A Day in the Life of Erik Vance

Erik Vance is a science writer whose work focuses on the human element of science—the people who do it, those who benefit from it, and those who do not. He’s written for Nature, Scientific American, Harper’s, and lately National Geographic. He is currently working on a book about the science of expectation and healing. His Twitter handle is @erikvance.


Erik VanceCourtesy of Erik Vance

Erik Vance

What I’m working on:

Two ocean-related features for National Geographic, my first book (due out in late 2016), and my first child (due out in late 2015). My book deals with the power of the mind to change the body and I have become totally obsessed with hypnosis and curses. I have learned that I am not a good hypnotist, nor am I a good hypnosis subject. But I have enormous respect for those who are.

Where I work:

I have a home office in my apartment in Mexico City. I live in the historic Roma neighborhood, surrounded by gorgeous old buildings, cafes, and plazas full of dogs and playgrounds. And the street food is to die for.

Maya cellErik Vance

Trying to get cell service atop a Maya pyramid.

Daily routine:

I am up around 7:00 and take a nice long breakfast, where I drink tea and catch up on the news. I am working by 9:00 a.m. sharp and work until 7:00 if I can. My writing happens in spurts and so I break up the day a lot with distractions. Thankfully, Mexicans tend to take a siesta and work late, so my day matches my wife’s and friends’ days. Minus the siesta.

Most productive part of my day:

After 4:00 p.m., when the realization that I haven’t gotten enough done finally sinks in. I have come to terms with the fact that my mornings are not productive and use that time to do research.

Most essential ritual or habit:

Tea in the morning. And usually another in the afternoon. I have an array of prized black and green teas as well as teapots. A minor thrill during my day is selecting the right tea for the right teapot. Today I went for Far Leaves Earl Grey in the plastic Teavana pot that pours from the bottom. Sweetened with honey from Chiapas.

Livescribe penErik Vance

In China, using my Livescribe pen.

Mobile device:

I hate all mobile devices, especially my iPhone 4s.


I am in between laptops right now after a terrible spilled-tea incident. Casualties were high. But I use Mac products.

Essential software/apps/productivity tools:

My Livescribe pen and I have a love/hate relationship. Most days I love it and it’s a critical tool for reporting. I can record and take notes, entertain local village kids with the piano function, even translate Spanish words. But it uses the worst software known to man.

kitty attackErik Vance

Unprovoked, unexpected kitty attack.

Favorite time waster/procrastination habit:

Oh man, I should say something like “wildlife documentaries” so I look like I am productive even when wasting time. Nah, it’s Key & Peele videos. Also, spontaneous wrestling sessions with my cat, Nougat.

My reading habits:

Toilet time and plane flights are my favorite reading times. But most of my reading is done in the mornings, when I clearly can’t write.

Sleep schedule:

I sleep a full night from midnight until sevenish. I imagine that will change very soon.

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