Write Now with Jason Tanamor

How a Filipino-American in the Army Corp of Engineers finds time to write novels

Write Now with Jason Tanamor
Photo courtesy of Jason Tanamor

Who Are You?

Jason Tanamor. When I’m not writing, my full-time job is working as a Contract Specialist for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Portland, Oregon.

What Do You Write?

I write fiction, in and out of different genres. I’ve written dark humor, horror, satire, and now NA urban fantasy. Am working on a historical fiction story. Have an #ownvoices YA finished.

I’ve always wanted to be an author, but never really thought I could. I’m a first-gen Filipino, so my priority was going to college to be something practical — like an accountant! I know, I know, sexy…. So, I didn’t get serious with writing until after I graduated from college.

But, even then, I still didn’t focus on novel writing. I spent a long time writing for media, for sites like Yahoo!, where I would interview celebrities such as Fight Clubauthor Chuck Palahniuk, comedian Dane Cook, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Billy Corgan (Smashing Pumpkins), and baseball legend Pete Rose.

That took up a lot of time, so novel writing was secondary. After I’d expended myself, I quit the media to focus on writing novels. A better decision.

Where Do You Write?

During the plotting stage, I write anywhere. I have the luxury (or not) riding public transportation into downtown Portland each weekday for work. It’s about a 45-minute commute so I have time to work things out in my head. Plus, you witness the weirdest people and things in Portland. So, the commute also provides good material.

Once I start writing, I make time in the morning, usually around 3:30–5:00 am. Sometimes throughout the day on weekends, but generally I feel motivated early. I have a certain spot on the couch where I sit with my laptop, one of my cats, and coffee.

I know people who handwrite the first draft and then transfer to Word. I know people who write the first draft in Word, print it out, make line edits by hand, and then transfer back to Word. I have no idea how people do this. I have only so much time to write that, if I don’t do everything on my laptop, I’ll never do it.

When Do You Write?

As mentioned, I make time early in the morning. I don’t set any word count goals as my sessions generally end on or around 5:00 am during weekdays. But during that time, I may get 1,000 words in. More if it’s a first draft. Fewer if it’s a later draft. I lose words on subsequent drafts.

From there, I get a workout in and then head to work. On the train I can run through scenes or dialog in my head. Then I transfer them to the manuscript. Rinse. Repeat.

On the weekends, that time may stretch to 7:00 am, pending on when I get tired or decide to get moving.

The only days I take off are when I’m in between stories. I try to write one novel per year. Some finish, some don’t. When I’m not writing, I’m reading.

Why Do You Write?

Make believe is much more entertaining and enjoyable than real life. More fantastical things can happen in make believe. And if it doesn’t, you can steer it in that direction. Plus, it adds a nice balance to the monotony of working, exercising, doing day-to-day chores, etc. If I didn’t write, I’d go crazy. So, aside from being entertaining, it’s also therapeutic. I don’t need to be motivated to write; it’s always there waiting to get out. Published or not.

How Do You Overcome Writer’s Block?

I rarely get writer’s block. I’m a heavy outliner, so the story is nearly written before I begin the actual task of writing. Once I’m in a groove, I stay obsessed with the story until the first draft is done. Usually by the fourth or eighth draft I find myself losing interest. Or perhaps I get sick of it. But then I’m onto something else. That’s probably the opposite of writer’s block — when you finally get sick of your current WIP and want to quit.

Bonus: What Do You Enjoy Doing When Not Writing?

My wife and I are suckers. Like Wile E. Coyote sucker. We adopt dogs and cats that no one wants. Usually the one-eyed ones, the ones with diseases or ongoing illnesses, elderly pets with only a few years left to live, and the ones that don’t get along with other animals.

We’ve taken in and quarantined cats for over a year — one staying in one room, another on a different floor — so they wouldn’t get put down by the shelter. To give them social time, we’d ensure they didn’t cross each other’s path. It was a forever magic trick in our house. Close that door while opening that door. Now do it again. Repeat. Tada! People who came over were like amazed audience members. “Was that the same cat? How did you do that?”

We spend a ton of money spoiling our pets so they can live their final years comfortably. Then we do it again. We’ve had, at one time, 14 dogs and cats in our care (It was really 13, but you know, bad luck. Plus, we’re like a hotel anyway so we just went from 12 to 14 — hashtag shrugging emoticon.).

We currently have six pets now. Maybe more! Who knows? There could be a family of bunnies in my office for all I know. The fur children take up most of my free time. The rest of the time we’re at breweries, doing outdoor stuff, or managing our rental properties.

So, yeah, writing on a laptop frees up so much more time.

Justin Cox Justin Cox

Justin Cox is a donut-loving, word-writing, nonprofit consultant based in Orlando. He also runs The Writing Cooperative on Medium. Come say hello!