Annie Dillard wrote, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” On the first of each month, Catching Days hosts a guest writer in the series, “How We Spend Our Days.”
Today, please welcome writer WENDY J. FOX
I spent a decade and a half working in tech marketing, until I’d climbed the ladder to the point I was ready to jump off it. In 2019, roughly four months before many white collar workers were sent home for pandemic lockdowns, I was already nestled into my home office, freelancing. As the Great Resignation hit, I totally understood where people were coming from.
One of the first things I noticed, freelancing from home in the pre-lockdown universe, was how much easier it was to take care of myself. Easier to cook, easier to exercise. Suddenly, if it was time for the dentist or the annual dermatologist check, I was not jockeying for the before work, after work, or the coveted lunchtime appointment slots. 10:15 on a Tuesday? No problem.
But today I actually do have an early appointment, so I have the unusual experience of my alarm clock going off. Generally, I get up early, but I’m often not on much of a hard schedule, and because I’m also a believer in, if you need to sleep, then sleep—the alarm is rare enough that my husband says, “What’s that noise?” The alarm is set earlier than I need it, because I was going to walk the mile and a half to my appointment, but I decide to play Wordle in bed instead, drink a second cup of coffee, read the news on my phone, and make up the time by driving.
Part of the reason I left education and went corporate in the first place was that I got so burnt out with having to perform every day, and then I struggled in corporate with constant meetings and calls to the point that I would fill up my calendar with fake entries so I could carve out some time to actually do my work.
I’m out of my appointment by 8:06, home by 8:15, and feeling a little guilty about driving. I make a late breakfast.
I work on some of my freelance projects: a marketing contract I have, some website work for a friend, and I’m feeling a little behind.
Usually, and today is no different, I do the work I get paid for (magazine articles, contract marketing work, prep for a class or workshop if I have one coming up) in the morning. I always try to be done with this by around noon, and definitely by 1pm.
I don’t make lunch today because breakfast was late and walk to the nearest park. It’s about a three mile loop, and I’m annoyed because I could have just walked to my appointment and have had my steps covered for the day, but oh well. For the first time, I notice a tree that drapes over the sidewalk like a gateway, and I wonder if it is from other people walking through it and shaping the way the branches hang, or if someone trimmed it like that, or if it is just growing that way.
When I am back home, I am less annoyed. I stopped listening to headphones on my walks because I get more thinking done that way. Half two of the day is nearly always the same:
Listen to a podcast while doing whatever house chores need to be done. Water the outdoor plants—I live in downtown Denver and do not have a yard, but have a lot of flowers in containers, and I know I should water in the morning or the evening, but it is part of my transition to afternoon. Check the mail. Put anything that needs to be dealt with on my desk, because that is a morning job, not an afternoon job. Set a timer on my phone and read for thirty minutes. Sometimes, if I get sucked into a book—which is frankly, the best thing that can happen—my thirty-minute timer goes off and I stay in the world that another author has generously created. Sometimes, I’m not feeling it and even ten minutes feels like a slog. That’s not even always a commentary on the book. It might just be my mood. Today I barely make it through the thirty minutes wondering, how did this get published to such acclaim! I will not tell you the title of the book.
It’s 3:00 p.m. by now, and I call a friend who has been texting. When I’m talking to her, a cousin texts, and some of the fam is getting together for an impromptu birthday hang—meet at 4:00? he says. I was planning on working on my manuscript, a novel I tried to break up with, but after a year of separation, we are getting back together. Mostly I work on my fiction in the late afternoon and early evening.
The manuscript is crisply printed out and feels so full of promise. It needs a lot of work. A. LOT. OF. WORK. It has only been off the printer since Tuesday, sitting with neat corners looking sort of fancy and accomplished. I still wonder if the book will be a failure.
But the thing is, so much of writing is about time, and protecting your writing time, that it’s just so much easier for me these days to say yes to something I didn’t anticipate, because it wasn’t there on my calendar to dread all day, or feel like it was an obligation. It’s just—meet at the beer garden? Y/N. So I get off the phone, put my pants back on, reapply sunscreen, look forward to getting a veggie burger since I didn’t make anything for lunch, and my husband and I have a wonderful night with people we love. I don’t even feel bad about not getting any writing done.
NOT THOSE SAME 3 QUESTIONS…
1. What one word best describes your writing life?
- Always. I’m always thinking about what I’m working on, I’m always trying to work on it. I’m always hounded by or hounding my pages.
2. When and where do you do most of your reading?
- My upstairs deck. The chair is a bit uncomfortable, but that works better for me because if I read in bed, I just get that lull and then fall asleep. My husband jokes to me (but it’s not really a joke) that if I’m going to read in bed I should put on my “sleeping glasses,” an older pair of specs that it won’t matter if I roll over on or have smashed against the pages.
3. What is your strangest obsession or habit?
- Lately, every third day I change the sheets. I am completely aware this is unnecessary to the point of being ridiculous, but only a fool would argue with clean sheets. I’m a fool in some ways, but in this one simple way I am not—meaning I don’t argue with myself over things that work for me. Often there is a space in the early morning, just before the sun comes up where I am half asleep but lucid enough to remember, and I get an idea, there in the clean bedding, about fixing a sentence or a plot point or just even some advice from the universe, like call your mom and it’s a good start to a morning. Okay, sometimes I change the sheets every day. I know. Ridiculous.
By WENDY J. FOX