[I wrote this back when I was starting out. Since January 2015, I’ve been a full time author, which has brought with it its own set of challenges. Here’s how I got myself started, got several books under my belt, and started building my dream]
A question I keep getting is “Adam, you have a full-time job, a family with young kids, AND you’ve been building a writing career, who do find the time? How do you stay focused?” I’ve distilled the essence of that in here.
The name of the game is being Ruthless, with a capital R. Not in a mean way, but in a way where you ask yourself “what truly needs to be done at this point.” Think of a captain on a ship that is heavily damaged, what needs to be done? Are the bad guys still firing or can you take a quiet moment to think?
Rather than write a monster blog post, I’m breaking this up into three pieces:
1. Part 1 – Point of Origin (behind the scenes) – This post!
A lot of writers have organic evolution of their writing career, but I didn’t. I’d written short-stories that I shared with friends for 25 years. My career in IT had very often consumed so much of my time, that I stopped writing for years at a time. I loved it, but I didn’t really allow myself to embrace it. When I met other people who were self-professed writers, I never felt like I belonged. Mind you, I’ve always been very much an outlier anyway.
It took 3 years of working on my memoir (more on that in a bit), and sharing it with people & getting their reactions, to remind me why I loved to write. But it wasn’t like writing fiction, because this was getting a story out that was blocking me from doing other things in life. It was wrapping up a part of my life in a way that would allow me to move on.
When the lead software architect for a $100 Million project I was on (yes, 100 million dollars!) turned to me (I was one of her 8 architects) and said “You need to write ALL of the architecture documents, this reads like a story, it’s amazing. The other guys don’t know how to describe or explain JACK.” It dawned on me that reality was saying, “Hey, you never really stopped learning how to connect with people through your words, you just do some serious non-fiction.”
Life moved on a bit, and I hit a point where I stopped having any further edits done on my memoir. I felt to make it what it needed to be, I needed to gain more experience first. But now I had some of the habits that could allow me to write a book, or two maybe. I had rediscovered in myself the love I have for crafting a tale, for bringing something into existence from my mind that could touch someone, affect their thinking, make them experience something impossible to them.
My creative self was torn though. I’d messed around with trying to write some iPhone apps, but I got frustrated because while I could write all the code, I was heavily dependent on graphic artists and other skills I didn’t have and didn’t have any friends who were willing to jump into the endeavour with me. Also, I really didn’t enjoy it that much. When compared doing apps versus books, the beauty of books is that if someone likes the third or tenth one, they can go and enjoy the earlier ones. But with an app? Graphics quality, compatibility, …. it’s not the same deal at all.
I accepted that I wasn’t going to go after apps (and then I wrote one this year, but that’s a different story), I was going to really go after writing. I would let go of that techie side of me and focus on my real-self, the writer.
Okay, but where to start?
My wife is my biggest supporter bar none. I know tremendously lucky to have her. I can’t help but get a “I knew it” type smile when I think of the people who told me that I shouldn’t marry her, almost all of whom later became fans. It’s not just anyone who will stay by your side when you have horrific chronic pain and have who you are whittled down to a toothpick, and treat you almost exactly the same as before, who believes in you when you struggle to believe in yourself.
I was toying with the idea of ‘really’ going after this author dream I had. I wanted to put a big sticker over that word “DREAM” and make it “GOAL” and then past a list up of “all that remained for that to be my reality.”
But if I was going to do that, I was going to need support from my wife, and though they were little, from my kids. Also, I was going to need to kick out that “doubting Thomas” that showed up in my mind every now and then.
It seemed a bit silly, but I decided we need to do it, so a couple of days before November 28th, 2013 I told my wife that I wanted us to have a meeting on the 28th to discuss where we were going with our projects, plans and life.
My wife looked at me with one of those “Okaaayyyy” looks. She knew that I wasn’t taking it 100% seriously, but it wasn’t a joke either. She’s a software architect like me, though she’s not been working for the past two years at a corporation she has been keeping busy in our new community and with a side-business. So the idea for this type of meeting wasn’t that alien.
So when the kids were in bed, we put our laptops away and had some paper and pens on the table. We started out by just writing down the things we were up to lately and that we saw potentially coming up. We drew some diagrams of stuff that we wanted to do, from investing in property to my wife volunteer efforts and web business, and then trimmed it down. After about an hour and a half, we had a pretty cool thing, some focus.
More than anything else, this meeting allowed us to come together and see how we could support each other in what the other one wanted to do. It would have been easy enough to allow things to continue, for us to have less and less time for each other, and find ourselves several years down the road potentially wondering how we had drifted so far apart. But instead, here we were, aligned, focused and having trimmed down all of our ambitions to the things we really wanted to do.
That was the day our TV watching was cut down like a great Redwood to a hungry logger, it became a fraction of its former self.