Surfacing…and work ethic

Surfacing from Predator novel writing and revisions just for a moment to say more interviews with the bookless are forthcoming, along with a sneak peek at Ben Templesmith’s cover art for the limited edition Shriek, and excellent news about Finch.

In the meantime, I’ve gotten almost a dozen emails saying basically, “Jeff, how do you accomplish so much?” I really don’t feel like I’m doing that much, in fact I often feel downright lazy, but in case my process might be of help, here it is: Prioritize your workload to start with the stuff that takes the most mental energy–and make sure you get enough sleep, exercise, and the right kind of food.

So, that breaks down to this schedule during the week:

7:15 – 7:45: Exercise bike (excellent opportunity to read books for review)
8:00: Breakfast of four eggs and two pieces of wheat toast
8:30 – 11:30: Writing of first-draft fiction in longhand, sometimes at a coffee shop (nothing takes more mental energy for me, so preferably must be fresh…or do it late at night, sometimes), with some book review writing on the tail end of that time if I run out of fiction inspiration
11:30 – 12:30: Brisk 30-minute walk (for brainstorming) and check email. Also includes lunch, which lately has been a good healthy salad with turkey and mushrooms, spinach leaves, etc.
12:30 – 3:00: Typing up of first draft fiction and writing of first-draft book review, other nonfiction material, sometimes career stuff; nutritious snack, like nuts or protein bar
3:00 – 4:00: Nap, watch TV, or follow up on email, PR, etc.
4:00 – 6:00: Weightlifting and some cardio (upper body at home three times a week, lower body two times a week)
6:00 – 7:00: Dinner (chicken or fish with vegetables or protein smoothie with snack)
7:00 – 8:30: Outer limit for continuing work on responding to email, finishing off reviews, etc.
8:30 – 11:00: Time off, movies, TV, etc., and fruit for snack
11:00 – 7:15 – Sleep

And repeat. Weekends are more leisure oriented, in that I don’t push myself to finish fiction. Usually a long walk on Sundays, racquetball on Saturday. I do a lot of my book review reading and prep for Amazon posts on weekends.

Now, that’s best-case. Sometimes it doesn’t happen exactly like that, but that’s the goal. Every weekday. Sometimes we goof off more in the evening or have some wine or a jack-and-coke, or whatever. But I strive to meet that optimum schedule. I’d say I hit it about 75-85% of the time, which is enough to be efficient.

The thing that has really had to change with more fiction deadlines, though, I have to say, is how I access my email and the internet. I no longer turn on my computer until lunchtime and I try to turn it off by around 7 or 8 pm, tops. I find myself allocating more blocks of time to answer email, rather than just answering when I get an email. This has given me much more piece (and peace!) of mind and I find my brain is literally less fractured and fragmented. I think it’s a lot healthier to do it this way.


18 comments on “Surfacing…and work ethic

  1. I’ll tell you man, if I were that organized I might accomplish something too! :D

    Here’s how my workweek goes:

    4:00 – 5:00 am; smoke some cigarettes while the coffee drips, scratch my balls, slop some coffee into the cup, smoke and read email, groklaw, ecstatic days and digg.
    5:00 – 5:20 am; watch the local news for weather info.
    5:20 – 5:45 am; get clean, maybe shave.
    5:45 – 6:00 am; figure out what I need in my car (to read archeology or pay bills, maybe a spare pack of smokes; attitude adjustment if I remember) for the workday.
    6:00 am – 6:00 pm; drive to/from work or work, in between times smoking cigarettes while reading archeology or paying bills in my car.
    6:00 – 8:00 pm; smoke and read email, groklaw, ecstatic days and digg, Maybe a favored beer … or more; attitude adjustment? Remind me.
    8:00 – 9:00 pm; get ready to sleep, read fiction. (Currently the second Linden book of The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever. I hope it picks up soon.)
    9:00 pm – 4:00 am; sleep.

    Friday and Saturday I do whatever housework I’m gonna do this week, in the morning; in the afternoon I fuck off. Sometimes on Friday morning I’ll get some work done on the Spaceport project or grind some steel into potential knives. Often on Saturday night my son Adam will bring my grandson Asher over; we fly the Helicopter and run a movie. Maybe some or a lot of beer. Crash.

    4:00 to 6:00 am; wake up without alarm, then smoke some cigarettes while the coffee drips, scratch my balls, slop some coffee into the cup, smoke and read email, groklaw, ecstatic days and digg.
    6:00 – 10:00 am; do laundry, get clean including shave. (Until it stopped, I used to watch Breakfast with the Arts between 7:00 and 9:00 am. I miss Karina Huber. Check out Hazmat Modine sometime.))
    10:00 – 10:30 am; figure out what, if anything, I need to take to Waffles.
    10:30 am – 12:30 pm; Waffles.
    12:30 – 8:00 pm; smoke and read email, groklaw, ecstatic days and digg, drinking beer and finishing up the laundry.
    8:00 – 9:00 pm; get ready to sleep, read fiction.
    9:00 pm – 4:00 am; sleep.

    I’m not complaining, but your schedule sounds a whole lot more invigorating. ;-)


  2. Sir Tessa says:

    Eight hours of SLEEP? EIGHT hours of sleep? Eight HOURS of sleep?


  3. Gilles says:

    Sleep ? SLEEP ? **SLEEP** ?

    Insane ! ;-)

  4. Jeff VanderMeer says:


    I was hoping someone would do that. I almost started parodying myself as I was doing that entry.


  5. Mike Bishop says:

    Four eggs! FOUR eggs!?
    Repeat exclamation points and questions marks at least four times.
    Nonetheless, parodiable or no, your schedule does offer some helpful advice/suggestions, notably in the case of computer use.
    That said, let me add, Goodbye.

  6. Jeff VanderMeer says:

    Mike: Yep. And I’ve never had any cholesterol problems.

  7. I am truly envious of your schedule. Work keeps interferring with mine.

  8. Kelly Barnhill says:

    The last time I had eight hours of sleep was eight years ago, before kid #1 was born. Eight loooooooong years. I had a dream once that I got seven hours of sleep and was so excited that I called everyone I knew. In my dream, everyone was blissfully excited. I woke up to my dog barfing on my bed. I checked the clock. It was two a.m. All of the children woke up and wanted to see the barf. My son wanted to smell it. Nice.


  9. Jeff VanderMeer says:

    If I don’t get 7 to 8 hours of sleep, and that continues for more than a day, I’m simply unrecognizable as a human being. And then I really have to stay away from the computer because if I post anything, say a comment to someone’s post, it comes out shrill and militant. LOL.


  10. Rob Davies says:

    I am a sloth in comparison. Please tell me the eggs are not raw.

  11. JeffVanderMeer says:

    They’re not raw. I’m not a barbarian. And today, frankly, is an example of a day gone wrong. Never got to the coffeeshop, wound up typing up longhand Predator chapters and then watching a movie.


  12. Gilles says:

    Jeff: “If I don’t get 7 to 8 hours of sleep, and that continues for more than a day, I’m simply unrecognizable as a human being”

    Human being ? HUMAN being ? human BEING ?

    (OK, OK, I stop)

  13. JeffVanderMeer says:

    Okay, squid. In my sleeping tank.

  14. Dave Larsen says:



  15. Andrew Breitenbach says:

    When do you fit in revisions?

  16. protein bars always come in handy whenever you need lots of protein after a heavy exercise”

Comments are closed.