When do you write?

When I tell people that I like to write stories that will hopefully one day be books, those who know my life often ask when do I have time to write. The truth is, for me, finding time to write is not always easy and I have to take what time I find when I find it. Most "advice" I've found about writing says to set aside an hour a day to write and to make it a part of your routine schedule, otherwise it is too easy to drop and thus your book goes unfinished.

Well, my wife and I have 4 (count em, 1, 2, 3, 4) children, all boys. The oldest was diagnosed as severe low functioning autistic at a very young age. For years and years, the kids were our main focus, even in the years we were not together but still co-parenting. These years did not see much writing. I spent a number of years thinking about writing, thinking about stories, and playing with my kids.

Now that 3 of our 4 kids are grown and out of the house, it has really only been in recent years that I've found time to actually do any real writing and I have attacked those times with a veracity of someone who has spent the years prior yearning but not able to do it. In the last few years I've finished 6 manuscripts and have started several others. On average, I finish 1 book a year here lately.

But even that has not been easy or straightforward. My day job is in the IT industry as a consultant focusing on Identity and Access Management. Some of you may be scratching your head at exactly what that means, and I don't blame you, but others may know the terms and the lifestyle that comes with them. In a nutshell, I spend my days in meetings to discuss various systems and how they should interact with one another, in meetings discussing problems with those interactions, creating very long and boring technical documents to describe how those interactions should be created and managed, and even spending hours a day in front of a keyboard to make those interactions a reality.

To some people, I have an easy job because I get to sit at home all day. To others, one that would make their heads explode because technology is not their friend. To me, I have a great job that presents new challenges for me to solve because I love technology and the flexibility to be both at home some days and to travel others.

Technically, my office is my house and has been for the past 15 years. Because I'm a consultant, I bounce between working from home and working on site with clients when needed. Some clients want me to travel to their location every week for months on end. Some only want me to be on location a little here and there. And others are perfectly fine with me working from my house. The amount of time I spend on the road fluctuates wildly from project to project. And with COVID in 2020 pretty much shutting down everything, I haven't had to travel for work for a while.

I think the last business trip I took was November 2018. I've been grounded for the last 2 1/2 years. This lack of travel has severely impacted my ability to write though. I do not set aside an hour to write each day and it is certainly not part of my routine. I do look for opportunities to write but only opportunities that do not conflict with my family and my ability to spend time with my wife.

There are days when I may wake up early, usually not by choice, and go into my office to write a little bit before my work day begins but I try not to get out bed until I have to. I'm not a morning person and relish the time I get to stay wrapped up under my blankets in the morning. Plus, writing before I've had coffee might make my stories take an unexpected dark and twisted turn that I may not appreciate later.

Other days I may try to get some editing done during my lunch break but I usually spend that time tidying up around the house, playing video games, or catching up on my shows that my wife doesn't like to watch with me. She calls them my "nerd shows" because they are usually history or science based shows.

What can I say? I love educational programming. Get over it.

With my morning and lunch breaks largely not an option to do much writing and my daytime hours filled with work, one might think that I do a lot of writing in the evenings but one would be wrong.

After years of chasing kids to endless nights of sports schedules, band schedules, school schedules, and things like Boy Scouts and De Molay, my wife and I are very happy and excited to enjoy our lazy nights at the house together. Technically we've still got one kid in school with some extracurricular activities but he recently got his driver's license which fully absolves us of being his routine chauffeur and paves the way to even more lazy nights at home.

I try to make it my habit to not write at night but to spend time with my wife, even if it is just sitting on the couch watching TV shows together. I try to limit distractions from my phone, my tablet, and my game consoles just so that I can be there with her, even if all we do is hold hands and sit in silence. Plus, I've tried to write while we watch TV but I get too easily distracted to accomplish much actual writing.

So when do I write? When I can is the short answer.

My wife works in an office, not at home like I do. This means that there is usually a gap between when my work day ends and when she gets home. On days that I'm feeling inspired, I use this gap to try and get some writing or editing done. Some days it may only be 30 minutes but other days it may be a couple of hours depending on what she has going on in her office.

Likewise, there are nights where she does good to get home and eat dinner before getting called back into the office. When you are the Admissions Director for a care facility, your day is never truly over apparently. When she's at work and I'm not, I'm usually writing. I can typically guarantee at least 2 hours of writing time on nights that she gets called back to work and I try to use that time as wisely as I can.

I use to be a bit of a night-owl too and there are still hints of that late night lifestyle that pop out from time to time. My wife's bedtime tends to come early and while most nights I try to at least join her in bed when she's tired there are some nights when I'm just too awake to lay down and I may squeeze in a few hours of writing at night. If I were still young I might could make these hours my routine writing time but the older I get the harder it gets to have those late nights so regularly. I am learning to enjoy my sleep in my ever-increasing age.

But the true bulk of my writing occurs when I travel for work. Almost all of The Ascension Legacy series was written at night while I sat in hotel room far away from my family. Something about being largely alone in unfamiliar territory encouraged me to write. Heck, there were some nights that I would pick up food somewhere and be back at my hotel room within 30 minutes of leaving of the client's office. I wouldn't leave my room for the rest of the night. I'd just scarf down my food like a savage and spend hours writing. I'd call home to talk to my wife each night for a few minutes but other than that, I was hard at work tapping out the random thoughts that had hung in the back of my mind all day.

OneNote tracks the creation date of each "Page" and you can look at the dates in my different "Notebooks" to get a sense for the days I was on the road and the days I was at home. You might see 2-3 "Pages" with the same creation date from where I was in a hotel just pounding away at the keyboard and then there might be a gap of a couple of weeks where I was at home and didn't get to write much.

It has actually become a bit of a hobby for me to look back at the dates in OneNote each time I finish a manuscript to see the different dates and gaps in my writing. Part of me wants to make it a competition to see how fast I can write one versus another but I always have to catch myself and remind me that it is not a race and those dates are not goals to beat but rather just interesting factoids to nobody but me.

The hope is that now as our last son makes his way toward the end of his scholastic career and our other kids are busy with their wives and jobs that I may start to find more time to write while not on the road for work. I'm still years away from retirement (I hope) which means that my writing will have to continue to be done while traveling or in the hours I'm not working for someone else. These days there are fewer and fewer demands on our time because of our kids, which is sad in a way, but maybe, just maybe, that means I can turn that lack of demand into more time for my passion.

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