At an informal gathering with the crew from my day job a couple of months ago, one colleague said to another: “You know that Kent doesn’t sleep, right?”
A reference, perhaps, to the full-time day job, the part-time evening/weekend job, the fiction writing career, and the three teenagers.
Sleep is a fine thing, I seem to recall.
Be that as it may, I am often asked when I speak to book clubs or at libraries when I write. The answer is about as vague as the answer to, “How long does it take to write a book?” I dealt with that question on the blog a few months ago. The answer is: I write when I can.
I don’t have the luxury of a set writing schedule, where I can sit down at my designated writing desk in my designated writing room and spend X hours focusing on nothing but my fiction. The honest truth is that all my books have been written in snatches of fifteen minutes here, an hour there. Sometimes I may have a day or two off from the rest of my life and can spend eight hours (or more) doing nothing but writing, but those days are rare. (Actually, on those days I have to discipline myself not to just sleep.)
So I’ve had to learn to take time when I can. Just as I’ve embarked on writing the third book in the Journey/Tolman series, I’ve also had several big magazine projects at my day job, and the kids have all had a very busy summer. (My oldest is heading for college next month, and a lot has been going on in that direction.)
I write best in the morning, and there are days when I get up at 5:00 a.m. to try to squeeze in a few pages. I despise getting up at that hour—my body thinks it is quite an insult. But it is when my mind is most alert and focused. I am fortunate in that I can grab a few minutes here and there in between assignments at the magazine to write a few paragraphs of fiction. Sometimes I can get in a few unbroken hours on a Saturday morning. I don’t write at night, as my mind is usually mush after about 8:00 p.m. (Plus, during baseball season, there is usually a Rangers game on at night, and one does have one’s priorities.)
But somehow I work all this mishmash of a schedule into books. I know writers who must have their set schedule or they can’t produce. They need so many hours to get into their rhythm. For me, the circumstances of my non-writing life dictate that I better find my rhythm, and find it fast, or the book doesn’t get written. Having an outline helps, though as I’ve said before in this space, I am never a slave to my outline. But when I am working on a book, I wake up thinking about the story, and it hovers around my head throughout the day. I am working out scenes even while doing the other sixty-three things I may be doing at any given moment. I worry that Nick Journey and Meg Tolman and company may be annoyed at me for leaving them in dangerous situations for too long while I am occupied with other parts of my life. But I am thinking of the story constantly—and when I sit down at the keyboard, the scene has already unfolded in my head many times. By the time I am in the chair, hands on the keyboard, I am ready to write. I rarely sit and stare at a blank monitor for hours on end—I simply don’t have the time.
Maybe one day I’ll make a living writing fiction full-time. Or maybe I’ll at least need only one non-fiction job instead of two to support my family. Then I’ll think about crafting a special place and a special time to write each day. In the meantime, I’ll make time whenever and wherever there is time to be made. (Thank God for flash drives…)
Or, maybe I’ll take a nap.