Freelancing Fathers

In the comments for my post on Becoming a Game Designer, Wayne asks:

I used to be a freelancer… A long time ago, in a galaxy far away. But since I had kids I just can’t seem to find the time to do anything. What’s your secret?

Honestly, it’s a daily struggle. I’m home today with my eldest, who’s sick. Because I’m a freelancer and my wife has a regular job, I can take time off more easily than she can, so I do. If too many of these days roll together, though, I get behind. Then I spend a couple weeks (or more) digging my way back out of the hole I’m in.

This has been a perpetual problem for me since the quads were born. There’s just no getting around how much time kids demand from their parents. Because I insist on trying to be a good father (as I’m sure you do), I don’t see an easy out. Still, there are ways to minimize the troubles.

To keep from getting behind too much, I treat my job as job. I have an office outside my house, and I try to get to it as regularly as I can. It’s not as convenient as staggering down the hall to a spare bedroom, but when I’m there it’s clear that I’m there to work. Home offices often have too many distractions within easy reach.

When I’m at the office, I try to work standard, eight-hour days. Mine get broken up somewhat from having to haul kids around town during the day, but I set aside as much time as I can to get the work done. I sometimes end up working in the evenings after everyone else is asleep too, although I do that at a tiny desk in my bedroom or on the couch in the living room instead.

I used to write 5,000+ words per day. Now that I have kids, I shoot for more like 3,000+ words per day. When I have to, though, I buckle down and charge on through. I kiss the wife and kids good-bye and promise to spend more time with them as soon as I can.

I wrote one novel this year in 16 days. I also topped my personal best with an 11,000-word day. It’s not a pace I can keep up forever, especially since I really do love my family and like spending time with them, but I can turn the dial up to 11 when I must.

Of course, I couldn’t do any of this without the support of my wife. She’s supported me every step of the way—and let me know when I charged over the line. Those of you who have met her know, she’s the best.