Ear­li­er this week, Jes­si­ca Sof­fer wrote about learn­ing to breathe and a pre­cious treat from the Passover seder plate. She has been blog­ging here all week for Jew­ish Book Coun­cil and MyJew­ish­Learn­ing.

Quite recent­ly, some­one asked me about my process.” This some­one wasn’t ask­ing about the cre­ative parts — the mean­der­ing through the dark, schlep­ping a bag full of puz­zle pieces and seek­ing out the elu­sive slots where they might fit — but quite lit­er­al­ly about what I do dur­ing my wak­ing hours, which hours those might be, and when and if I stop for snacks. She was ask­ing about the nuts and bolts. 

What I want­ed to say is that I know noth­ing (and that of course I stop for snacks). I’m just wing­ing it. I’m still wait­ing to be found out. Still, I wrote 336 pages that will be print­ed and bound and on (some) shelves in just a few weeks, which is some­thing one teen­sy bit bet­ter than nothing. 

1. Get dressed every day (except when you feel like the very heart of what you’re writ­ing is del­i­cate­ly wound into the fiber of your socks and robe) 

2. Stop and move for food (except when you must, just must, have your fin­gers cen­time­ters from your com­put­er at all times)

3. Exer­cise in any form: stand up, walk, run, go to a yoga class (except when all the jostling around risks dis­pers­ing your very pre­cious thoughts, and then stay put, very very put) 

4. Get by with a lit­tle help from your friends (except when talk­ing to any­one at all about any­thing at all will sul­ly every­thing, make you for­get or derailed or soft or sleepy)

5. Find inspi­ra­tion in art, music, lit­er­a­ture (except when they might be tox­ic to your work and undo all your efforts to find voice) 

There you have it. Fool’s gold. 

In the end, I think, any­thing you can do is my actu­al answer. 

Also: do the best you can, how­ev­er you can, every day that you can. Take care of your body, your wrists, knees and eyes. Take care of your com­put­er, and back up what mat­ters. Take care of your bills because Ver­i­zon doesn’t care that you’re writ­ing the Next Great Amer­i­can Nov­el. Take care of the peo­ple that love you. They will be there when you pick your head up, but only if you play your cards right. 

The process is long, there is no end to it — at least, not real­ly — so don’t be dra­mat­ic and pull eight all-nighters just to show us that you can. Or do, if you can. Do. 

Win a signed copy of Jes­si­ca Sof­fer­’s debut nov­el, Tomor­row There Will Be Apri­cots, here.

Relat­ed: Iraqi Jews Read­ing List

Jes­si­ca Sof­fer earned her MFA at Hunter Col­lege. A Her­tog Fel­low and recip­i­ent of the Bernard Cohen Prize, she teach­es fic­tion at Con­necti­cut Col­lege. She grew up in New York City, the daugh­ter of an Iraqi-Jew­ish painter and sculp­tor who immi­grat­ed to the U.S. in 1948. This is her first book.