I’m Ann Benjamin and this is How I Work.

Borrowed from a great series on Lifehacker.comI’ve been meaning to do this for ages.

Location: Abu Dhabi, UAE
Current Gig: Daytime in higher education.  Weekends as a writer.  I also run a fairly popular Tumblr account (well, at least for the subject).
One word that best describes how you work: Constantly.
Current mobile device: iPhone 4!  Bought in November 2011 (!), it still works.
Current computer: Dell during the day, and a Macbook at home.

What apps, software, or tools can’t you live without? Why?

I like collecting things in specific places.  Pinterest is a must – I have boards for all of my manuscripts, as well as other topics – travel, my dream home, etc..  I also tag a lot of things to Pocket (formerly Read it Later) – not that I’m all that great about following up and reading later.  For books, it’s Goodreads.  For stuff I want to buy it’s Amazon’s Wish List.  For sleeping, I like Sleep Cycle and Rain, Rain.  Basically, I would have no idea how to function without an internet connection.

What’s your workspace setup like?

Err… I have a desk, I just don’t use it.  At the moment, I have a dining room table and a laptop – which I love for it’s natural light.  I’ve got a few ideas for my dream office (which would DEFINITELY involve two screens, or a big ole Mac), but for now, it gets the job done.  Should I make the decision to quit my job and do the writing thing full time, I would invest in the second screen (which I’ve had since 2013 at work and have never looked back).


What’s your best time-saving shortcut or life hack?

Never put anything off.  Just do it.  Seriously, what are you waiting for?  Why are you waiting?

What’s your favorite to-do list manager?

Old school.  Write it down.  I have a number of notebooks.  For long term, for short term and nearly everything in between.

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without and why?

Kindle (i.e. my iPad mini).  As an expat who hasn’t had access to a library since 2007, I would be absolutely lost without the Kindle app.  As an avid reader, I can’t imagine living without books.

Additionally, given I pretty much hate all sounds, when I work in shared office, I cannot live without my Beats headphones.  They are one of the best investments I’ve ever made.

What tools do you use to write?

Microsoft Word, yo.  I’ve recently adapted a bit to Scrivener, but I have always defaulted to MS Word.  I’m trying to use the Hemingway App and thus far it’s a nice additional check to my writing.  Thus far, I’ve only had Room 702 professionally edited, and will be definitely doing so for Life After Joe.

Do you find yourself always working on something? Or when you finish a project, do you take time to let your mind wander without concern for what’s next?

Always working.  In fact, I know what will immediately follow the current project I’m working on.  At the moment, I’ve mentally booked the writing and editing of my next 3 manuscripts (which should take me through 2016 at least).  Throw in a monthly short story or work of fanfiction and that’s a usual commitment to around 100K per year.  Additionally, given how much I’ve been ‘away’ from my current projects this semester, I’ve felt inherently guilty for not working on things at the levels I have previously.

What everyday thing are you better at than everyone else? What’s your secret?

I am literally the most organized person I know.  It blows my mind how others can’t seem to get their shit together.  Provided there are no small children involved, it’s just not difficult to get yourself ready  and to work on time.  Keep your stuff in the same place.  Add a few extra minutes into your routine if you know it takes you longer or you want to buy a coffee.  While at work, I am also thrown by those who don’t understand or refuse to put energy into prioritizing and being prepared.

The same attitude can be applied to writing.  If it’s important for you to write a book, you will make sacrifices.  I can’t remember the last Friday morning where I just woke up and did nothing.  It is a sacred time for writing.

Of course, with unlimited preparation and proactivity comes the lack of being spontaneous in my free time (especially on vacation, which is something I can definitely work on).

What do you listen to while you work?

Can’t and won’t work in silence.  I go between Grooveshark (random playlists, mostly because Spotify is blocked in the UAE) and TuneIn Radio (which allows me to dial up any radio station in the world).  Given my relatively horrible misophonia (which is currently acting up), I literally have to have some other sound.

What are you currently reading?

The first draft of my nephew’s Faustian manuscript.  Some regency romances.  With Hubs traveling the next two weeks, I’m looking at a few books to purchase (some for research, others for fun).

Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?

A bit of both, actually.  A perfect day might be a morning to myself to write and recharge, while I’d love to be out with friends in the evening.  Honestly, I could go for a whole work day (9-5) and be content to not speak or interact with another person.

How do you recharge?

Does alcohol count?

Honestly, I’m still working on the answer to that question.  My weekends are vital to my well being – to the point that I really enjoy having no commitments on Fridays (i.e. avoiding the car altogether).  Give me some good television and a chance to zone out and I’ll feel better.  A long walk and an interesting podcast can sometimes help.

What’s your sleep routine like?

Straight up terrible.  I’ve suffered from insomnia for at least 10 years.  It takes me usually over an hour to fall asleep.

Fill in the blank: I’d love to see _________ answer these same questions.

Gail Carriger.  Elena Sandovici.  My friend James.  🙂

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

I don’t think I’ve received anything particularly life changing at this point.  However, I think the best thing I ever did was move abroad.  I honestly can’t imagine what my life would’ve been like if I stayed stateside.

Is there anything else you’d like to add that might be interesting to readers and fans?

Er, creativity and inspiration come from the most random sources – just be on the lookout!  Don’t close yourself off to anything.

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