O Me of Little Faith

One question I always want to ask professional writers is about the process of writing for them — when do you write, where do you write, what’s your deskspace like, etc? Since this blog is partially supposed to be about the business and career and culture of writing, I’m thinking that might make a good ongoing series. So here’s the first entry.

The first question: When do you write?

Short Answer: When I can.

Long Answer: It depends on what I’m writing. When I’m working under contract on a book (which is now), I write every day. Ever since I’ve been pursuing this side gig as a writer of books, it’s been my goal not to let this hobby — and that’s unofficially what it is, since I have a real job — get in the way of my other real job of being a dad and husband. So I made a commitment early on to write the bulk of my books on my time, not my family’s. It’s been a challenge, but so far it’s worked. I get up at 6 every morning (except for Sundays) and try to get in at least 45 minutes to an hour of work before the kids get up for school. Then, at night, I’ll put in another hour or two after the kids go to bed. I almost always stop working at midnight. At this point in my life, I can get by with six hours of sleep, but not much less than that.

This year, I’m taking Fridays off from work in order to complete the books — so I spend all day every Friday writing. Those are nice days. I get a lot done.

When I’m writing magazine articles and freelance stuff, I’ll tackle those whenever I have time. Usually they can be finished fairly quickly, so I’ll sometimes work on them in small chunks during the day between projects at work, or over the course of a couple of nights at home.

To be perfectly honest, my late-night/early-morning writing schedule is sustainable, but only on a limited basis. Writing books is fun and fulfilling and if you’re lucky you might reach a small level of notoriety — currently my “fame” is of the hey, did I see you on the History Channel last night? kind — but most writers agree that it can be a grind. (I’ve often heard authors say that it’s much better to have written a book than it is to be writing a book.)

It’s work. It doesn’t take long before I get tired of the daily 6-to-7, 10-to-midnight daily routine, especially toward the end of the 3-4 months it takes me to complete a book. On school nights, our kids go to bed by 8:15, at which time I usually go to the gym and work out or swim. Then I come home and watch a recorded tv show with my wife, just to relax and hang out a bit before peeling myself off the couch and heading to the computer. But the downtime is a necessary part of the schedule. Sometimes you just have to get away from those crazy saints, if only for a little bit.

But I dare not complain too much about it. Writing can be hard but it’s worth it, and I’m lucky (or blessed, or privileged) to have the opportunity to write stuff that someone actually wants to publish. Lots of people are capable of writing books, but not everyone gets the opportunity. I try not to ever forget that.

If you have a question about writing — the process, as a career, whatever — please let me know. Ask a question in the comments and I’ll answer it.

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