A Day In The Life of a Writer. Yesterday.

I wake up. First thing I do is check the time. Have I overslept? I got home from work last night at 11 p.m. and then watched Question Time on the iPlayer. The one glass of wine I intended to have turned into several. Question Time turned into The Week. I like politics, especially when I’m drunk.

Sun is coming through the curtains. My mobile says 8:45. This is not ideal but ok. If I don’t write in the morning then I can’t write at all. Usually I like to read in bed for an hour first. If I do that it’ll be nearly 10 o’clock. Then by the time I’ve checked my emails, usual internet sites it will be 11.

I start to panic. I’m not going to get any writing done.

Downstairs there is a knock at the door. I know it will be the postman. He’s the only person who knocks on my door. I am naked.

I don’t always sleep naked. Sometimes I like to have a sweatshirt and underwear and I regularly have two duvets and a sleeping-bag on my bed.

I’ve ordered some books from Amazon. I imagine that’s why the postman is knocking. On top of the nakedness I have an erection. Why does the postman always come when I have an erection?

I can’t very well go downstairs like this.

I used to do door to door sales in Australia. Sometimes when I was doing areas by the coast you’d get surfer dudes out of bed. I used to hope they’d come to the door naked. It was a boring job and the mind tended to wander.

As it happens, it rarely happened. This is just one way in which life is different to fiction.

I stumble into the spare room and pull on yesterday’s work trousers and a cardigan. I either looked dishevelled and interesting. Or a tramp with a hard on. No time to check in the mirror.

Postman done I make a cup of tea and go back upstairs to bed. The books I ordered were ‘Jack’ and ‘The End of Alice’ by A M Homes.

A M Homes is getting to be one of the writers of whom I have read their complete works. In this she will join Rupert Thomson, Magnus Mills, Haruki Murakami, Kazuo Ishiguro, Raymond Chandler, Raymond Carver, Andrey Kurkov, David Mitchell, Timothy Mo, Sarah Waters.

She will be, I note, the only woman on the list. Except for Sarah Waters.

I spread the books out on my bed. The two A M Homes ones and also Nocturnes by Ishiguro. I have recently bought this too.

I haven’t got too long.

I choose the Ishiguro and read the first story.

So far I haven’t mentioned much writing. That’s the thing about writing. A lot of it is in your head. The rest of the time is not writing.

So when I am sitting in bed naked, books spread out before me, drinking tea, I am actually very busy. Convincing other people of this is sometimes a problem.

I have just finished six days in a row at work. Therefore I haven’t had much time to write. In fact, I haven’t done any. Prior to these six days I’d had five days off. In those five days I’d written 8,000 words.

Writing is like that for me. Once I start it’s easy to carry on. Once I stop it’s difficult to start again.

Once downstairs, and dressed, I open up the document.

I stopped right at the end of a long section in which a character on a boat to the Antarctic is telling a story over the phone to another one of the characters back in England. This story is about his time in Iraq and it’s kind of a love triangle.

The character on the end of the phone is in love with the character telling the story.

This 8,000 word section from my previous days off is this story.

This novel is a novel of people telling stories to each other. I like all the characters and the stories but I wonder if it works as a novel.

I have a cup of coffee.

Also all the stories are about death. Would someone want to read about so much death?

Someone slips under a tram, gets hit by a car, falls into a vat of acid, loses their hand in an industrial accident. But pulls through! Loses their feet to frostbite, is the victim of a serial killer, dies of cancer, dies in a water-skiing accident.

And so on.

As I don’t know if it works I am trying to establish a life / work balance. I don’t want to spend a whole year doing this and then have to delete it. If I’ve done other things I can look back on those things.

Like drinking tea in bed. Drinking wine and watching Question Time on the iPlayer. For a few years I didn’t do any of those things. I used to write all the time.

I follow pretty much the Stephen King model of writing. I try and do 1000 words and then stop. Like him, sometimes this can take hours and other times I can rattle off 1000 words in an hour.

