I am currently reading Jennifer Egan’s book Look at Me. I was fascinated and filled with laughter as I read the following passage about a homeless man living in New York, NY:
Pluto was a dark-skinned black man in his forties, I guessed, whose taut, striving physique seemed the very personification of human effort. I had never known a homeless person–the notion would have seemed ludicrous before the accident–yet I was impressed by Pluto’s resourcefulness. Each morning at dawn, he used a handmade rope harness to lower himself from the rail of the concrete embankment into the East River, where he bathed vigorously in its icy waters and shaved before a mirror shard he’d epoxied to the embankment wall. He dressed impeccably, pressing his clothes with bricks heated over fire; read several newspapers each day, rented computer time at Kinko’s when he could afford it, and on garbage days combed the Upper East Side wearing yellow gloves and a face mask, searching out products by Kiehls and Polo (his favorites), along with vitamins and antibiotics whose “best used by” dates had passed. He begged outside certain buildings, Citicorp being his favorite, and carried handmade business cards–rectangles of white paper with his E-mail address printed on them–should anyone wish to expand the relationship of donor to beggar into that of employer to employee. Yet such mammoth effort did it require for Pluto to maintain his clean, sweet-smelling, healthy and well-informed demeanor that no time remained in the day for him to put it to any real use; he longed to improve his life, but could only remain in a perpetual state of readiness. The beers, which he drank at night, ate up most of his cash.
When I’m in writing mode for a novel, I get up at 4:00 am and work for five to six hours. In the afternoon, I run for 10km or swim for 1500m (or do both), then I read a bit and listen to some music. I go to bed at 9:00 pm. I keep to this routine every day without variation. The repetition itself becomes the important thing; it’s a form of mesmerism. I mesmerize myself to reach a deeper state of mind. But to hold to such repetition for so long — six months to a year — requires a good amount of mental and physical strength. In that sense, writing a long novel is like survival training. Physical strength is as necessary as artistic sensitivity. – The Paris Review, Summer 2004