Guest Blog: A Day in the Writing Life of Rachel Cohn

Boy, have I got a treat for you all! Rachel Cohn, author of “Kill All Happies,” has written a guest blog post for this humble book review blog. I first stumbled upon Rachel Cohn when I read “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist,” which she co-wrote with David Levithan, and it quickly became one of my favorite novels as a teenager.

From there she’s gone on to write such marvels as “Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List,” “You Know Where to Find Me,” “Beta,” and “Emergent.” All together she has written over 14 books. “Kill All Happies,” of which you can read my review of here, is her latest novel.

But let’s ask the question of how does one write so much?

Rachel Cohn tells us about it below:

My writing days are powered by one primary force:  procrastination.  I will do anything not to write.  I will clean my house top to bottom.  I will go through every drawer and cabinet in my house to find items to donate to Goodwill.  I will go across town to get that one small container of vegan cheese that I love.  I will pick you up at the airport and beg to take you to lunch.

But deadlines are deadlines and eventually, I have to strong-arm the procrastination devil into submission and get on with writing already.

Writing is like a muscle that gets stronger the more you use it.  And finishing a book is like pushing a boulder up a hill — tough work, but then there’s that sweet coast downhill at the end.  When I’m in writing mode, the more consistent my schedule, the more I write every day, and the stronger I get pushing that boulder up up up.  I’m an early riser, so I try to leave my house by 7AM and immediately go to my office.  I share a writing office space with five other writers, including YA author Morgan Matson and MG author Leslie Margolis, as well as two screenwriters and one style writer.  I’m usually the first person there, and I try to use that quiet time to really power through.  I leave my phone in my car to avoid distractions, and I use a laptop I bought off eBay that has no Internet — it’s basically a glorified typewriter that plugs in.  I try to hit 1000 words, and use hitting that target as the reward for the most important part of the writing day: lunch.  Our office is (not coincidentally) located near several great lunch places in easy walking distance, so I wander off for a salad, veggie burger, or burrito.  Then I come back and try to get in more words.  If I’m lucky, one or two of my officemates have arrived, and I love to catch up with them, and bounce around ideas.  It’s great to have a dedicated writing space — but even greater to share the space with other writers who understand the process, and who are invaluable for talking through ideas when you’re stuck.  (And who appreciate a good procrastination conversation.)

After I hit my word count I try to hit the gym for yoga or a swim.

Then it’s home, and trying to write more words and more revising in the evening.

Some authors say they have a hard time reading within their genre while they’re writing.  Sometimes that’s true for me, sometimes it’s not.  In any case, I try to get some quality reading time in before my early bedtime (I aim for 9PM — no shame!).  Reading is as important a part of my job as writing — so I don’t count it as procrastination!

Keep reading!

A. & Rachel Cohn

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