Ben Parzybok

Deep sea sandwiches!

establishing a writing routine with two writers in the family

Speaking of Laura – she is also working on a novel and we discuss with some frequency how to actually get any writing done with two small children in the house. That’s why we enjoyed reading through Daily Routines – “How writers, artists, and other interesting people organize their days”. We combed through the writers looking for those who have kids. As much as I love TC Boyle – reading two newspapers, writing for four hours and then going snorkeling is not what the shape of our day looks like. And we certainly don’t fly like William Styron (who did have children):

“…sleep until noon; read and think in bed for another hour or so; lunch with Rose around 1:30; run errands, deal with the mail, listen to music, daydream and generally ease into work until 4. Then up to the workroom to write for four hours, perfecting each paragraph until 200 or 300 words are completed; have cocktails and dinner with the family and friends at 8 or 9; and stay up until 2 or 3 in the morning, drinking and reading and smoking and listening to music.

With Rose to guard the door, run the household, organize their busy social life and look after the children, Mr. Styron followed this routine over the next 30 years.” William Styron’s routine

I’m glad he could live with himself. Alice Munro and Toni Morrison are much more encouraging.

Last weekend at a signing at the Willamette Store I met Devon Monk who has a new Urban Fantasy series out that looks just great (the first book is called Magic to the Bone) and we talked about, among other things, getting work done. There’s a very funny post on her blog where, under deadline, she slips away from her family for the weekend to work at the Edgar Allen Poe room at the Sylvia Beach Hotel (I proposed to Laura in the F Scott Fitzgerald room!).

All of that is to say, I’m going to become an early riser. You heard it here first. I’m so notoriously not an early riser. When I shared a room with my brother when we were in elementary school he moved his bed out into the hallway because I procrastinated going to bed until it drove him insane. I’m up much earlier now because of the children – but I still find it very difficult to break a late night habit (I heard Michael Chabon works late at night but I’m definitely a sharper cat in the morning. I wrote Couch between 9am and 2pm every day in Ecuador – sans children). Like everything else, there’s a site for how to teach yourself to wake up early:

Author: Benjamin Parzybok

My name is Ben Parzybok and I'm a novelist and programmer living in Portland, OR. @sparkwatson



  1. that was an inspiring little post, ben. i’m at my creative best a couple hours before the sun rises. when i’m deep into a project, i’ll be staying up until 2 or 3am, and then setting the alarm for 5am to get in a little more time before leaving for work. i believe this is called burning the candle at both ends.

  2. A friend of mine wrote a book that Laura (and maybe you!) might find interesting. It’s a series of interviews with many different mother-artists (writers, illustrators, sculptors, dancers, etc.) discussing how they balance the two. It’s called “The Divided Heart” by Rachel Power.

  3. Hi Kim – great, I’ll check it out.

    Thanks Tony – I do the same thing. 1 out of 4 late nights (until about 3 is my limit I think) are fantastically productive. If I could just figure out if it were going to be such a night before hand…

  4. Hi Ben, here is a very writerly question for you on a related subject. Unlike you, I am an early morning insomniac and can’t stay up late. So I do tend to write in the morning. However my problem is with furniture. I have a desk, but I don’t like to sit at it. I think my chair is too high or too low or too stiff or too soft, I can never figure out which. Plus, I’m still feeling snuggly at o dark thirty in the morning, so I tend to sit on the couch and type with the comp on my lap. But it’s kind of ridiculous, because I end up surrounded by printouts and notes and hardcopy things that invariably fall on the floor or get all muddled up. My question: do you have a kick-ass desk chair that didn’t cost $400? I need a recommendation. Merry Xmas, by the way. This is me up at the crack of dawn on Xmas morning, just like being a kid, but dammit, no stocking to open!

  5. Happy Christmas to you Katie – jeez I don’t know about a desk chair. Some of my most productive times have been writing from bed. I wrote all of Couch that way.
    But I’m usually all paper, or just computer — except when I’m transferring edits from paper to computer, pretty much my least favorite thing to do. Hemingway wrote standing up at a standing desk –
    (in case you um needed a visual…)
    So I guess my answer is: What’s wrong with the bed? Besides annoying significant others, etc.

  6. Well that’s the phase I’m in- transferring edits from paper to computer. I guess I thought I might be more productive or something at a desk. I have pretty much got this writing on the couch routine going now that I think I’ll stick with. Hemingway may have written standing up, but I visited his house in Key West, where they give tours to tourists and he had a friggin leather chair and sit-down desk. Who knows, it probly isn’t even the real thing. But listen, I am almost at the ghastly phase where I am ready to have people read this novel I’m working on. Do you want to do it? Also- do you have any writer friends who are total strangers to me who might want to do it? Happy New Year!

  7. Hey Katie – wow, I had no idea you were so far along on a novel. Yeah – send it on over. — as a warning, I’m slow, but I’d love to see what you were working on. I’ll email you my address.

  8. Pingback: One secret to becoming a morning person — Secret.

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