The Next Ten Weeks

I’m always surprised at how much I miss writing after taking a week away. In the past I’ve taken months away, even years, and it’s always jarring at first. Eventually you move past it and find other ways to fill the time. But it’s been such a consistent part of my life this year that coming home from work and not “getting back to work” can best be described as unusual.

Part of the reason for the time off is that I got behind schedule. Life gets in the way. I had to really scramble to get back on track and, in doing so, burnt myself out a bit. I wrote nearly 3,000 words over a three day period which is a breakneck pace for me. Dad and I both have yards to mow and the weather hasn’t always been great recently, making it hard to find the time. Our last talk was a follow-up that took place under the roof overhang while it poured down rain.

It’s also the busiest time of the year at my day job. I work in a warehouse and spend my time on my feet walking and lifting and pushing and pulling. My job is not a sedentary one. Couple that with 5am workouts and I’m dragging ass by the time I walk through the door into the glorious AC of my house. After making dinner and sitting down to eat I’m often tapped-out. Sometimes I can gut my way through it, but it just becomes too much at times, physically and mentally.

But I’m good now. We’re still crazy busy at work, but it’s nothing I can’t handle. The plan is to wrap up the process over the next ten weeks and get a solid first draft of the memoir that I can work on polishing. That takes us to around Thanksgiving, which is right where I wanted to end things. The 50’s and 60’s was a bit of a trudge, but we made it. Now we’re into the 70’s, where Dad has shown excellent recall. It’s the decade where he got his license and started working and found independence. As always, good times await!

Perspective

It’s always a rousing moment when you find perspective. That’s exactly what happened to me this week at work. I was going about my day early on around 9am and then it hit me! BAM! I knew which direction to take the memoir. Just like that! No second guessing. No talking myself out of it. It was the right decision at the right time.

I’ve been taking notes and talking with my dad and doing research for about a month now, just getting as many words on the page as possible. But I had yet to find my angle. I wasn’t sure how to approach the material. It has to feel authentic to him and to me, as well as anyone who may read it. Early on these first few chapters have felt like reading a history book of my dad’s life thus far. They were informative, but something just hasn’t felt quite right.

Then an epiphany! In order for this to work it has to be just as much about today and it is about the past. What I mean by that is how the information is gathered and told is just as important as said information. We’ve been getting together every Saturday and talking on the front porch, which is really a deck, and I’ve been taking piles of notes on everything he says and does. Every detail matters and when that fact hit me, it was pure euphoria.

There is nothing better than having a revelation about a project when your mind is elsewhere. That’s what creativity is about. Those first few chapters will have to be altered, but I’m glad I’ve recognized it early instead of three months in. Good times await.

Off and Running

I knocked out the introduction to my dad’s memoir this week and it has definitely reinvigorated my love for writing. There’s always been a tendency with me to take extended periods of time away after completing a project because I usually burn myself out with an unhealthy, hectic pace. I’ll consistently talk myself out of moving forward, believing that I need just a little more research or just one more day to relax and think.

“Ashbrooke City” is a perfect example of this habit. I never had a solid writing schedule, just writing whenever I found the time or when the spirit moved me. Sometimes I would get home from work around five or six in the afternoon, write until three in the morning, get three hours of sleep and then go back to work. I would also binge write on the weekends for twelve hours a day. It wasn’t uncommon for me to take weeks off in between writing sessions. I did that for three years. It’s probably the reason it took so long to write the damn book. If I had been more consistent I might have completed it in half the time.

But you live and you learn. With my dad’s new memoir I’ve adopted a writing schedule that I absolutely love. One hour a day is all I ask of myself. One hour a day. Every day. No exceptions. No excuses. I try to hit at least 500 words per session, but if I don’t there’s no beating myself up, which has been a problem for me in the past. When I get to the weekends I can do more because things lighten up a bit. It’s really working for me thus far.

Typically I’m up at five every morning to workout. From there I have a day job throughout the week that keeps me away until after five most days. So by the time I get home I’ve been on my feet for twelve hours because I work in a warehouse. After carving out some time to make dinner and take a breather, I can sit down to write, usually around eight at night. And of course there are other responsibilities to take into account. It’s all a balancing act.

My secondary goal is a chapter per week on the memoir. If I can maintain this pace I can be done with the first draft by early November. I have no doubt I’ll get there. It’s been too much fun to think otherwise.

Onward!

It was a long week, but a revealing one. Sometimes you just have to move on, from ideas, from expectations, from people. I’m very proud of “Ashbrooke City.” It’s my first novel. It’s the project I’ve spent the most time on. It will always be the book that taught me how to write books.

But it can no longer consume my life if I’m going to meet my next self-imposed deadline. I’ll never stop supporting it. I’ll continue to try new marketing techniques. But I have to move on creatively. Content is King. And in order for me to produce new content I have to compartmentalize, which is a new concept for me. But I’m up to the task. I wanted all this and now I have to juggle.

My next project is much different. It’s personal and, hopefully, relatable. I’m not building a world from scratch or crafting characters from my own observations. It’s the true story of a man who has led a fascinating life through an era of human history in which things tend to change as fast you can blink, and the opinions that come along.

It’s a memoir about my dad. And boy does he have opinions! On everything. Even things he knows nothing about. It’s a project I began way back in early 2010 but had to abandon due to circumstance, and because I just wasn’t ready to fully tackle it. But now I am. And I couldn’t be more excited! To one day, when I’m his age, have a document that reminds me of him and the things he has seen and done would mean the world to me. Like a reference, an idea that can live forever.

I’m aiming for the end of the year. Fingers crossed.