A Day in the Writing Life of Lee Martin

November 26, 2018
Lee Martin

To celebrate the end of National Novel Writing Month, we asked Professor Lee Martin to share his morning routine on days he sets aside for writing. 

7:30 am

Up and at’em. Dressed in running pants from Kohls ($10 off the sale rack), tee-shirt (free from a book festival or a literary journal), and the Eastern Illinois University hoodie (cost not even worth mentioning since it got splattered when I painted the mailbox in a windstorm). Ready for a five-mile run or a weight workout, but first: hydration. Over the morning newspaper (The Columbus Dispatch) I enjoy (Giant Eagle Honey Crisp Apple Juice, $1.49 for a 64-oz. bottle) and a glass of Gatorade (88 cents for a 32-oz. bottle on a good sale day), while I annoy my wife, Cathy, by reading news items to her.

8:30 am

Run or workout at the Grove City YMCA (monthly membership: $76.95. But there’s free coffee!)

9:30 am

Shower and. . .well, let’s not get too personal!

10:00 am

Breakfast with Cathy, who, depending on my whims, chooses from the following: egg whites and hash browns, Light Life Smart Bacon—veggie bacon strips, Silk dairy-free yogurt, fresh fruit, oatmeal, whole wheat toast (all available at—yep, you guessed it—the local Giant Eagle).

11:00 am-?

My writing room. I’m in my chair and using a desktop PC, or, when I’m in my home area of southeastern Illinois, I’m at a library table in the genealogy room of the public library I used when I was in high school, and I’m picking up where I left off the day before. I try to end each writing session in the middle of a scene, so when I start a new writing session, I don’t have to waste time figuring out what I want to do. One of my characters has said something or done something that requires a response, either in word or deed, and the narrative goes on. On a good day, I can keep moving ahead for three or four hours before I start to get sloppy. On a really good day, the time seems to fly by because I’m so immersed in the world I’m creating on the page. On less good days, I spend a lot of time staring out windows and daydreaming, or checking email or Facebook. I know this is a bad habit, but in my defense, I find that the momentary respite actually gives my subconscious time to work on a particular writing problem. I often return to my writing knowing what a character is going to say or do, and the work goes on.