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I don’t have much that you’d recognise as a daily routine. Aside from one thing. The pub.

Within an hour or so of rolling out of bed, I stagger to the pub round the corner, buy three cans of Red Bull, and sit outside in the pub’s smoking compound to drink them and have six or seven cigarettes. I have a terminal allergy to common housedust, and need to get out in the air for a good ninety minutes every day. So I sit there, caffeinate, push some smoke around my system, and read and communicate.

I’ve been doing this for years: with a Handspring Visor, with a Treo, with a Nokia N95 8GB, and now with an iPhone 3GS. Time was that I’d write to my email list from the pub. I shut that list down a while ago. What I tend to do these days is wrangle information, sitting outside in a nice pool of 3G (no wifi around).

The iPhone is an annoying device in many ways. But with the right arrangement of apps and web services, I find I can get a bunch of things done very easily. This is very probably the best mobile comms device I’ve had yet.

There’s an app called Reeder that links to my Google Reader RSS aggregator. Reeder connects to my account, which lets me save links, and my account dumps to every 12 hours or so. So I can start the day by digesting a chunk of news and leaving a permanent record of the interesting stuff. I’ve got something like 130 sites in my reader — some of those are music sharity sites that I’ll only look at when I’m at a proper keyboard and a decent connection — but, even so, that’s usually a lot of new stuff. (I also read the BBC News, The Guardian and Variety on dedicated apps.)

I actually get much less email than you’d think. Much less than, say, Amanda Palmer — just reading her inbox rundown makes me want to curl up in a corner and mewl for a while. I took my mail email off the web a year or two back, which means I’m not actually spending a shitload of my pub time replying to email. So I can usually just focus on the RSS capture. I still don’t feel like I’m getting enough stuff or processing enough stuff, which is a catch-22 I’ll probably just have to live with.

Think of it as watering the plants, or priming the engine. I have an agreement with myself – I don’t have to write while at the pub. I very often do, but I don’t have to. Only when I feel it coming on, and have to get stuff down. When it’s warm enough to type, I carry a netbook to the pub, otherwise I always have a couple of notebooks and pencils in my coat. But the rule’s there so that the day’s production isn’t contingent on my first having it together enough to write the moment I sit down at the pub. If I need the recharge time more, then I get it. Forced writing is very rarely good writing.

And then I go home, eat lunch and begin the horrible slog through the day that ends around 4am.

Published in paper and process


  1. Gordon S. Gordon S.

    Does music listening figure into the pub-going experience, or do you use headphones to absorb the podcasts you recently referenced? Both?

  2. FrF FrF

    I immediately want to rush to Warren’s pub and serve him three cups of green tea instead. Red Bull is murder!

  3. Thom Thom

    “And then I go home, eat lunch and begin the horrible slog through the day that ends around 4am.”

    That explains why even though I live 9hrs ahead of you I still get to enjoy your posts and Twitter well into my evening. God bless Red Bull.

  4. hfeenstra hfeenstra

    For some reason I love these insights into your daily routine.

  5. C C

    i envy your tolerance for the red bull. I thought I could handle it, but then one day I had a accident. Good thing I had my pocket knife to remove my undies. I’ll have red bull in smaller doses from now on k thx

  6. >>>This is very probably the best mobile comms device I’ve had yet.

    You probably have an iPad to buy, if only to see what comics are like on it. It’ll be interesting to see how you compare it to the iPhone and a netbook.

    It must be bloody murder for you, being outside when it’s cold.

  7. Warren Ellis Warren Ellis

    I have no user case for an iPad. I’m not taking a six-hundred-quid piece of kit to a pub — more, when you count the external keyboard I’d need to produce work on it. If a sub-200-quid netbook gets dropped or drenched, I won’t cry too much. Same with the 3G stick. If something disastrous happened to a set of gear that cost me the thick end of a grand? I wouldn’t be quite so blase.

  8. magetoo magetoo

    Forced writing is very rarely good writing.

    I can’t help but compare with something that Charlie Stross posted the other day:

    Some writers claim that their muse is a delicate thing that whispers softly in their ear and requires careful nurture. Mine — when he’s not AWOL, getting drunk and starting bar fights — trained as a US Marine Corps drill instructor. He sits on my shoulder, screaming abuse through a megaphone — “double down and gimme five thousand words, worm!” — and if I don’t deliver, he hits me.

    Which is then followed by a comment thread where people compare the “easy” novels to the “forced” ones. (No obvious pattern.)

  9. CTW CTW

    I have an ancient Nokia Whatsit that handles phone call and texts and nothing else, and it’s about time that I bought something that can surf the web, hold my music collection and make me even lovelier. Any suggestions for someone on a tighter budget than the one George Osbourne is cooking up?

  10. Sean Sean

    “But with the right arrangement of apps and web services, I find I can get a bunch of things done very easily.”

    Love to know what apps are on your phone without it sounding like you are shilling them.

  11. Warren’s Red-Bull-drinking is not murder; it’s suicide. Big difference.

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