Writing Habits

When churning out a first draft, I write a thousand words a day, every day. Sometimes it takes three hours, sometimes ten. But even on the days I'm doing little more than shoveling shit from the sitting position, I don't quit until I've hit my quota.

I work on Apple computers. I recently upgraded to a 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display, but prior to that I owned a four-year-old 13-inch MacBook Pro, on which I probably wrote over 350,000 words. It served me well. I was sad when I gave it away.

I wear earplugs when I work. Even when writing in a silent room, which is typical of my current apartment (the place is completely soundproof), I can't work without them. I'm not entirely sure why, but I guess you can say I'm a creature of habit, for I must also wear the exact same type of clothing -- house slippers over ankle socks, threadbare cargo shorts, and dingy, tattered tees, the sleeves of which I cut off myself, usually unevenly. I'm just not comfortable in anything else, regardless of the season or room temperature.

I used to drink a lot of coffee when I worked (upwards of an entire pot), but these days I go weeks without having any. On the rare occasions I do drink coffee, I brew a single cup that I continually reheat throughout the day and when I finally finish work the cup is always half full. Regardless of the number of hours spent writing, I'm still left with a half a cup of coffee, no more, no less.

Though all of my first drafts are written on a computer, all of my editing is done by hand, painstakingly moving across each printed page with a thick, red pen. It's only after I've read and marked up the entire manuscript that I'll then incorporate all the changes back into the Word document.

I rarely allow others to see what I'm writing until I've at least finished the second draft, and usually not until I'm done with the third. I'm a far better re-writer than I am a writer, and it takes me several attempts to get it right. Or, as I've always said, true art shows up in the rewrites. For the sake of perspective, I went through twelve drafts of At Dawn before it found a publisher. By the time it was sent to the printers, I had gone through four more drafts with my editor, and after that I went through two more with a copywriter, which is to say, it took eighteen total drafts until I thought the book was ready.  And even though it's done and currently on shelves, I'd still like the opportunity to go through it again. It was da Vinci who said, "Art is never finished, only abandoned." He was right.

“At Dawn is the brave, rare sort of novel that finds extraordinary meaning in ordinary lives. The characters are beautifully complex, honorable and compassionate, and yet, like so many of us, deeply flawed and emotionally scarred. The writing is clean and sharp and vivid, and in reading Jobie Hughes I’m reminded of the tremendous power of simple honesty in storytelling. This is a fine book by a fine writer.”

James Brown
Author of The Los Angeles Diaries and This River

“Hughes' debut novel, At Dawn, follows a former All-American wrestler, and is there any better metaphor for contemporary American life? We're all wrestling, tussling with the economy, no jobs, doing the best we can. Hughes doesn't flinch from the tough existential questions. He embraces them.”

Joshua Mohr
Author of Damascus

“Hughes combines coming-of-age tale, portrait of the artist as a young man, and father-son saga in a well-crafted novel...[with] pathos, wit, and insight into the relationships that define our lives.”

Publishers Weekly