O Me of Little Faith

Other people are into NASCAR, or “American Idol,” or improving their golf game. But me? I’m fascinated with something that makes me a really big nerd: writers’ schedules. For years and years I’ve read interviews with various writers and paid particular attention to when (and how) they actually sit down and write. J.K. Rowling came up with the Harry Potter story on a train, then wrote the first book in a café while her infant daughter slept beside her. John Grisham got up at 5 am every day for three years to write A Time to Kill. There are tons of stories like this about people finding the time — making the time — to get words on paper. It’s always inspiring.

So I get asked by a lot of people where I find the time to write. After all, I have a full-time job and a young family and do some freelance writing on the side. When do I write the books? Am I magic? Am I somehow privy to time-shifting technology?

Untrue answer: Yes. I have invented time travel. It involves an old telephone booth and the unaccountable presence of George Carlin.

Short true answer: I write at pretty much the same time every morning and every night. This involves being disciplined. I plod through it. I give up stuff like watching TV when I get home from work. It’s a trade-off. But it’s worth it.

Detailed true answer: Here’s my weekday schedule…

6:00 am — Get up, pour coffee, and start writing

6:45 — Shower, get dressed (I only shave on Saturdays. Yes, I am a lush.)

7:00 — Breakfast and hang out with Ellie and Owen

7:45 — Take Ellie to school

8:00 to noonish — Work

Lunch — with Owen (Monday), Aimee (Tuesday to Thursday), Ellie (Friday)

1 to 5:00 — Work

5 to 8:00 — Dinner and play with the kids (until they go to bed at 8 on school nights)

8 to 9:00 — Exercise (usually weights on M/W, swimming on T/Th)

9 to midnight — Write write write write write write

On Thursday nights I take a little time off to watch a few of our Thursday evening shows (“Lost,” “The Office,” “30 Rock”) on the DVR with Aimee after the kids are asleep. Fridays, I work at home and devote most of the day to my current book manuscript. I don’t write on Friday evenings. On Saturdays, I get up at 6 am and write until the kids wake up around 7:45 or so. No writing at all on Saturday night or Sunday morning. That’s my day to sleep in.

I probably carve out a total of 18-20 hours a week to write and research.

Which means there’s not a lot of downtime, although my evenings with Aimee and the kids usually involve a lot of fun activities like jumping on the trampoline or playing in the front yard or constructing Lego spaceships. It’s a good enough balance, so far, to keep me sane. (And unlike some people, I’m able to function on six hours of sleep.) But I can’t sustain it indefinitely. So I’m working hard now to get the books done ahead of deadline, which will allow me to relax without any contractual obligations hanging over my head. It’s hard for me to vegetate when I know there’s work to be done.

I know there are a few other writers who read this. What about you? How do you fit in the writing time?

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