Monday, December 5, 2011
Living the Writing Life with a Family on No Sleep.
When I wrote my first book, "PUPPY CHOW IS BETTER THAN PROZAC, The true story about the man and the dog who saved his life," it was just me and my 110lb black Lab, Ozzy (The dog that saved my life) living in a studio with high-ceilings on Lexington Avenue. The place was a mess. There were pizza boxes, tons of books, dozens of dusty manuscripts, bones, tumble weeds of dog hair, and a lot of dirty coffee cups. I was unemployed back then, so I was able to write 7 - 14 hours a day. But even with all that typing, it took 11 years to get published. I'm currently writing my second book—another memoir—titled DON'T DROP THE BABY ON HER HEAD, The dirty diaper diary of a stay-at-home dad." And this time around I'm living downtown in Battery Park City, I'm married and we have two kids. Hunter is eight months-old, and Rowan is 31/2 years-old—going on 13. She's the one that I dropped on the head.
Life is very different these days and yet the same. Our apartment is a mess. Toys everywhere. And it smells. Like kids, not saliva-soaked tennis balls. But the hard part is finding time to write. I freelance in advertising, so when I have a gig, I can only write late nights, and that's after I feed Rowan, (while Brooke nurses Hunter) and give her a bath, and read her bedtime stories – I can’t write a sentence when they’re awake. Between the screaming, Rowan wearing my wife’s shoes climbing on my back, and Hunter trying to eat wires, it’s just too hard to focus.
Once I clean up the toys, it's about 9:15, and I get to spend quality time with my wife, eating dinner on the floor watching The Walking Dead on AMC. Then before I know it, my internal clock goes off: 11:00. IT'S TIME TO WRITE. I drink two more espressos, Brooke says, "Good night, don't stay up too late," but I have to. Because that’s my time. I write best when the world sleeps. I usually write till 2am, and that’s because my kids wake up at 7, and 5 hours sleep is the least amount of sleep I can function on. But the past few weeks I haven't been freelancing, other than blogging and writing my column, "A New Yorker's State of Mind" for BP HOPE, so I've been living out of coffee shops (only the ones with free wifi and a lot of outlets) writing six hours straight, only coming up for air when I have to pee. I actually think I spend more time in Whole Foods Cafeteria than the employees -- seriously. Kaffe 1668 on Greenwich in Tribeca is another one of my spots. At that long, wooden table in the front, you’ll find me downing an Americano. And then when I get home, after all the baby and wife stuff go down, I’m back up writing my head off.
Books take a long time to write—for me anyway—and I have a great time writing or I wouldn’t be doing it at all. But I also do it to entertain people, help people, and eventually to earn a nice living from it. I can’t think of another career that gives you the freedom to work anywhere, on your own schedule, and around your family—even though I can't write a single sentence when they're around me.