the same for me – so this is when I do that if I haven’t already. Check.
Bed: I go to bed between 10:30 pm and 2 am, depending on the day. I can’t really predict when I’ll feel like sleeping, so that’s a big part of the reason my mornings can be so erratic. If I can’t sleep, I’ll get up and read a bit more, or watch something on Netflix that I’ll know will put me out.
One of David's workspaces.