This blog was featured on 09/01/2016
The Writer's Life is Best When It's Boring

my desk!

Tayari Jones says a productive life is often a snooze, but that's okay.

I’ve been taking good care of myself for the last couple of weeks. I can’t decide if I am taking care of myself because the writing is going well or vice versa. Did I tidy up my writing area to get myself to write, or did I do it because I was ready to write? Can’t decide, but here are some of my rituals that have me waking up each morning really ready to do my thing.

  • Tidy the writing area each night before bed. When I prepare my writing area before I go to bed, then Tuesday's writing process is begun on Monday. Also, when I wake up at 5 a.m. (more on that later), I don't have anything to do but walk into the room and sit down. Remember every little thing you do before writing has the potential to throw you off track.
  • Sleep well. This involves going through all the proper getting-ready-for-bed rituals. No more falling asleep in the tank top I wore all day. I put on true pjs, wash my face, brush my teeth, floss. Sleep better, wake up better. (And make up that bed! You’ll rest so much easier in a bed that is nice and fresh.)
  • Go to bed at a decent hour. This involves living like a real writer and not like Carrie Bradshaw (who is an imaginary writer). I know all the cool kids are hanging out and getting crazy with ginger Caipirinhas. But the cool kids are not writing books, now are they? Happy hour twice a week, tops. (To challenge Billy Strayhorn, I, too, "used to visit all those very gay places, those come what may places, where one relaxes on the axis of the wheel of life..." And I got NOTHING done.)
  • Get up early. I know everyone isn’t a morning person. (I am. I really really am. Around 6:15 a.m., I turn into a superhero called MORNING GIRL!) But the reason morning makes for such good writing time is that the early hours are all yours. You can write without looking at the clock, calculating the time before your first appointment. No one calls you at 6 a.m., so you don’t have to even turn your phone off.
  • Moderate coffee drinking. I have never been known for moderation, but keeping the coffee in the normal zone gets me up enough to to do my work, but not so zooted that I am listening to my brain music when I should be writing.
  • Quiet meditative time afterward. It’s so easy to skip the cool down. It’s just like when you are in a hurry at the gym, you may skip the stretching. Or when you microwave a Lean Cuisine, it really helps to let it sit in the microwave another minute or so. For me the same is true with the writing. I need to spend a good fifteen minutes just lying on my bed. When I am really scrambling to get to work on time, I just spend a couple extra minutes in the shower. This helps me think about what direction I should take the next day.

Right now, all the drama in my life is on the page. Boring as this may sound, it’s working for me. A couple summers ago, I spent a month at an artists colony. A young man, just out of school, was complaining that nobody was staying up til three in the morning doing shots of bourbon and having tumultous affairs. A woman landscape painter, still wearing her stained apron, looked at him and scoffed. "Do you know how rare it is that I get time to work? I am not going to waste it drinking with you!" Everyone laughed. And then got back to work.

Tell me She Writers, what helps you stay in the zone? And when you fall out of the habit of writing what do you use to give yourself a jumpstart? The photo you see is my actual writing desk. The flowers were a little gift to myself for reaching the end of the first chapter of my new manuscript.

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  • Joanna Salvo

    Fantastic post, really inspiring.

  • Fajr Muhammad

    Great tips and very inspiring. Will tidy my writing desk and live wildly on the page. 

  • Barbara L.W. Myers

    I love "zooted," and the quote from the landscape painter!

  • Brandi Ballard

    Great tips. My desk is forever cluttered. I love the pic, such a wonderful space.

  • Your writing space is beautiful. And inspiring.

  • Harriett Starr

    lovely post x

  • Brook Blander

    I remember you posting a message to me on Twitter to tidy the area and get ready for the next day...great advice. Im still working on the getting to bed on time thing. -bb

  • Claire

    I love this post. It's a collection of all the things I've been trying to teach myself.

    Strangely enough though, tonight I cannot sleep!

  • Lisa Cheby

    Leah, great distinction! Sandra, I will have to use that advice when my students complain they are bored!

  • Sandra Miller

    Great tips and I'm in total agreement with your title! I tell my boys all the time: "boredom is good, use that time to reflect or to improve a process."

  • Leah Harris

    I love this!! Great tips. I prefer to look at it not as boredom but simplicity.

  • Michelle Boyd

    Nice... I can relate. I get edgy if I don't write and since I do not like that feeling I need and must write. Whether it's writing in my journal or writing my life story the joy and satisfaction I receive from writing helps me deal with the world and ultimately - I will reach my goal.

    Love the flowers - wishing all the best.

  • Lisa Cheby

    Thanks for this wisdom. Many things I know or have heard, but nice to see it all in one place and working for someone. Tonight, real pjs!

  • Cheryl Wright

    Whether it is writer's block or life block, lengthy me-time (writing in my journal and reading books that inspire and refresh me on all levels) helps get me back to that unblocked place where writing bubbles and my life rolls at an easy rhythm.

  • Amy Wise


    This is such a great post and sooo motivating! It's funny because my book ALWAYS takes a back seat to life. I need to change that, and your points are giving me the push I need! I keep up with everything BUT my book and that is now going to change. I kept telling myself there is no time it HAS to be done...which is true...but it will NEVER be done if I don't get to it! So if I have time to blog, to facebook, to watch mindless tv, and to do so many other things, I certainly should have time to write my book. I think because I have so many spaces where I write I'm easliy distracted....I'm going to go and create that one special place right now! Thanks for the motivation Tayari!!


  • Patricia Woodside

    Writing before bedtime is good, especially when I stop myself while the flow is going. I leave myself a few breadcrumbs to know where to pick up the next day, and the idea of getting back to the story keeps me juiced. I'm also more inclined to write when I feel best physically, so if I'm eating well and exercising, I'm pumped up and ready to start tapping away.