by Camela Thompson
Thursday--May 28th--marked my very first book reading at a book store. What made it even cooler? It was the book store where I wrote the majority of Blood, Spirit, and Bone. I was excited and terrified. It was a great experience (thank you, Third Place Books and Michael G. Munz!). There were a lot of great questions posed during the Q&A session at the end of the reading, but one question stuck out in my mind. "How long did it take you to write your book?" When I answered that the first draft took me a month and a half, peoples' eyes bugged out. Specifically, my author friends' eyes bugged out. This leads me to believe that in the short amount of time I had to address the question, I didn't give a fair picture of that experience.
When I said it took a month and a half, it was true. What didn't come across was that it was hell. So many things were sacrificed, including some sanity, in order to make the deadline. And you know what? That's okay. I chose to push myself, and I knew there would be consequences. I'm not writing this post to be a big baby whiner. I'm writing this because I see other authors discouraged by production rate, and it's important to know the good AND the ugly.
In order to reach the fifty-two thousand words I needed to finish my book in November, I worked at my day job from 6 AM to 3 PM Monday through Friday. Add on another hour for commute. I had ten hours of the day dedicated to work, minus the occasional minute here and there jotting a note in a notebook when I had an idea for a scene. Add another two hours for taking care of the dogs, cleaning the kitchen, and dinner. In order to get up at 4:30 AM, I went to bed at 8PM. That left 1.5 hours to write. If cleaning couldn't get done in the two hours after I got home, it didn't get done. Certain rooms got priority on the list (bathroom and kitchen).
The weekends were for marketing the book I had released in October and writing. Saturdays were spent at home writing. Sundays I spent at least two hours at Third Place Books writing with my writing group. I didn't have the energy to socialize. At home, this was my usual view:
This picture makes my heart hurt a little. We lost Champ on December 2nd, but I spent a ton of time next to him in November. Any breaks were spent rubbing his belly and talking to him. It was a big upside to the mad dash toward a first draft.
My husband was amazing. He picked up a lot of slack on the chores, did the grocery shopping, took on dinner a couple nights a week, and was up for eating out more. Oh. And I ignored him. Often. We do the same day job and he would want to talk shop. I didn't have the energy for it. Thank God for football. It made me feel much less guilty about at least one day during the weekend and a couple days during the week.
Writing is a very emotional thing for me, fraught with angst. Consistently, the third and two-third points come with a belief that I am not a writer and the book is garbage. A condensed timeline forced me to put the angst aside and keep marching on. The cost? I think the low point was when I stood in the kitchen looking at stacks of dirty dishes. Cue ugly toddler crying because I had to make dinner and just couldn't handle it. This happened a few times. If I didn't do certain chores, they didn't get done. Sometimes I was okay with that. Sometimes I was too fragile to deal with much of anything. I drank more, ate more junk food, and consumed coffee - all bad ways of chemically balancing out the stress. It has taken me a lot of time to cut out everything but the coffee and get back to exercising.
Two books in a year brought me to my knees. I know of authors who crank out more. I don't know how. Was it worth it?
I learned that I need more help if I go back to work full time and want to keep up the same pace. If I'm working and we have dual incomes, some of that money is going to hiring someone to help with marketing and a house cleaner. We've also talked about me going back part-time or doing contract work--the latter appeals to me quite a bit. What I know for certain is that doing things the same way and expecting different results would be foolish.
I don't intend to paint a bleak picture, but I want it to be honest. I have accomplished things in the past two years I never imagined would be possible. I wouldn't take it back, but the experience has forced me to realize change is necessary to keep marching forward at the same pace.
Do you work full time and write? How do you juggle both?
Freelance writer and Dark urban fantasy author featuring vampires with bite.