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A day with Jim…

April 18, 2011

The world works in funny ways sometimes.  I hate saying that because it sounds cliché but at the tail end of my entire family being sick since the start of 2011 (and going back to October 2010) and the biggest move of my family’s entire life, I get the email showing this month’s theme is “The Writers Life”.

How perfectly fitting.

Because right now, I am figuring everything out.

Before I go forward, let me go backward.  I enjoy writing about this subject not because I want to talk about myself or my awesome family but because I hope that once everyone reads and sees how hectic my life is, they will find a deeper understanding in the phrase “there’s always time to write.”

I’m married.  I have two sons.  My oldest is two and a half and my youngest is going to be one year old in May.  That alone is crazy.  To support my family, I work full time as the finance guy for a medium sized medical practice.  My duties there range from negotiating payment plans on equipment to shampooing the carpets in an exam room when a toilet overflows.  If that weren’t enough, I’m swimming in a healthy amount of college debt.  Close to six figures of useless loans that took three years of my life in a time that I can’t remember too much about.  This all happened during a regretful break from writing, but that’s okay, lesson learned.

So, with all this happening around me, how do I write?  When does it happen?  It happens every free second I can find and it happens through my big bag of notebooks.

When I tell people I carry, on average, ten notebooks I tend to get that crazy look.  But each one serves a purpose.  Just as an example, on my desk right now, there is my 2011 planner, my black notebook with story ideas and the outline for the first season of Pulsate, the notebook with the first season of Pulsate (almost) written, my brown notebook with a few novel synopsis’s, my blue notebook with music and lyrics written, a newspaper article about marketing that seems more science fiction than real, and a folder with the first part of my next project (The Devil’s Weekend).  Oh, let’s not forget the two tape recorders… one for recording The Devil’s Weekend and the other for recording those ideas that pop into my mind when I least expect it.

That’s how I do it.

I have all my projects mapped out, lined up, and ready to go.  I stay ahead when I can – such as Pulsate (the episodes are published weekly but I keep writing them way in advance) and I try not to take on more than I can chew.  I’ve done that in the past and have gotten burned out.  I keep everything together so when I get tired of one project or hit that horrible thing we call “writer’s block”, I can move along to something else.

For me, I’ve learned that writing is an art as much as it’s a business.  If you are serious about writing then you need to treat it like a business.  It’s a tough line, but it’s the truth.  More than anything else, you have to be disciplined.  Lucky for me, my love of words goes so deep that I can’t stop writing.

My day usually goes something like this…

The alarm goes off at 5:45am and I’m out of bed by 6am.  Most days both boys are up by then anyway so we get to spend a little time in the morning watching cartoons and eating an early breakfast.  On the days they sleep later than that, I enjoy coffee, the newspaper, and of course, some writing.  And somewhere in there, I exercise.

I am the worst morning person in the world, so if I can get any sort of writing done in the morning, anyone could.

Since we just moved, my ride to work is now close to an hour.  I’m out the door as soon as possible so I can work.  How exciting, not.

On the way to work, I keep the music loud and I keep a recorder nearby in case something comes to me.

Then I get to work and attempt to work.  As I mentioned before I use any lunch and/or break time for writing.  Even if it’s scribbling random sentences and names on sticky notes and shoving them in my pockets.

Then I go home.

I’m greeted by two wild boys ready for a steel cage match with Daddy, which I usually end up losing… and not by choice anymore either.

Depending on dinner, I may have a few minutes to sneak away and write, or I may not.

Once dinner is done, it’s more cartoons, more wrestling, and usually bath time.  Again, depending on deadlines and projects I sometimes slip away to get work done.  This is the part of my life where my supporting wife plays a huge role because instead of telling me to give it up or get over myself, she lets me write.

Then between 8pm and 9 pm, it’s bedtime.  Our kids have a routine of their own which is quite a blessing sometimes.  On really good nights the house is quiet and both boys are sleeping by 8pm.  On the worst nights, it’s usually 9:30 or so.