While I’m writing though I am constantly checking things on the internet. Looking at the news, Facebook, my blog, YouTube and so on. So often I don’t feel like I am writing. When I stop I feel useless and berate myself.

“You’ve wasted your day. You’ve spent it on the internet.”

But I do hit my target.

At three o’clock I stop to go to the gym. If I’m going to sleep naked I owe it to myself to look the part.

Also I’ve managed to stop in a good place. David non-Dave has built a city out of toilet rolls for the miniature person who was living in his bum. This is a person he killed earlier in the book. He’s about to show it off to the other characters. His city that is and not his bum.

David non-Dave is having a nervous breakdown I should say and it is not a real miniature person living in his bum. These miniature people made an earlier appearance in another story of mine, ‘Neighbours’.

That’s another tip. Recycle.

After coming back from the gym I go straight out food shopping. This is on foot as I don’t have a car.

It’s a beautiful sunny day.

As I walk I wonder if I’m wasting my time with all this writing. There are other things I could be doing. I would like to be in the countryside somewhere walking by the side of a canal.

Then I imagine falling in the canal and getting attacked by a shark. It bites off my legs. But how would a shark get in a canal?

There was a lorry heist. They expected cash but instead found themselves with a shark on route from one aquarium to another. They don’t know what to do. Under cover of darkness they release it into the canal.

One of them has a favourite film of Jaws. During the heist he says, ‘We’ve got ourselves a shark situation.’

It could happen. There are sharks in the world. There are aquariums. It’s just the question of thinking it.

When I get back home I reopen the document.

I’ve been thinking about the beginning. It needs re-writing. I pour myself a glass of wine. I pick up Music For Torching by A M Homes and re-read the opening. It’s a good beginning. I’d like something like that, but Homes has already used it.


I need more humour. The characters need to stand out more. Perhaps I should scrap the whole thing.

I drink some more wine. I make dinner. I watch the Pulling special. This is reassuring because it is more rude than my books. This is important to me but I’ve already gone on enough.

At ten o’clock I go to bed. I read ‘Jack’ for two hours.

I drink two beers.

I fall asleep.

Tomorrow it starts again.

Currently reading – see above

Currently listening to – Friendly Fires by Friendly Fires

Drew Gummerson’s first novel ‘The Lodger’ was published in 2002. It was a finalist in the Lambda Awards in the States. Drew’s latest book ‘Me and Mickie James’ was published by Jonathan Cape in July 2008. Drew is also an award winning short story writer, his short fiction being widely published and featured on Radio 4.


5 Responses to “A Day In The Life of a Writer. Yesterday.”

  1. May 24, 2009 at 6:33 pm

    The Postman didnt ring twice then???? It’s nice to have the chance to look in on someone else’s life, like looking through their windows… and nice to see that even published and prolific writers have all the same distractions and intermittent meanderings that take us away from our sribblings and imaginary lives. I love the idea of characters telling each other stories (very Boccaccio, have you read The Decameron? I reckon you’ll love it. Reckon??? how very cowboyish – no idea where that came from) but I immediately felt sad for the character at the other end of the phone in England. Love triangles are sad I suppose (or very exciting, depending on how you see it!) Anyway you sound like you’re back on track.. Keep on keeping on ;¬)

  2. May 24, 2009 at 6:37 pm

    Thanks, I’ll check out Boccaccio. Drew x

  3. May 25, 2009 at 8:29 am

    All very familiar, Drew. Apart from the erection!
    Sam x

  4. May 25, 2009 at 8:31 am

    Well I did wonder about putting that in. But if Wallace is doing it (for nPower) I thought why the hell not? x

  5. May 25, 2009 at 3:06 pm

    I always find a dressing gown covers a multitude of sins. After a few ‘wardrobe malfunctions’ I’m not sure who was happiest that I bought one, my postman or the milkboy.

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Drew Gummerson

Drew Gummerson is a writer. In 2002 his first novel, The Lodger, was published and was a finalist in the Lambda Awards. His latest novel, Me and Mickie James was published by Jonathan Cape in July 2008. He works for the police. Visit his website here.

Me and Mickie James

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