Culturing Creativity: A Day in the Life

Welcome to the second episode of our miniseries, Culturing Creativity.

Ever wondered what a typical day looks like for us? Listen in to find out. We have a chat about how we structure our days, and following that discuss how we manage to fit everything into our busy schedules. We don’t always succeed. And, with that comes the acceptance that sometimes, you really can’t do everything. But we do our best, every day, to culture the creativity in our lives.

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Ashley: Hey everyone, welcome back to Dear Writer. This is episode 13, but it’s the second installation of our miniseries Creative Life, where we talk about how we try and culture creativity in our daily lives. And today we thought we would do a episode which we’ve titled a day in the life of Ashley and Sarah. And then we’re going to follow that by a brief discussion about how we find ways to make time for writing in our busy schedules. Do you want to start off with what a typical day looks like for you?

Sarah: Sure. Not that it’s particularly exciting. So I said in the previous podcast that I was getting up early, at like five or something. I am no longer doing that, because I got way too cranky. And then I was falling asleep on the couch at night in our TV watching time.

Ashley: Did Dan have some words with you like, Sarah this cannot continue.

Sarah: Basically. So yeah, it did slowly slide later and later. But then I decided that I needed to make a schedule recently, and I’ve been maintaining that. But at the moment, I try to get up by seven. And then I do writing between seven and  nine am, and at that point I then shower. I know it’s very late in the day to be showering, but this is what happens when you don’t go out. And then I listen to podcasts while I shower and do some chores. And at the moment that’s usually The Creative Penn, then I write from about eleven to twelve pm, have lunch, study from twelve to four. More chores from that point, or I treat myself to playing the guitar iff those are all done. And I listened to podcasts or music while I’m making dinner and then more writing from seven to eight pm or reading if I’m too tired. And then TV time is usually from about eight to ten pm, and that’s my sort of my together time with Dan for a couple of hours that we chill out on the couch—and obviously we talk to each other during dinner. So it’s not like we have no contact but. But yeah, as an additional note to my typical daily schedule. I tend to block it these podcasts. I kind of almost want to say like, binge edit, but then… I mean I don’t not enjoy doing it, but they are quite heavy on time so. And I tend to do them right away because otherwise it preys on my mind. So those take up my writing and guitar time until I got out my hair.

Ashley: It sounds busy, regardless of the fact that you’re stuck inside.

Sarah: People used to say to me, they’d be like, what are you gonna do now that you’re not working? Or even had once, a colleague—before I even knew Dan—and when I was working at Auckland City Hospital, a colleague once, we were talking about another colleague and she was like, oh, you know, this… she’s a person who would do well with like a sort of more laid back schedule, she should be okay if she just had to stay at home and be a mom or something. And I was like, I wouldn’t mind staying at home, constantly. And my colleague looked at me and she’s like, you wouldn’t cope. You always have to be doing something. And I’m like, yes, but I would find things to do. And no one believed me but now I can actually say that it doesn’t matter if I don’t have a job at the moment. I am always doing something. I went to my hairdressers, and she was like, you sound like you have such a busy life. How do you find time for these creative activities? And I’m like, I have projects. I’m always like doing something. So, yeah. Anyways, do you wanna tell us about your typical day?

Ashley: Sure. So I get up at seven or at least… I’m gonna go with by seven, because my puppy gets up at six, and I take the puppy out so I’m usually up at six, but will try and fall back asleep, which never works and then get up by seven. Get up at seven. I’m out the door for work at seven-thirty, and I’m one of those people, I like to make the most, do as much as I can in the shortest amount of time.

Sarah: Yep.

Ashley: So I allocate myself thirty minutes to get ready and get out the door. Which is, I’ve gotten pretty good at it now. So, and then I take the bus to work. So I’m on the bus for about thirty minutes and I use that time to be productive. So I usually listen to podcasts in that time. Often it’s something to help me with my research or writing. So, I’m a big fan of history podcast so often I’ll listen to that, or writing podcasts. Right now I’m listening to The History of the English Language podcast. Which is probably one of the geekiest podcasts I have ever listened to, it has almost three hundred episodes. And it is exactly what it sounds like. I’m currently in the… we’re learning about the Indo European language, which is the root of all of the Indo European language family. Which is like Latin, Greek, all the Germanic languages, Hittite.

