As I was leaving Starbucks yesterday, an acquaintance who had just discovered I was blogging daily during January asked if I’d just completed my entry. When I said yes, I had, he asked what it was about. “About things that came in the mail today.” He grinned and shook his head, “Your mail? You must have a lot of time on your hands.”
In reality, I don’t. Despite being retired, I have to work hard at maintaining a writing schedule. I don’t have as much energy as I did when I was younger, and certainly not as much as I had prior to my cardio problems, so I’ve had to develop a routine that I follow almost daily, to get in my writing before the day slips away from me.
I get up when I wake up. That sounds pretty lame, but what I mean is I don’t set an alarm clock. I’m an irregular sleeper — some nights I’ll sleep 8-9 hours, and other nights, 4-5. I can never predict which it will be, so I get up when I wake up, and start my routine.
First, breakfast. I brew a pot of green tea while I’m eating, and work on a sudoku. I solve sudokus in a leisurely way, partly to slow down my eating, making a kind of meditation out of the meal. Solving the sudoku also helps clear the sleep from my head. Then a relaxing cup of green tea. If Marion is up, we have breakfast together. If I’m up early, I do a solo act.
After breakfast I fire up my laptop and check the weather page, email, Flickr, and the Creative NonFiction Writing Forums. By the time I’ve made a pass through these, replying to emails and comments, my breakfast has settled and I’m ready for my walk.
Walking is part of my cardio rehab, but I’ve always liked walking anyway and try to get out even when the weather’s bad. The first leg of my walk takes me through the village of Port Credit, down a steep hill to the public library, then across the park to the Credit River. The City of Mississauga has built a walkway under the bridges that cross the Credit, and if it’s not too icy, I walk through there to reach the harbour on the other side.
Always I have a camera with me. Always. Photography is a parallel passion to my writing. If it’s early in the morning, the light in the harbour can be especially nice and I take some shots near the pier — jetty, perhaps — I’ve never been clear on the definition. It has park benches on it that are much used during the non-winter months.
From there I walk across the pedestrian bridge to the base of the Port Credit lighthouse — a modern reconstruction of the historical lighthouse. It’s a working lighthouse with a rotating beacon in its dome. Just across the street from it is a Starbucks. Actually it’s the Starbucks for folks who know me. I’m a regular and, in some ways, it’s my writing office. The walk there takes about 15-20 minutes.
The Starbucks replaced a smoky doughnut shop a few years ago. A doughnut shop with a very tall lofted, peaked ceiling and huge vertical windows on three sides. It’s a bright, cheery locale, and very popular. Seating is limited so the first thing I look for is a place to sit. I’m careful never to take up more than half a small table so other customers can sit on the other side.
I sit, take off my coat if it’s winter, then head over for a Grande Mild. I’m a plain coffee drinker — I get a cappuccino maybe once a year as a treat, but the rest of the time, it’s just coffee. I do my best to resist the sweets bar, not always successfully. Coffee in hand, I return to my table, remove writing gear from my small backpack, and set up for work.
I write between 1-2 hours while I’m there. My Starbucks card is registered, so I’m able to get a free refill after the first hour or so. A few times a week I buy something to snack on, partly as ‘rent’ for my office space.
If I’m journalling, I target a minimum of 1000 words, but frequently write 1500-2000. Journalling is free flow, so the words can tumble out as they wish. This month I’m committed to a daily blog entry, and I find it takes most of my ‘Starbucks’ time to write one and edit it to the point I’m not embarrassed to publish it.
After my writing session, I begin my longer walk, weather permitting. I have a couple of extended routes back home that take between 30-50 minutes to walk at a good pace. If the weather’s bad, I head straight back, getting in my minimum of a 30-min walk.
I rarely write in the evenings — I never have, except when I’m on deadline with a magazine piece. In the evening I like to read, watch a video, Photoshop some shots, or potter about the house cooking or doing household chores.
The older you get, the shorter life seems. I don’t feel as if I have too much time on my hands. Rather, I don’t have enough.