A day in the life of a creative writer

IMG_8127(The Gudgeon runs a monthly feature called ‘A Day In The Life…‘ James had contacted them to ask if they would review The Wrong Story. This led to them running A Day In The Life Of A Creative Writer which was first featured in their February 2018 edition.)

Days are different depending on where I am in the writing process. I’m fortunate that currently I can write full-time without distraction, and the past year has been all about creating new work – a second novel, some short stories and two radio plays.

7am (ish). I try to get going around seven o’clock but it’s an increasing struggle. I used to bound out of bed but now I emerge bleary-eyed and some way down the evolutionary scale. Even so, the first thing I do is reach for my phone and check my email.

8am. By the time I’ve had a cup of tea and a bowl of porridge I’ve evolved again. Usually around this time I say goodbye to my partner, Sally, who sets off to do a real job. I write my daily journal and then check my social media accounts. Social media is an important part of my working life, providing direct channels to readers, writers, editors, publishers and booksellers. I also catch up with the news on the Guardian app (and check The Gudgeon for local events, of course).

9am. Procrastination over, I chain myself to the desk and start work. I write fast and have a minimum prose target of 800 words a day. I usually average around 1200 and on a good day I can hit 2000. Drama is different. Here I let the dialogue dictate the pace and hope that there are no awkward silences.

It’s not all creative work during this time. I also provide structural editing and mentoring for other writers, and prepare and present material for writers’ workshops. My first book, The Wrong Story, was published by Unbound Books last year and I’ve just submitted my second novel, An Other’s Look. As they are a crowdfunding publisher, part of the coming months will be taken up with seeking patrons and pledgers to support its publication. 

1pm. I break for lunch (fruit and yoghurt blended into a smoothie), and then I play my ukulele (no giggling.) The local cats seem distressed at this time and dogs howl, but I’m doing my grades so things should calm down.

2pm. I spend a lot of my time in imaginary worlds so it’s good to join the real thing, and I like to get out of the house for at least some of the day. Also, my lifestyle is sedentary and I mustn’t forget how to move. I shop locally for our evening meal and then either swim, walk or cycle. I also try to pop into the local library and the excellent Ex-Libris bookshop (which stock my book, hem).


I work for another three hours editing the morning’s output and wondering why I wrote such gibberish in the first place, and then, before I know it …

7pm. … it’s evening and the door slams and Sally is home. If we’re not going out it’s time to cook, eat, catch up with the family news, and then read and/or binge-watch box sets. My feeble excuse for passively consuming all this entertainment is that I have to keep up with what other writers are doing. At some point I’ll also spend a few minutes skim-reading the days work.

11pm (ish). I try not to look at a screen before going to sleep and so I continue reading or I do a crossword for half an hour before lights out. Then I think about the story I’m writing and consider what new scenes I might create in the morning.

It’s a precarious way of making a living but I wouldn’t want to do anything else.


About James Ellis

I am a freelance writer and editor. I am the author of two novels, The Wrong Story and An Other’s Look (which is in the process of being published). I am currently working on my third novel. I have had a number of short stories and flash fiction published as well as a travelogue of my journey through Central America. I am a Real Writers prizewinner, a Carers UK prizewinner and was highly commended in British Fantasy Society short story awards. I am also on the BBC’s promising writers list for audio drama. I provide structural and developmental editing for fiction writers; creative writing mentoring for unpublished writers; and develop and facilitate creative writing workshops. I have a Masters degree from the University of Oxford in Creative Writing and spent my placement reading submissions at an Oxford literary agency. I am a member of the Society of Authors, English PEN, the Authors' Licensing and Collecting Society, and the International Flann O'Brien Society.
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