In this series of guest posts, I have asked a number of writers and editors to share the price they pay for pursuing their creative passion or what they sacrifice–whether that is money, time or lost opportunities. It might be how they pay the bills that writing doesn’t, or how they juggle working for a living or raising a family with the time it takes to write or edit. The people who have contributed have shared their personal stories in the hope it might help those new to the scene manage their expectations, or help others dealing with similar things realise they aren’t alone. You can read about the inspiration for this series here, and if you want to be part of it please let me know.
Today’s guest is New Zealander Grant Stone. I didn’t have the pleasure of meeting him on my visit over there earlier this year, but from all accounts that was my loss! Welcome, Grant!
Writing in the Margins
As long as I can remember I’ve wanted to do two things: write stories and write code.
I work full time as a software architect. It’s a fairly intense role where I’ve got to try and manage a lot of in-house projects while still keeping up with emerging technology trends. While the hours aren’t necessarily long, by the end of the day my brain’s mush. And I’ve got three kids. By the time they’ve all been taken to ballet and hockey and fed and bathed and had stories read and everything else, I don’t have a lot of energy left. There’s usually no space for writing on evenings or weekends.
I take a ferry to work. It’s a thirty-five minute trip each way. So that’s when I get most of my writing done, five days a week. It’s not ideal. Going to work on a boat may sound romantic, but it’s usually noisy and cramped. But armed with my trusty netbook, it’s extremely productive time. I wrote the first draft of a novel last year in nine months, all in thirty-five minute slices.
To try and make the most of my limited time, I try and avoid getting distracted by fresh new ideas before my current project is complete. This never works. My phone is full of fragments of stories that grow a sentence or word at a time, until they’re too big to ignore. My ‘in progress’ folder is a wasteland of stories that have been trapped there for years.
I think having such a small amount of time has affected my writing. While I don’t get a lot of ‘typing’ time, stories are always bubbling away in my subconscious. When I’m finally able to get to a keyboard the words spill out quickly enough. My first drafts are relatively clean. But given my time constraints I’m unlikely to attempt an epic fantasy any time soon. In my current situation I don’t think I’d ever be able to complete more than a novel a year. And I’m fine with that.
I’m extremely fortunate that I love my day job. I get to hang out with talented and creative people every day and work on exciting projects. I’ve good books in my blood, but I’ve got code too. If someone came to me with a million bucks so I could write full time, I don’t think I’d take it. Well, okay, I’d take the money. But I’m always going to be coding too.
I’m pretty good at stealing little pockets of time, writing in the margins of my life. It would be nice if those margins were just a little wider. But every week I get to write code and I get to write stories.
I’m living the dream.
Grant Stone’s stories have appeared in Strange Horizons, Shimmer, Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine and have twice won the Sir Julius Vogel Award. His novella ‘The Last‘ Is available now from Paper Road Press.