A Day in the
Life of a Writer Under Deadline
by Jim Butcher
In an effort to get the
inside scoop on the man who's capable of such wisecracking looniness as the
Dresden Files provide, we asked Jim Butcher to let us in on a typical day in his
life as a fantasy writer living under the gloomy cloud of a deadline.
7:00 am--Your alarm
goes off. Deadline is coming and you will be ready to face it. The plan is for
you to leap out of bed,
seize a cup of coffee and hit the keyboard first thing, bright and early, to
bang out your quota for the day.
remember that you stayed up until two in the morning participating in a flame
war discussion about the
psychological dysfunctions of the characters in Winnie The Pooh, so you slam
your fist down on the snooze button. The
announcer on the radio sounds a little distorted, but he doesn't shut up. By the
time your sleep deprived brain has managed
to work out the dysfunction of the snooze button, you are irritated and awake.
Moments later, your
nine-year old bounces into the room chattering about what a pretty morning it
is. You make a mental
note to add an irritating morning person into the next chapter. And to kill him
9:00 am--The kid is
off to school by now, and you have had enough coffee to restore vague function
to your brain cells.
You sit down at the keyboard to start working on your chapter.
am--Charity worker calls.
am--Telemarketer number two calls.
don't know who calls, because the phone breaks into pieces when you throw it at
the wall. They didn't
warn you about that in the owner's manual. You get a broom and clean up the
school calls you and tells you your kid has been sent to the office for
referring to his teacher as a "vile
minion of darkness," a "gutless varlet," and a "malevolent
knave." You explain that you don't know where he picked up
those phrases, and agree to come pick him up to let him cool off for the day.
10:00 am--You finish
the talk with the nine-year old about his verbal communications skills. The kid
tells you, with a
straight face, that you screamed the same thing at a drive-thru fast food
operator just yesterday.
You send the kid to
10:30 am--Just as
you sit back down to get to work, the fire alarm goes off. You think wistfully
of sweatshops and/or straightjackets, and tell the kid to put away his junior
science chemistry set.
chemical smell hasn't come out yet. The spouse calls and asks you to pick up
some things at the store,
because after all, you have flexible hours. You clench your teeth and keep your
voice nominally pleasant as you agree.
11:00 am--You get
dressed, get the kid to put on something besides underwear and a Batman cape,
and run to the store.
You pick up lunch while you are out, and make another note to yourself about
getting more exercise.
some writing time.
12:31 pm--Heavy air
conditioning usage in your neighborhood blows out the local transformer.
Everything in the house
shuts down. You realize that the keyboard is going to create a little grid of
marks on your face if you leave your head lying
on it like that, but you don't have the will to actually sit up.
1:15 pm--The power
comes back on. Your computer doesn't. And the smell still hasn't come out.
calling for technical help, which doesn't, you attempt to reinstall whichever
version of Windows is out this
2:30 pm--By now you
are gritting your teeth and taking deep breaths.
3:30 pm--The kid has
quietly barricaded himself into his room.
has turned a nice, pretty shade of red. You call technical support again, but
they ask only ask you if
you or anyone else in your home can speak any English.
spouse, having already come home, eaten and settled down comfortably with a good
book, coaxes you
away from the recalcitrant computer and browbeats you into eating something. You
sit down in the kitchen for ten minutes
to eat and cool off.
7:48 pm--You return
to the computer to find that the kid (who apparently can't operate the drain in
the bathtub or the
handle on the toilet) has repaired the computer problem, and is playing your
favorite video game. Better than you. You
take a little walk outside.
8:00 pm--The kid
gets sent to his bed. You sit down to write.
some work done. At some point your spouse tells you something. The words
'important,' 'money,' and 'foreclosure' figure prominently, but you're working.
You mouth the ritual assurances while chopping excess passive voice from your
sentences and get a kiss on the cheek in return.
10:00 pm--You are
finished with the chapter, even if it is a short one. The chemical smell seems
to have lessened (or maybe your nose has just been burned out due to
overexposure). Pleased, you save your chapter, print it, catch a shower and get
realize that you forgot an important detail from the last chapter that makes the
chapter you just wrote logistically impossible and that there is no way to
salvage it. The sound of your head thumping repeatedly against the headboard
wakes up your spouse, and you slink down to the computer to sulk.
10:05 pm--You erase
the chapter. You try to get in touch with your muse, but she has gone missing
and left no forwarding address. The whore. You look at the calendar. You
10:30 pm--You start
hacking on the chapter again, but it's like pulling out your own teeth. Through
at last, you eye the chapter with the same affection as you might a newborn
tapeworm. Then you save it and print it out.
12:32 am--While the
chapter prints, you check the mailing list. Some witless loudmouth has posted an
argument supporting Pooh's manic-obsessive behavior with regards to honey as his
primary psychological dysfunction, when OBVIOUSLY he is simply learning-disabled
with an inability to distinguish fantasy from reality. Why else would he try to
sneak up on a nest of bees disguised as a rain cloud?
am--Finished with your rebuttal, you fire it off to the list with a satisfyingly
forceful thump on the enter key. That will show them.
people really need to get a life.
Uh, thanks, Jim. We