I decided to write about this topic because it’s been brought up a number of times by many friends and readers. As fledgling first-time writers or authors, whether your project is a comic book, graphic novel, book or script-writing unless we are blessed by some miracle, we have to have a day-job (or someone to financially support us) while we are writing a book. This basically means you are going to be working two jobs for at least a year, or more likely three or four years, before you become successful enough to financially support yourself solely with your writing. And the second job will be one you don’t even get paid for, though it is something you want to get paid to do. This is not a “you’ll never make it big” post, but a sobering reality, even for me.
I started writing The Emerald Tablet in early July 2011. That’s when I first put pen to paper (actually fingers to keyboard) as it were. I finished the rough draft of the manuscript in late October 2011. From October 2011 through December 2011, I did edits, rewrites, and redrafting. Then, the book went to my publisher and its editors where it spent the next 6 months in more rewrites and edits.
I started writing book two, The Soul of the World, in January 2012. I completed the first rough draft of that book in July 2012. Then I spent July through September 2012 doing rewrites, edits, and redrafting parts of Soul of the World. It is only now, in September 2012, a full eight months after beginning the book, that I handed it off to what will be another year of editing.
So you can see, there is some overlap there and a “fuckton” (yes, that’s a real word according to www.urbandictionary.com) of blood, sweat, tears, raw man-hours, and fights with your family or partner involved in these projects.
I did all this while I was working 40-50 hours a week with a wife. It was a beyond a delicate balancing act and I won’t mince words, there were times when there was a heated discussion or two with the Mrs. about “family time” verses “work time.” There just didn’t seem to be enough time for everything. But I also want to stress something else. Family time, if you have one, is EXTREMELY important. You don’t know now how much their love and support means. So you must make an effort to spend time with them, even though you may be thinking about work in the back of your mind. Be present. You do not want your family to end up resenting your project because you chose IT over THEM.
To help balance all my commitments, I made a schedule, and I stuck to it. I stress this—I RARELY deviated from my schedule. And in fact, it is a schedule I still use to this day.
- Wake up at 6:30 a.m. and leave the house for the office by 7:00 a.m.
- At the office by 7:30 a.m. I didn’t work on the book at all during work hours. I’m just not that kind of guy. But, that didn’t preclude me from working during my lunch break, which I did, for an hour at mid-day EVERY DAY, while I ate as quickly as possible.
- Worked until 5:00 p.m., at which time, I would rush over to the gym to get an hour of something in.
- I typically got home (with traffic and travel time), around 7:00 p.m. I committed myself to two more hours of writing work, from 7:00-9:00 p.m. It could have been writing book two or editing book one, but EVERY NIGHT I did an extra two hours of work minimum (sometimes I did three).
- 9:00-10:00 p.m. or 10:00-11:00 p.m., would be scheduled family time with the wife. You know, we’d do the normal, sit at home and watch hours of Netflix because we’re hooked on a particular show (currently, it’s Burn Notice).
I rarely took a day off. I worked almost every Saturday for a minimum of 5-6 hours, and I worked most Sundays for A YEAR AND A HALF straight. If this seems callous to you, it probably is. But it was the only way I could stay sane and do what I had to do get my book done in the time I wanted to do it in.
I give you fair warning, be prepared to get calls from your parents bitching you out because you never see them anymore and they don’t feel like you’re part of the family. Take this in stride, they don’t mean it; they just miss your company. Also be prepared to get cussed out by your friends because you’re missing poker night, the barbeque party, the bonfire, the birthday party, happy hour, etc., and they think you have abandoned to them to some crap dream you have. Again, take it in stride. They’ll support you when the time comes. They are your friends and will remain so through your work. Try to keep up the communication with them; do the best you can. I preach balance, but you and I know, it’s a terribly difficult thing to achieve, time management. That’s why they have classes on it.
Knowing how hard it can be, I wish you the best of luck writing a book. The most important advice I can give is to keep writing. Write, write, and write, even when you feel like there is nothing to say. Write like your life depends on it because you’ll need that sense of urgency to keep going when you get discouraged, when your eyes want to close, when a warm bed and clean sheets look oh so comfortable.
“Some people dream of being something; others stay awake and are.” Author Unknown