Sarah: Right.

Ashley: A lot of, a lot of languages. Anyways, but it’s very, very interesting. I’ll try not to go too much into it, but it talks about how the English language got all of its words and all of the different influences.

Sarah: Right.

Ashley: And why you know we spell some words -er, some -re. Why some of our plurals aren’t consistent. Why we call more than one ox oxen, but more than one fox is not foxen. But it’s because oxen, oxen as an original word from the Indo European language from like five thousand years ago and it carried through into English, which is why its oxen, but fox is a new word—well, relatively new—so then it you know, took on our new rules for making plurals.

Sarah: Right, yeah.

Ashley: Yes, so that’s why it’s foxes. Anyways, it’s that. It’s been very interesting. I think I’m about seventeen episodes through. Anyways, so then I get to work at eight o’clock. And I work from eight till five or five-thirty, depending on when I get all of the stuff done that I need to, and then bus back listening to more podcasts, which is, it’s probably one of my favorite times of the day. I get home around six and then take Riley out for a walk. However, that’s… I have other activities usually. So those are my free days. I do, I’m a girl guide leader. So on Tuesdays, I have girl guides. So I don’t get home, till usually eight-thirty, because it’s from six to eight and then parents are always late picking up their children so. I don’t usually get home, till half past eight. Otherwise, I usually swim as well, and that won’t get I don’t get home until seven-thirty if I’ve done that. Anyways, and then I get home. I then cook dinner and James and I eat dinner, so that usually takes us, especially when I have these other activities onto like, eight o’clock or sometimes even nine o’clock. And that is when I then write. So I usually write from about, on a good day will be eight-thirty, if I’ve been fast. On a bad day. It’s nine or nine-thirty, and I usually make sure I at least write for an hour, or try and write for an hour, we see how it goes. Because usually I’m quite tired by that point.

Sarah: No kidding.

Ashley: I have a very tiny… I’ve made myself a little writing room and we’ve got, it’s a three bedroom house, but it’s really a two bedroom house, because our third bedroom is so small it only fits a single bed with like a tiny little desk and a 30 centimeter gap. The bed still in there so it takes up most of the rooms. I have like my tiny little writing desk and I like sit like really squeezed into my chair. So yeah, and then I write for, write for about an hour in that room, and then I go to bed. And then it’s rinse and repeat for all of the weekdays. So my weekdays are quite busy. I do try and get writing done, make time.

Sarah: Yeah. Yeah, is very busy, I think, lives when you try and squeeze writing into it.

Ashley: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, definitely.

Sarah: But it’s about making time, right? Which we’ll discuss a bit more later.

Ashley: No, I ah, definitely weekends are when I get most of my writing done, and I ensure I make time on my weekends to do writing.

Sarah: Yeah, so on that sort of topic, what does a weekend look like for you?

Ashley: Um, so I do my chores, usually on Saturday mornings, which I also… I don’t listen to podcast when I do chores. That’s my time to listen to music.

Sarah: Fair enough.

Ashley: So I listen to music when I do my chores, and then I try and do a bit of writing in the afternoons and generally on Sundays James will go surfing if there’s waves. So, I’ll write while he surfs. And then, yeah, hang out with him when he returns. I do go away a lot on the weekends. But I always still make time for writing. So I still will get up, usually at seven maybe a bit earlier, if I’m away with friends. I can write for a couple hours before anyone else wakes up.

Sarah: Yep

Ashley Which usually works quite well.

Sarah: That’s a good way of doing it.

Ashley: So I’m definitely more of an early riser so it’s always quiet at that time in the morning, which is good. How, how do your weekends shape up?

Sarah: To be honest, they’re not too different from my weekdays at moment.

Ashley: Fair enough.

Sarah: When you don’t have a job asides from writing and studying from home it does tend to blur into one. But because Dan is home in the weekends, I do try to spend a bit more time with him. Even though, like we’re both very individual people. He likes photography. Over the Christmas break, for example, he’s been developing some of his—he does film photography—so he’s been developing some of his film.

Ashley: That’s cool.