Then comes the crazy part of my day… depending on the night, I try to spend some time with the wife, write, and exercise.  There’s not much time and trust me, I know it, but it’s what I have to do to get by!

Usually between 11pm and 12am I am finally asleep, ready to do it again.

So how’s that for a day in a writer’s life??

Now sure, everyone is different but like I said, with my situation, if I can do it, anyone can.  And note the exercising part.  I run two times a day and lift weights three times a week.  Exercise is an important part of my life and it helps me write.  It gives me energy and gives me another goal to shoot for.  And even during those times I don’t want to exercise, I’ll walk the treadmill while recording parts of a story.  Two birds, one stone.

And ultimately… no matter how busy I am, I love it.  I love every second of it.  If I didn’t, I wouldn’t do it.  That passion burns in me and as long as it does so, I’ll be writing.

Now, how about when you finally speak those words – “I’m a writer”.  That’s a tough thing to say because what makes someone a writer?  Does it matter how many times you’ve been published?  How many books you have out?  Have many books you’ve sold?  What is the actual moment when someone is considered a writer?  I don’t know that answer, but I do know the strange looks a writer does get when they say that phrase – “I’m a writer”.  I try to let my writing and my actions and attitude speak for itself when it comes to this.  And no matter how much it hurts to hear it, it takes time.  For me, personally, it took over two years for people to finally understand that I was writing quite seriously and even still, there are many conversations that begin with someone asking me about work before asking me about my writing.  But you have to take it with a grain of salt and move forward.  It’s the same as someone saying they want to be a doctor or a professional athlete or the leader of a country.  It’s a long shot, sure, but there are leaders, there are new doctors every year, and there are drafts for rookie athletes, right?

And finally, to sprinkle just a little bit of a cliché here… for people to believe in you, you must believe in yourself.

The writer’s life is full of ups, downs, happy thoughts, negative thoughts, and usually somewhere in there a story or two.  There are hundreds of reasons why we shouldn’t write and plenty of posts and articles each day to tell us how bad publishing is… but at the end of the day, we all keep writing because it’s what we know and it’s what we love to do.  So when my alarm goes off tomorrow at 5:45am and my eyes open, I do my best to smile because for those precious moments in the day when I get to write, those are the moments I hope to look back on someday and remember what it was like to chase, what some feel, is an impossible dream.

  1. April 18, 2011 1:15 am

    It’s all about the doing, rather than wanting to do. A person can have no kids, no job, and still find excuses not to write. Obstacles come in all shapes and flavors.

  2. April 18, 2011 9:58 am

    Thanks for the interesting glimpse into the way you do things.

  3. April 18, 2011 10:03 am

    As to what you said about when you become a writer, I wonder if there is any sense in which being a writer can be graded (in a linguistic sense). I always say I’m a hobby writer. I take writing seriously but it’s not a full time activity for me, and I don’t think I ever will be. I don’t want to be. My passion is for people and for teaching. So I’m a writer in a different sense than you, or than people who write full-time. Does that make people like me any less a writer? Or are you any less a writer, because you are not full-time?

    Just throwing this out to see what you and others think.

  4. April 18, 2011 2:45 pm

    It is absolutely true that there is always time to write. Sometimes, when you’re wrapped up in life, it is hard to see it, though.

    As to Paul’s comment, My opinion (for what it’s worth) is that if you write, you’re a writer. If you’re happy with what you write, you’re a successful writer. It’s not about how much time you spend or how much money you earn. That said, I wouldn’t mind spending more time and earning more money doing something I enjoy doing.

  5. April 22, 2011 4:49 am

    Paul – and Rob – I agree. There are all types of writers out there and as long as you’re happy with yourself, you’re good to go. Paul, you writing that you’re a hobby writer and your passion is in teaching, etc. make me applaud you. You know who you are, what you’re doing, and how you’re doing it. That’s awesome to see. Some people read a success story about a writer who gets an agent and gets a million dollar advance and thinks, ‘hey I can do that… I wrote all the time in high school… English papers, etc.’… yeah, good luck with that! 🙂

    Defining your goals and understanding your short term and long term dreams are what’s needed. 🙂

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