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I've been reading through Annie Dillard's book, The Writing Life, and I just got to that oft-quoted chestnut, "How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that hour, is what we are doing."

I have had ample opportunity to reflect on these ideas these last three weeks. I've been the "Writer in Residence" at Furman University (my alma mater), teaching a creative writing course three hours a day and staying alone in an apartment near campus. The demands on my time are probably less than usual, but they are different demands, and I am just now settling into a routine that feels steadily productive. Actually, I'm not sure that's true. I'm not settling into a steady routine so much as producing from a sense of urgency; now that my days as Writer in Residence are almost done, I need to do more writing and less residing.

When I talk to writers about ordering one's days to ensure a regular time for writing, I usually have to appeal to that time-honored principle, "Do as I say, not as I do." I am a firm believer in habits and strict scheduling; I'm just not very good at it. (In the same way, I firmly believe in the wisdom of choosing the side salad over the french fries; i've just never done it.) Nevertheless, this three weeks of bachelor living has confirmed for me the importance of a regular schedule to protect the important but rarely urgent work of writing from the urgencies that demand a response every hour of every working day.

I love what Annie Dillard says about schedules:
A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time. A schedule is a mock-up of reason and order--willed, faked, and so brought into being; it is a peace and a haven set into the wreck of time; it is a lifeboat on which you find yourself, decades later, still living. Each day is the same, so you remember the series afterward as a blurred and powerful pattern.
It is worth considering the difference between what we usually think of as a good day and what we usually think of as a good life. What days do you consider your best days? Vacation days? Those are great, but you probably wouldn't want to make a life out of them. Your wedding day? As lovely as a wedding day is, you quickly reach a point of diminishing returns if you have too many of them.

"There is no shortage of good days," writes Annie Dillard. "It is good lives that are hard to come by. A life of good days lived in the senses is not enough. Who would call a day spent reading a good day? But a life spent reading is a good life." She could have just as easily said that a life spent writing is a good life.

No doubt you've seen the acronym FOMO--the fear of missing out. FOMO is exaggerated by social media, which reminds you that on any given day, somebody is having more fun than you. FOMO is driven by the pursuit of a good day. But the pursuit of a good life is going to require that you commit to habits, perhaps schedules that give shape to the kind of days that add up to a good life.

NEW: The Habit Podcast

Last week I kicked off something that I think you'll enjoy and benefit from: The Habit Podcast, part of the Rabbit Room Podcast Network. Each week for the foreseeable future I'll release a 30 to 40-minute episode in which I discuss writing with another writer. Episode 1 is my conversation with poet, songwriter, and performer Katy Bowser Hutson.

A few years ago, Katy was diagnosed with an extremely aggressive form of breast cancer and went through an extremely aggressive treatment. Through the treatment and recovery, she wrote poems, which she collected in a chapbook called Now I Lay Me Down to Fight. For as long as I've known her, Katy has been a wise woman and a great writer, but her experience with cancer has opened up something new in her. Our conversation was one of the best talks I've ever had about writing, and am am extremely happy to be able to share that conversation with you.

Coming up later this week will be my conversation with playwright Pete Peterson. (When it's up, you'll be able to get there via the same link as above.) Seven episodes are recorded already, and by the time those have been posted, we should have more in the queue. 

ALSO: If you have writers whom you would like to hear on The Habit Podcast, please let me know.

TECHNICAL NOTE: Last I checked, The Habit Podcast isn't showing up on the search feature of iPhone podcast app, Stitcher, or Spotify. But it should be there any day. If you'll subscribe, rate, and review, it will help others find it. Thanks for your help!

TECHNICAL NOTE OF THANKS: Many thanks to my friend Drew Miller of the Rabbit Room, who takes care of all the technical issues around The Habit Podcast and all the other podcasts in the Rabbit Room Network. It is a huge help to be able just to sit down and talk to writers and not have to worry about any of the technical details that make me want to curl up and cry like a small child.

Upcoming Events

A new section of Writing with Flannery O'Connor starts on Monday, 6/24. In this six-week course, we will look at O'Connor's essays about writing in Mystery and Manners, examine ways that she implemented her principles in her short stories, and implement those principles ourselves in short writing exercises. (Limited to 12 participants). Members of Field Notes for Writers receive a 10% discount.
Register for Writing with Flannery O'Connor

This Month in Field Notes for Writers

The Field Notes Book Club is mid-way through Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird.

Office hours (via videoconference) on Wed. June 12.

Field Notes members receive a 10% discount on the upcoming Writing with Flannery O'Connor course. (A $25 savings.)

To join this community of like-minded writers, gain access to the ever-growing library of content, and receive discounts on Jonathan's premium online classes join Field Notes for Writers
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