Sarah: Which takes a few hours, he shuts himself in the bathroom because it has sinks and a bath. Our spare bathroom. But we do try to get out a little bit in the weekend, which we often don’t manage…

Ashley: You try though.

Sarah: We try. And even if it’s something like doing chores together like going to the library or something.

Ashley: Supermarket shopping. Are you allowed to go supermarket shopping together right now in covid?

Sarah: Yes, we are. Although often we’ll like, ride together in the car, and then one of us will  do the library, and then one of us will get out and do the groceries.

Ashley: I was gonna ask, do you get more writing done on the weekends? Or do you try and spend a bit more time with Dan?

Sarah: I try to spend a bit more time with Dan, but then I try to go a bit easier on myself on the weekends and yet not do as much study. So I do tend to get more writing done because I think it is important—it’s not trying to create a weekend as such, but more have a change in your schedule, so that there is a couple of days of the week where you’re doing something a little bit different. And you’re allowing yourself that time to relax. Rather than constantly being on the go and constantly trying to get stuff done. Which it becomes quite hard to do when you are at home all the time.

Ashley: Yes.

Sarah: And you’re doing things like studying, because it’s like, well, I could get this done. Or I could do a little bit more studying and get on top so that makes it easier during the weekday. And it kind of works, but then it also kind of drags you down a bit, because it’s just this constant sameness to your life. That just… yeah. It’s not defined by anything, and then you get sort of a bit lost when you do things that way, I feel. Or at least that’s what it’s like for me. Which is why I created the schedule because I need more structure to my days. Because I was waking up, and even when I was getting stuff done, I didn’t really feel like I was achieving anything because I’d look back and I’d be like, oh, I just… all I did today was write. Which is fine. And yeah, I’d get a lot done. But it doesn’t feel like you’ve done a lot when you don’t sort of label the time.

Ashley: Yeah.

Sarah: If that makes any sense.

Ashley: No, that does make sense that. No, it does, and it leads quite well into the next point we’re going to talk about which was how we make time for writing amongst our busy schedules. So, you said that you made a schedule, which is good.

Sarah: Yeah.

Ashley: I also have a pretty strict schedule. Mostly because I need to have one if I even want to fit writing in. Because it’s very easy for me just to decide, I’m too tired and not write. But, it has been easier for me a little bit this year because of covid. Because for a large… well not a large chunk. A couple months at a time, we did have some restrictions and it meant that a lot of my activities were cancelled. Like my girl guides wasn’t on. Well, it was on. We had it online, which made things a lot easier, took up a bit less time for me. And all of my other activities like swimming and stuff that I do, they closed all the pools. So that wasn’t an option. So it did give me a little bit more time to write, which was good. And we couldn’t travel anywhere. But for the past few months, all of our restrictions have been lifted. So it’s back to my normal busy schedule. So, I still have to work hard to make sure I have time to write. What about you, did you have anything else other than your schedule that you use to make time for writing?

Sarah: Yeah, so hopefully—it’s fine at the moment, and obviously when you see my schedule you can see that there’s quite a bit of time for writing, like probably about four or five hours per day, which is pretty good. But soon I should hopefully be getting my nursing registration, which is exciting. And I do want to go back to work. But it’s also a little bit nerve wracking, because I’m not 100% sure of what it’s going to look like, and I’m a bit nervous about how I’m going to manage my time once I’m working again because…

Ashley: Yeah.

Sarah: You might sort of notice on our blog that we’ve started doing the transcripts again. But with the increase in podcasting, and then hopefully soon setting a fulltime job, one of my fears is not being able to keep up with everything and having that writing time shrink and shrink. Which kind of panics me a bit.

Ashley: Oh no.

Sarah: Because every episode of these podcasts—I’ve heard other people talk about on the podcast, how long it takes him to edit it. And I’d say that we’ve probably similar—but every episode, depending on its length, probably takes between sort of two to six hours and then transcription takes probably another hour or two on top of that. So, it’s at least a good day per episode. And so then I’m like, oh my goodness. If I’m working full time and this takes me a full day and we’re doing this every week… I don’t know how I’m going to survive!

Ashley: We’ll work it out. We can definitely share out some of the duties a bit more.

