Jack Cheng

Who are you? What do you do for a living?

I am Jack Cheng, former advertising creative, former designer and startup co-founder. Present-day writer and author of These Days, which I funded via Kickstarter and published independently this April.

Immediately push-ups

I wake up at 8am and immediately do push-ups. I do push-ups until fail and then brush my teeth. I go to the kitchen and make a protein shake and boil some water with the electric kettle. While the water's boiling I wash the dishes in the sink, and I grab an empty mug and put a strainer basket in the mug and tea leaves in the strainer basket. I drink strong, malty black teas in the mornings, a holdover from when I used to drink coffee, and while the tea is steeping I go back to my bedroom and make my bed. When the tea's done, I retrieve it from the kitchen and sit down at the desk in my bedroom and wake my laptop.


By now it's around 8:30, and I start journaling, which usually means writing about what I was thinking about when I woke up, or what happened the day before, or my plans for the day to come. It's a warm-up, and sometimes I imagine my body as hollow metal and the words falling from my brain and clunking down the funnel of my neck, and clunking down these pipes for arms, and landing on the keyboard and appearing on the screen. The word/light particles jump the gap into my eyes and brain, which releases more words down the funnel. It's circular, liquid, and during journaling my goal is to keep the system flowing.

It Gets So Quiet

I have two roommates: a teacher who's out the door before I wake and an advertising strategist who leaves shortly after I'm up, usually while I'm journaling. My Brooklyn apartment gets quiet in the mornings. I've written many a journal entry about birds chirping or the morning light. I journal until I finish my tea and then go to the kitchen for another cup. While the tea's steeping I'll read something light, like poetry or a page or two in a book about Eastern philosophy, and then I'll carry the tea back to my desk and start working.

Protect It At All Costs

I'm on my second novel right now. In the mornings I work on it until around 10:30 and stop for breakfast and internet, then work again until lunch, usually around 1:30 or 2. This morning writing time is sacred and must be protected at all costs, at least that's what flows through my mind when I'm scheduling meetings or considering taking paid work or when I'm out at night with friends and thinking about having an extra drink.

Because they know me there

I eat the same thing for breakfast. A bacon egg and avocado sandwich. I'll make it at home or get it from this deli a few blocks from my apartment. I go to this deli for no other reason than it was the first place I went when I started the routine and I kept going and have gotten to know the guys there. There's a clerk, Bashir, from Yemen, who has two kids and likes soccer and action movies and sometimes reads Arabic news on his Android phone. This is all I've managed to garner about his personal life as his English isn't great. I've tried other conversation threads but we inevitably end up talking about what's new ("Same. Work work work.") or the weather ("Beautiful day, huh?" spoken sincerely on pleasant days and ironically on stormy ones). In recent months he's taken to calling me, in his thick sing-songy accent, "Mister Jack from Iraq."

During the week

I usually watch a half hour to an hour of documentaries or movies or shows on my laptop while I have lunch at home, which means it'll often take multiple sittings to get through a longer film. It took me, for instance, a week to finish the recent movie adaptation of On the Road, which turned out to be an ideal movie to watch in chunks. A few recents include Explorers (an Eighties kids' adventure movie starring a young Ethan Hawke and a young River Phoenix) and Detropia (a moody documentary recommended to me by this cool person who runs a Sunday Routines blog).

I Prefer Silence

I don't listen to music as much anymore, especially since I've been working from home for almost a year and no longer have a half-hour commute. I prefer silence, or rather, ambient room noise. Anything with lyrics interferes with my ability to process and formulate language, and even in the case of things instrumental, I find that my writing reads awkwardly if I've been writing to music and I re-read it without the music. It's like hearing yourself sing outside the shower.

Sundays Are No Different

My weekends are the same as my weekdays, with the exception that I might finish writing a little earlier in the day and go to brunch with friends. I might go out to a movie, but otherwise, same as weekdays. I like my routine.

Less Guilty Napping

Since I spend so much time cooped up in my apartment during the week, I tend to do more things with friends on evenings and weekends. Museums, maybe. More walking around, usually. I feel less guilty about taking a nap in the afternoon.

Sunday Dispatch

After dinner I meditate for a half hour, then write and send my Sunday Dispatch, which is a newsletter that evolved out of the weekly Kickstarter progress updates I was sending the backers of my first book. The newsletters are usually about things that have happened to me during the week, or things I've been thinking about, and how they may be related to writing. I fill in the day's entry in a notebook I use to keep track of how consistent I am with my routine, like whether or not I meditated or missed a writing session or woke up later than 8am, along with any anomalies in my schedule (friends in town, stayed out late, had x drinks, etc.) The entries are in a tabular format so I can see with one glance how well I've stuck to my daily routine over the course of weeks. I find that this helps me identify when I've been slipping and might need to refocus on some aspect of my routine.

Day Ender

I get into bed somewhere between 10 to 11pm. I write in my 5-year diary. I do the Times crossword. Read. Go to sleep.

Follow Jack on Twitter @jackcheng