Dani Shapiro
February 19, 2009

On Making the Donuts

Remember that old Dunkin’Donuts commercial where the exhausted middle-aged guy wakes up while it’s still dark out, sits on the side of his bed, rubs his eyes and says “Time to make the donuts…time to make the donuts”? Lately I’ve been thinking about that commercial. I think about it when I just don’t feel like sitting down to work. I often don’t feel like sitting down to work. Conditions must be perfect. The house silent. The dogs sleeping. The kid happily at school. The husband happily at work. The cappuccino hot and steaming. And–most of all–the inside of my head calm and quiet, as smooth as a lake at dawn. Hmmm. How many days of the week does that happen? If I only wrote in those optimal conditions, I would have published perhaps one volume of haiku by now.

There is much to be said for daily routine. For creating habits of the mind, physical habits, work habits. I remember, years ago, non-writer friends (or procrastinating writer-friends) liked to go out for breakfast. Or even lunch. If I go out to breakfast, that’s it. That’s my day. It’s completely hopeless to sit down to work after the clatter, the waiter, the conversation, the plate of croissants. Pretty much the same goes for lunch. If I go out to lunch, it means I’m done with my work. Which is fine–so long as I know that’s what I’m doing.

Since we’re getting ready to leave for Italy in just a few weeks, I am even more protective of my work time. I have a pretty big pile of pages next to this computer as I write–pages that represent a manuscript, the better part of a book. I can see the end in sight. But I remember, when I started, the flimsy few pages. The beginning. I didn’t trust it, of course. (I still don’t.) But I tried not to think about it. I tried just to get up in the morning and make the donuts.