Sarah: Well, yeah, exactly. It’s something that you can’t really panic too much about what’s in the future. You can prepare yourself but there’s no point worrying about something that hasn’t happened yet. So we’ll manage it as it comes, so.

Ashley: Have you thought about going back part time. Oh, no. You need hours. Don’t you?

Sarah: Yeah, yeah. So basically, I need as many hours as I can get at this point for clinical hours because I don’t know if the listeners know. But as a nurse, you’ve got to maintain a certain amount of clinical hours. In New Zealand it’s every three years you’ve going to maintain a certain amount of clinical hours. In Canada it’s every five years. So, it’s kind of a little bit easier in that way, but because I haven’t worked for so long, I’m now coasting on hours from like 2018 or something.

Ashley: Right.

Sarah: 2017, 2018. Not 2017 because I didn’t work then either. I was in the UK. I was casual part time at a hospital for like half of 2018, in Tauranga. And then that’s like all that I’ve got.

Ashley: Yep. That’ll be a… it will be an interesting change.

Sarah: But yeah, no, I am looking forward to it. Just, I like to do too many things.

Ashley: Yeah. I know the feeling. I often have to let some things go. Like, I don’t play guitar as much as I want to anymore just because I don’t have the time to do it. I’ve kind of I’ve prioritized writing over that. So, that’s just what I’ve had to do, right?

Sarah: Yes, yeah. That’s the same for me, like, if I have to choose between, I choose writing because that’s kind of more of a passion. Although I find guitar is better for winding down. If my brain’s tied up in too much from knot, and I’ve looked at too many words because you can imagine studying all day, and writing, they don’t really go well together. Because that you’re constantly reading!

Ashley: Although maybe that will actually end up being a beneficial thing, working all day. Because your mind will get  a total break, right? So you might be able to come home and…

Sarah: Yeah. I might output faster than what I do at the moment, where… at the moment it’s sometimes sitting in front of the computer and nothing coming, but.

Ashley: That brings it very nicely to the next point is, what do you do when you don’t feel like writing?

Sarah: Obviously this the blog and the podcast, but then I do researching or lots of reading. But usually I flip between projects that I’ve got on the go until I find something that sticks and that I can sink my teeth into.

Ashley: Makes sense. Yeah.

Sarah: And because I have so much time I’m quite good at sitting in my seat and just like sitting here, wriggling around, staring at an empty screen until something eventually comes. I remember  a few weeks back when I was doing one of my chapters that are struggling on, I texted Ashley and I just said, oh, my goodness. I’ve been sitting here for an hour, or two hours, and all I’ve come up with is a hundred words.

Ashley: Oh no.

Sarah: It was just painful. Extremely excruciating.

Ashley: Yes.

Sarah: But, it’s not always that hard and schedules are great because I find it gives me permission to sit down into that. Whereas if I don’t schedule the time, then I’m feeling kind of guilty going, oh, I haven’t done this and I haven’t done that. And all I’m doing is sitting here, staring at a screen. Which does not help inspire creativity.

Ashley: No, it wouldn’t.

Sarah: How about you?

Ashley: So I don’t have the luxury of time during the week to not output things, so I generally just have to force myself to do it. I find writing in my little tiny writing room helps because I’ve made sure that there is absolutely nothing in there that can distract me. All that there is a desk, a jar, like an old jam jar with some pens in it. A stack of books, like research books related to our ancient Greece book at the moment. And a couple of my old notebook journals that have notes and stuff scribbled in there. And that’s it. So, there’s nothing else for me to do. So when I go in there I pretty much… I have to write. Otherwise I’ll just sit there and do nothing, and I’m not good at sitting and doing nothing. But if I really, really don’t feel like it, then I will usually try and do something like Sarah said related to the book. So, either do some research or make some podcast outlines. And if I’m feeling particularly unmotivated. I will read, which is good because I usually don’t have a lot of time to read otherwise. But I’ll try and make sure I do read something related to our projects. Like some of the nonfiction Ancient Greece books which are sometimes a bit dry but they are also really interesting, they often have sort of random bits of information you’re like, oh, I can probably use that. Which sometimes can help with the writing.

Sarah: Yeah. Can’t remember what I was gonna ask you.

