The predominant thing you hear from people who want to write is their complaint that they don’t have enough time, what with their family, friends, social obligations and, the biggest of the bunch, their job. It would seem there just isn’t enough time in the day for writing because of the myriad other things demanding your time. Well, I have a few things to say about that, the employment issue.
While writing ‘The Gyre Mission: Journey to the *sshole of the World’ I was also running my own business, a pet-sitting/dog-walking operation that involved a lot of driving, a constantly changing schedule (some mornings I had to get up at six, some four-thirty, some five etc.) and a new location every two to ten days, depending on how long the pet-sitting job was. Sometimes it was a weekend, sometimes a month. In June of 2011 I stayed in six different houses, none of them my own. This business demanded that I live out of a suitcase almost 300 days a year, give or take. Here’s the kicker: the reason I initially started Moonlight Pet-sitting was because I figured it would give me ample time to write! Don’t get me wrong, it did in the beginning, but that was before it really picked up steam. Within two years I found I was now working well over forty hours a week, getting up very early every day and eventually booking myself seven days a week. With clients coming and going for various reasons I felt the necessity to take everything that came my way. You just never know what is going to happen next; the jobs you say ‘no’ to are the jobs you may not get later. To solve that, I overloaded myself. Between the end of 2009 to the end of 2011 I worked seven days a week non-stop, only taking days off for vacations, of which I took two a year.
Suffice it to say I began ‘The Gyre Mission’ in September of 2009, right before my business went full-full-time. I leisurely began the novel in earnest, fleshing out the characters, the plot, the setting and so on, and within two months had most of part one (of three parts) written, roughly a couple hundred pages. I figured I’d finish it within eight months, do a few re-writes and have it ready by Christmas of 2010, at the latest summer of that year. Oh how wrong I was.
Moonlight Pet-Sitting kicked into overdrive and suddenly the book came to a screeching, grinding halt. The two to three hours I had to write daily soon became forty-five minutes to an hour, if any. There were days I was so busy and so tired I couldn’t get anything done, and weeks, then months, slipped by with very little progress. Why didn’t I hire someone to help me with the business? you might ask. I tried, actually went through several people who bugged out on me for various reasons, leaving me to handle their work load as well as my own. I eventually gave up and tried to only schedule what I could handle myself.
So what did I do to find time? Well, I don’t recommend this because most humans wouldn’t want to live this way, but I sacrificed everything extraneous in my life. Social outings, dinners with friends, beach time, movies, family gatherings (not to sound like a monster; my family lived out of state), casual coffee shop loitering…all kicked to the curb. My life became my business and my writing, taking time to eat, sleep and unwind with some TV or a book at the end of a day.
I tried to keep a regular schedule for writing but it was nearly impossible, what with my constantly changing schedule. I wrote a lot of the first draft in the middle of the night when I couldn’t sleep (which was often due to my rampant insomnia) and then subsequent drafts in the late morning or early afternoon. First draft stuff, I realized, was easier to do when I was still half-asleep, when my mind could wander off into a nether land of crazy ideas. Fine-tuning was best done when I’d had a couple cups of coffee under my belt. I was never very good at writing late in the day, as my mind is pretty much frizzle-fried by that point, so that is when I unwound. Why didn’t I take time for social engagements then? Because I was (am) an overnight pet-sitter; my job is 24/7 baby, like it or not. It takes up your evenings but it beats punching a clock any day. Besides, most people are boring assholes and I’m better off without them around.
So over the course of three years I completely alienated myself, trying desperately to finish a project I thought I would simply never see to fruition. I thought about it constantly, obsessively, while I walked dogs and fed and medicated cats. I talked to these animals about it, hashed out plot points, argued over motives and weak characters or dialogue. It became a compulsion that wholly owned me, with no sign of release.
By January of 2012 I’d done five drafts, each successively better than the last, but I knew there was still much more work to be done. Relief came to me in the form of my business gradually slowing down; the chaotic fourteen-hour workdays were abating, resuming a normal eight-hour day. Over the course of six months I did another three drafts, shaping it into something I thought was professional, could be taken seriously in a worldwide market. As of this writing I have yet to find out; all that time may have been wasted, time that could have been better spent phoning my relatives, taking in a sunset, enjoying conversation with a friend. Maybe this book won’t sell a single copy (it will, of course, as my family and friends will want to buy it and read it just to see what the hell kept me so preoccupied for three years); perhaps it will be reviewed most horribly by a reputable source and my reasons for writing it will be nothing but a farce, the idea that I could have written something that would be successful.
Well, I’ll tell you what: I don’t regret any of it, no matter how it turns out. During the writing of this novel I learned discipline like I’d never known before, dedication to the craft, of starting a project and watching it take on a life of its own until at last it was finished.
This puppy might tank, yet I benefited by learning something very valuable: no matter what, how or why I can finish something I started and be proud of it in the end. And if that doesn’t make the whole thing worthwhile what will? Selling a million freakin’ copies of the damn thing and having someone pay me to write the next one…
Shut The Hell Up and Write The Damn Book Already!