A Day in the Life of Emily Anthes

Emily Anthes is a science journalist and author. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Wired, Scientific AmericanBBC Future, SEED, Discover, Popular Science, Slate, The Boston Globe, and elsewhere. Her new book, Frankenstein’s Cat: Cuddling Up to Biotech’s Brave New Beasts, was published in March 2013. Emily lives in Brooklyn, New York with her dog, Milo. Follow Emily on Twitter @EmilyAnthes.

 

Emily Anthes

What I’m working on:

I’m in a period of transition right now. I spent the last three years writing a book, and I’m just coming off my book tour. So right now I’m trying to figure out what I want to do next. I’d like to write another book before too long, but I’m itching to get back to freelancing for a while. I have a long list of story ideas that I haven’t had time to pursue, so now I’m starting to comb through them—figuring out which ideas still get me excited and which ones might actually have legs. I’ve got a few pitches in the works, which I hope will become actual assignments soon.

Where I work:

In the living room of my Brooklyn apartment. I usually work just sitting on the couch, with my notes and papers spread out all over the coffee table. I have to be careful if I get up to do something though, because when I return, I may discover that my dog, Milo, has stolen my spot. (See photo.) In any case, the arrangement’s not ideal, but I’m about to move to a new apartment, where I’ll have my own dedicated home office space. I’m looking forward to that.

Daily routine:

Get up, walk the dog, make coffee. Then I sit down and read my e-mails and do a quick read of the news. I scan some stories and headlines, but then I also open dozens upon dozens of stories in new tabs and set them aside to read later. (Often while I’m eating lunch.) I usually work for a few hours and then break to go to the gym (when I’m feeling motivated) and eat lunch. Then back to work for the rest of the day. I cook a lot—one of the great perks of working at home is that I can start something cooking for dinner and then go back to work for a while.

Most productive part of my day:

For actual work work, it’s probably those first few hours in the morning. But then I also have a second burst of productivity after dinner. That tends to be when I sit down to catch up on all my e-mails.

Most essential ritual or habit:

I’m a list-maker. And though almost everything else in my life is digital, I still really like making to do lists by hand. The very last thing I do at the end of each work day is look at my hand-written to do list. I cross off what I accomplished that day, add new items if necessary, and figure out what I need to get done the next day. I find that this really helps me “turn off” at night—I feel a lot less stressed out when I go to bed knowing what my priorities are for the following day.

Mobile device:

iPhone

Computer:

MacBook

Essential software/apps/productivity tools:

Someone at an NASW conference introduced me to Scrivener a few years ago, and I became an immediate convert. I love it—it was hugely helpful when writing my book. I’ve also just started using DEVONthink, which I continue to hear great things about, but there’s definitely a learning curve. I’m still figuring out how to use it. Feedly’s my new RSS reader (RIP Google Reader), and I use Pinboard to bookmark links.

Favorite time waster/procrastination habit:

Right now, since it’s so nice out, it’s probably walking the dog. The good news for Milo is that he’s getting far more walks than he needs every day.

My reading habits:

I read every night before bed—for at least an hour and sometimes longer. I subscribe to two weekly magazines (The New Yorker and New York), and I have huge anxiety about getting behind on them. So I read those right away—the first few nights of the week tend to be my magazine reading nights. I’m also an Instapaper addict, so I usually spend a few nights just catching up on longform stories I’ve saved on Instapaper. Then, with whatever nights I have left in the week (and before the next week’s magazines begin to arrive!), I try to read books. I just finished I just finished The Good Nurse (by Charles Graeber) and read Tom’s River (by Dan Fagin) before that. Both great reads. But I like fiction, too. The last great novel I read was The Age of Miracles (by Karen Thompson Walker). I’ve always been an enthusiastic reader (I was the kid who’d bring a book to a sleepover), and it both thrills and saddens me that there are more great books in the world than I will ever have the chance to read. The one downside of not having to commute to work is that I don’t get as much reading done as I once did.

Sleep schedule:

Some people seem to function fine on six or seven hours of sleep a night. I am not one of them. I really need a good eight in order to be a real person the next day. I try to get to bed by 1:00 and then get up by 9:00. I know—it’s a late start to the day, but, left to my own devices, I gravitate toward this later schedule. I usually work for a bit in the evenings, after dinner, to make up for time lost in the morning.

One Comment

  1. Just a quick question, if you don’t mind. The interview starts off with “I spent the last three years writing a book.” How did you pay the bills in those three years? Did you have a book advance or were you also doing other work?

    The reason I ask is that I spent about four years working on a book (My first one. Hitting book stores next Spring. Yay!) but I had a full time job to go to every day. The book was just a non-paying-second-job during that time. So, your situation makes me wonder if there is a way to be a full time book author and still pay the bills, especially when it takes a few years to write one.

    Thanks!
    Brandon

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