Entry 89: A Typical Day
Editor’s Note: This is the 89th installment in Van Jackson’s daily writing journal, “Nuke Your Darlings,” which tracks his six-month battle to write a new book on North Korea. Will he meet his deadline?
My schedule was so crammed yesterday that at the end of the night I simply didn’t have a moment to write a Nuke Your Darlings entry. Today was ANZAC Day in New Zealand—a big national holiday—which left me with no reason not to write today’s entry.
I’ve probably had a half-dozen people who read Nuke Your Darlings ask me how do I manage the obligations of life that we all have while doing the Nuke Your Darlings thing and keep to an ambitious writing schedule. They’re not looking for general advice, or my Great Gatsby inspirations. They want to know how I do it given 24 hours in a day. It’s a question, not a compliment. Like how I literally allocate my time.
So hopefully what I’ve jotted down below is useful. It’s my typical schedule during this book project. I don’t know, I feel a little self-conscious sharing this even though much of my life is already very public. On busy days I budget all my time down to 15-minute increments on post-it notes, starting with my arrival at the office (I don’t keep an exact schedule for my morning routine—I’m not a total psycho). On less busy days I keep to the same rhythm as below but don’t hold myself to account so stringently.
0505-0515—yoga stretches (feel burn, defiance)
0530-0600—make breakfast and coffee, briefly check email (and twitter)
0600-0630—eat breakfast while watching news and reading news online
0630-0650—prep clothes, leave for the office
0650-0720—commute, read journal article or book (or twitter if feeling lazy)
0720—arrive at the office
0720-0730—make a cup of green tea, write out my schedule for the day on post-its (if busy)
0730-0830—write the book, answer any urgent emails
0830-0850—coffee break! (also second breakfast and twitter)
0900-0945—floating meeting (usually with a thesis/dissertation student or tutor)
0945-1000—admin/figure out rules for conference reimbursement
1000-1100—office hours for students (or more book writing)
1100-1130—eat lunch, listen to Morning Joe and lament the decline of the Republic
1130-1230—write the book
1230-1300—meeting with colleague, emails
1300-1400—editing work for Texas National Security Review (TNSR)
1400-1500—lecture prep and snack
1500-1615—toggle between lecture prep, TNSR work, and reviewing/revising what I wrote
1615-1640—commute home, twitter, emails (or journal article/book if not tired)
1640-1700—change clothes, pick up son from school
1700-1800—family time, heat up dinner, answer emails, work out if circumstances allow
1800-1900—dinner and pushups
1900-1930—family time (window for media interviews during crazy news cycles)
1930-2000—shower, get ready for bed (additional window for media interviews)
2000-2030—write the Nuke Your Darlings entry for the day
2100-fall asleep—reading in bed (almost always fiction/sci-fi)
Of the various things I do in a day—aside from the writing—the most important are family time, yoga, working out, and nighttime reading. They seem small but feel essential to making it all work. Most everything else is obligatory or superfluous.
Yesterday I wrote 700-ish words, and today I wrote a further 644 words. I’m hoping to finish the draft—and with it Nuke Your Darlings—this week. I’ve got more than enough words at this point; just need to map out the different ways last year’s nuke crisis could’ve led to war and then over the next few weeks work on revisions.
Van Jackson is a senior editor at War on the Rocks and an associate editor of the Texas National Security Review. He is also a Senior Lecturer in International Relations at Victoria University of Wellington, and the Defence & Strategy Fellow at the Centre for Strategic Studies.