Several people have asked me since the publication of CHICAGO TIME, how I managed to write a novel while my primary job was as a Stay-At-Home-Dad (SAHD).
Here’s the short answer: slowly.
Here’s the long answer….
My day begins at 5am when the alarm goes off on my phone. I get out of bed and go downstairs to make myself some breakfast and coffee. Then I sit down and nibble and sip while I write. This is how it usually goes, though I let myself sleep in until 6am on the weekends, and twice during the week I swim laps in the pool at the YMCA.
I write until the kids get up. No writing can take place while the kids are awake and in the house.
I’m a morning person. Before my wife and I were married and had kids, when we were living together I figured out that when I got up to write before heading off to work, I was in a better mood all day. I had started the day doing the thing I loved most to do.
I found that after a full day of working and reverse commuting in Chicago, I was too damned tired to write anything worthwhile in the evenings.
As time went on, I stayed with this early morning habit because it worked for me even when much of what I wrote was dreadful. (It was dreadful because I did not know what I was doing.) Early morning writing worked through the first years of our marriage, through my masters program at USC, the birth of our son, moving across the country, becoming a SAHD, becoming a blogger, the birth of our daughter and the last several years.
I first conceived the idea for CHICAGO TIME about six months after my son was born. I just started jotting down ideas for what I envisioned as a GRAND EPIC TALE ENCOMPASSING ALL ASPECTS OF CHICAGO. The ideas flowed on and off while I worked on other projects.
Beck then I was still working on some short stories and attempting to polish up what would become my best failed attempt at writing a novel. It’s the novel I eventually accepted as the one that taught me how to write a novel. In the summer of 2007, that novel was given a funeral by me and buried in the back yard.
When I actually began work in earnest on what would become CHICAGO TIME four years ago, the grand epic scale I had envisioned did not prove to be feasible. For a number of reasons which I won’t go into here.
There were plenty of times when I managed to squeeze out a few hours worth of work on my novel in the evening. Those tended to be days when I wasn’t so tired at the end of the day, when my mind was heavily focused on some aspect of the novel.
I worked on the novel bit by bit during these hours carved out of my day. There were several drafts, there were mornings I wasted by surfing the net reading and researching who knows what, there were sinus infections and bouts of flu, and trips out of town for vacations and to visit family.
But eventually, day by day, hour by hour, word by word, I finished writing the book.