Ashley: That’s all right!

Sarah: I was going to ask you something about what you said. Oh, that’s what it was. So, when you’re in your writing room, do you leave your phone elsewhere or?

Ashley: Usually, yes. Well, that’s a bit distracting. I actually got the idea from… I was listening to one of those master class video things. It was with, it was with Dan Brown who writes The Da Vinci Code and he said that when he writes, he used to do the same thing, like, go to like a random room and he said he, when he was living with his parents, the only room was the laundry room. So he would just sit in the laundry room, turn off his Wi Fi on his computer so he couldn’t get internet, and leave his phone behind and then you’re forced to write. I did try that, but that did not work well because it turns out for the Ancient Greece book I have to do a lot of research on the fly. So it just ended up consuming time waiting for my computer to like then turn the Wi Fi back on and connect, so I haven’t done that. But I usually exit everything else.

Sarah: Right.

Ashley: It’s usually, it’s usually enough to stop me getting too distracted. But yes. What are your… so you say that sometimes it takes you, you know, an hour or two to squeeze out a hundred words. Do you end up procrastinating in that time a little bit?

Sarah: Sometimes. So, I don’t leave my phone out of the room when I’m writing. Because I do so much writing, I find it difficult to because otherwise I feel like I’m just not paying attention to potentially… stuff that’s going on.

Ashley: Yeah.

Sarah: Which, to be honest, is probably minimal. But also I have a Mac, and so it’s set up so that I’ll receive messages on my Mac anyways.

Ashley: Right.

Sarah: So I can’t really be like, oh I’m not gonna listen to my messages, because it just comes up anyway. Yeah, so I do procrastinate a little bit sometimes on Instagram, although I find I do this, probably more when I’m studying.

Ashley: Right.

Sarah: Because obviously study can be a bit dry sometimes, and then I’ll be like, I just need a quick break. Instagram. Which I really shouldn’t do, but usually I just do a quick scroll and then that’s enough. I don’t stay on it for, for ages. It’s just checking stuff. How’s this going? How’s that going? And then I’m back to it. And obviously, I have… I’ll go and get a tea or something and then, while I’m waiting for the tea to steep is when I do some yoga exercises and stuff, so that I’m getting some exercise in.

Ashley: Yeah.

Sarah: But yeah. Procrastinating? I think my procrastinating is just switching between different tasks. Mainly. I’ll sit down in front of one, and I’ll be like, nope, not feeling that today.

Ashley: Like switch to something else.

Sarah: Yeah, yeah. So, you know, I did a little bit of work on our ancient Greece novel this morning and then I kind of got a bit stuck. Although since then I’ve had an idea of how to move the chapter forward. But yeah, when I got a bit stuck I was like, okay let’s move on. Start editing some of my book, which I got a bit too into and then was nearly late for the call. I was like, oh no, I have to have lunch. If anything, lunch and eating is what I procrastinate. I’m very bad at that. I’ll get tied up in something and then I’ll be like, I don’t need to eat. Who needs to eat? I just don’t really get hungry but yeah. Whole day will go by.

Ashley: Oh my gosh.

Sarah: I get hyper focused, so.

Ashley: That’s good. I’ve developed this new procrastination thing which is not necessarily bad, but it is kind of detrimental to writing chapters. I decide that if I’m stuck, I’ll just read the chapter from the beginning again.

Sarah: I do that too, sometimes.

Ashley: Every single time now, I’ll be like, I’m stuck. I’m just gonna read it from the beginning. So I’ll spend an hour writing, but all I’ve done is read the chapter, like three times and change like two words. So that’s my current…

Sarah: That’s what I did with the Ancient Greece one and then like added a paragraph in or something, and wrote a hundred words and it was like okay. What’s next today? Anyways, I think we should, we’re probably out of time. We should round this up. Okay, so next time on Dear Writer, it’s the second of our author spotlight interview series.

Ashley: Exciting.

Sarah: It’s great to talk to other writers. And yeah, so as usual, you can find us on, Facebook and Instagram @lindersoncreations. Rate and review the show if you like it on Apple podcast, tell a friend about it, subscribe. Yeah, we’ll see you all next time.

Ashley: Happy writing everyone.