Debbie Fuller Thomas

Debbie Fuller Thomas is the author of Tuesday Night at the Blue Moon. She manages youth programs by day and crafts contemporary fiction by night. She is a breast cancer survivor, mother of two, and a wife of thirty years. Her next book, Raising Rain, debuts in September 2009.

Half after Midnight

Author by night sounds so wonderfully simple. But add to it author by morning, holiday vacation, sick day, lunch break, or nap time, and things can get complicated.

When my children were young, I started writing during nap times at my home day care. I cared for six preschoolers and was in desperate need of escape, so while they slept, I managed to carve out an hour and a half each day to step out of my world and into another. If I had known then that twenty years later I could still only count on the same amount of unbroken time each day to write, I may have quailed, but I don’t think I would have quit. Those brief writing sessions fed and refreshed my soul and left me soaring with a sense of accomplishment.

Since those early days, I have dreamed of staying home to write full time, but finances have made that impossible. Until that dream becomes reality, I have found some things that help me to make the most of my limited writing time.

• Be strong. Resist the urge to check your e-mail when you sit down to write. Don’t even peek. And whatever you do, don’t blog. If you must Twitter, ignore the siren’s call to catch up on tweets until the end of a good writing session.

• Be ready. During my children’s school years, I wrote scenes longhand at Little League games, on the couch while watching TV with the family, and (yes, it’s bad) during my husband’s sermons. I conceived the idea for my first published novel and wrote the first four chapters during an eight hour road trip to Disneyland, only putting it aside when my kids insisted, “It’s time to go into the park now, Mom.” The point is that inspiration strikes when the conditions aren’t perfect, and we’d better be ready when it does.

• Be flexible. Life changes. When both my kids were finally in school and I found outside employment, I wrote after their bedtime until late at night. Often I would jerk awake at midnight or after to find myself sitting at the computer in my dark, silent house, and then crawl into bed. As they grew older and more self-reliant, I could also use the mornings to write until I took them to school. I found that I did my best writing at that time. Eventually, they weren’t around much after school and I started writing earlier in the evenings. Saturday mornings were great because everyone slept in. The older they got, the later they slept. Now that our nest is emptying, I can choose my own time to fit in writing, and most of my weekends are free.

You may not feel as though you have time now, but things change. Sometimes you just have to be serpentine for a while.

• Be aware. Know what works for you. Sometimes it works to take my laptop to my day job and get away at lunch to write in the cemetery (you read that right), or in the Starbucks at the large table with the power strip and, most important, no Internet access. I keep my back to the door and listen to Mozart on my iPod to drown out the background noise. The mochas help, too. It can be a very productive hour.

The library doesn’t work for me unless I’m doing research. The quiet reading room puts me to sleep with its cushy upholstered chairs, fireplace, and the sunlight streaming in through expansive windows in the afternoon. The main portion of the library houses too many books that I hear whispering for my attention—even through the Mozart.

It works for me to take a few days of vacation time and stay alone at a local convent/retreat center on the cheap to flesh out a rough draft or an outline. I will admit that three days without conversation borders on sensory deprivation, but sometimes that’s what it takes.

You’ll only find what works best for you by trial and error, and either way, you’ll get some writing done.

• Be sure. Just because you’re frustrated and tired of the challenge of finding time to write, you may not have reason enough to quit your day job. Recently, while working full time as a manager of children’s programs, I decided it was time to quit and devote all my time to writing. After all, I had one book published and was contracted for another, and I didn’t see how I could possibly keep up with the demands of writing, rewriting, and marketing along with my day job. I went as far as to resign my position and to interview applicants for my job. But after much soul-searching and an unexpected confirmation, I realized that as much as I wanted it to be God’s leading, it was simply my idea and not His. I decided to stay in my position and trust that He would help me meet all my obligations. Five months later, we experienced financial setbacks that would have made my decision disastrous. I learned not to grumble and to be amazed at His perfect timing. It is the desire of my heart to do my best writing for Him, but only He knows how that is best accomplished.

Now, once again I find myself nodding off at half after midnight at my computer in a silent house. Until that glorious day when I am given the “thumbs-up” to write full time, I’ll continue to squeeze every available drop of time out of my day to write.

Tuesday Night At The Blue Moon