An author’s daily routine – Nina George

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By Nina George

Wait, is there such thing as a daily routine?! Journalists or bloggers – or people who voluntarily subject themselves to a reading and thus sit on uncomfortable chairs in too-bright bookstores – ask me again and again about my writing routine.♥

I’ve been struggling to come up with the right answer for 23 years now:

An author’s daily routine.

There is no such thing.

I have absolutely no routine when it comes to writing a novel.

Sometimes I flail at the same paragraph with a shovel until two in the morning, only to then bury it and roll into bed weeping with rage. Sometimes, I get up at 6:30 am and read my synopsis over and over until it feels as strange to me as my own face when I look into the mirror on especially awful days.

Sometimes I work around the novel — an email here, an essay there. A few brief remarks about ebook piracy or liturgical chants and the influence of the bible on science fiction. Indeed, when our Breton gardener does not even deign to answer my text and mow the knee-high grass for the crazy German woman who lives at the end of the world, I scythe a path clear on my own and end up with muscle cramps for at least two days and a good excuse not to write. Oh look, Sagan’s books are back in print. I will never be like her. I want to open an ice-cream shop. I want to be able to feel what I’m trying to write. I want the emotion to materialize into the right words.

Onward. It’s such a load of crap.

Every day is an effort. A struggle. Insanity. Tears. A mausoleum of unwritten, rewritten, written and discarded pages. And when a sentence finally emerges the way it’s supposed to, all on its own, forthright and without any dishonest intentions, the next one balks like a horse. And after one chapter has formed, the next one refuses to follow. It’s as though I’m forcing two completely different children to share a dorm room, but one loves plush fabrics in shades of pink and the other digs the Ramones and tattoos.

So I go back and try to pick up the thread. Where did things start to go wrong? Here? Or there? Oh, at the beginning; too quick a leap, too far, too … hey, hold on! That’s an entirely different story. What are you doing here? Didn’t I tell you to wait your turn? Shoo! Go away!

Nope … wait a minute. Maybe this is the story I should write. Is it what’s clogging my restless brain, buzzing and boiling over with nerves?

And besides, I’m hungry now. But I’m far too agitated to even make a sandwich properly like civilized people do: butter and a slice of cheese on top, plate underneath.

Writing routine? Give it a rest! And then comes the question of the title, the cover. (I haven’t even got a complete scene yet!) And the book tours: 2018 to 2025. (What should I read? Have pity, please! Or maybe not. Leave me alone. And why should I read my work aloud, anyway? Has everyone suddenly forgotten how to read for themselves?) Mail from readers, warmhearted, kind, sometimes even reproachful. But the warmhearted letters, those are torture. God! Oh, God. You resentful, mean-spirited, underhanded God. What on earth did I do right? Will I ever be able to do it again? Maybe that was the last time. What if I haven’t a clue how I managed to haul the monstrosity up the mountain this time?

Gertrude Stein wrote for 15 minutes every day. Then her companion typed up what she’d written. Just 15 minutes? Was that all she wanted to write? All she had to write? Is that how she escaped insanity? Stupid twit.

Other people get up at 8am, consume three perfect, organic nuts, white tea, an oatmeal cookie, and purr out 3000 words while their cat sleeps decoratively on the floor in a pool of sunlight. Then they go about their lives. They write the second draft, focused and well-mannered.

Do such people really exist?

Are they lying?

If they’re not lying, does it mean that I’m the big failure?

I have no idea how I’ve endured this for more than 20 years, and how I’m going to continue enduring it.

Writing routine.

Don’t even start.

Let me get on with it.

*And now I know where the gardener is. Next door. Riding his lawn mower. And he’s got another 2000 square meters to go.

**Plus he has brought his friend along, a man to trim the hedges.

(Post translated by Heidi Holzer)

Born 1973 in Bielefeld, Germany, Nina George is a prize-winning and bestselling author (“Das Lavendelzimmer” – “The Little Paris Bookshop”) and freelance journalist since 1992, who has published 26 books (novels, mysteries and non-fiction) as well as over hundred short stories and more than 600 columns. She teaches writing and coaches young people, adults and professional authors, and also moderates (bilingual) readings (German-English), and works as a speaker on author’s rights and transfer of value in the digital world. Her latest novel, The Little French Bistro, is out now.

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