This schedule went viral on Twitter with the caption: “Ursula K. Le Guin’s writing routine is the ideal writing routine.”
It’s a lovely, lovely thing, but it should be pointed out that it was an “ideal” routine for her, too, as she says in the 1988 interview it’s excerpted from. (Left out: “I go to bed at 10:00 p.m. If I’m at the beach there would be one ore two long walks on the beach in that day. This is a perfect day for me.”)
I’m sure that life got in the way a lot for her, just like it does for all of us. In fact, I was just thinking about her take on interruptions the other day when a mother wrote to me about the crush of having young kids and trying to work. I sent her this quote:
“Babies eat books. But they spit out wads of them that can be taped back together; and they are only babies for a couple of years, while writers live for decades…”
I love how her schedule doesn’t exclude mundane ordinary things like housework or dinner. “An artist can go off into the private world they create, and maybe not be so good at finding the way out again,” she said. “This could be one reason I’ve always been grateful for having a family and doing housework, and the stupid ordinary stuff that has to be done that you cannot let go.”
I also love how much time is set aside for reading. (Stephen King says he writes all morning and reads all afternoon.) It’s too easy when you’re writing full time to feel like you should stuff every single minute with writing, even when you know reading is a huge part of your job.
“Don’t feel guilty if you spend the first 90 minutes of your day drinking coffee and reading blogs,” Nate Silver once advised young journalists. “It’s your job. Your ratio of reading to writing should be high.”
Even after you achieve great things, that guilt might still linger. Here’s director Paul Thomas Anderson:
I still have trouble reading a book during the day because it somehow feels indulging… You know, like oh, my – this is so naughty. I’m actually reading at 10 o’clock in the morning. I think it’s just your upbringing – something about like you got to go to work, and you’ve got to – and move on. And still even – this is how I make my living. I still feel guilty. 10 o’clock, I mean – and it’s – but I’ve sunken into the pleasure of it – to think, my God, I’ve got my life in a way where I can read a book in the middle of the day.
I love that last sentence so much. I’ve always thought a great question for sorting out your life is: “What do you want your days to look like?”