“When did you have time to do that?”

That is the most common question I get about my first book, The Oasis of Filth. “Just when did you have time to write it?” It’s understandable. I have two fairly young kids (9 and 7), a wife, house, and above all in terms of time commitment, I run a web/mobile/app company, Bean Creative. So when exactly is there time in the day to write? Well, to answer that, I need to tell a story.

When I was perhaps 9 years old myself, my family and I often went out on our sailboat in the Chesapeake Bay. Though the boat was a good size for us, around 30 feet, it had what I would call cramped – claustrophobic, even – space to sleep four. Weekends in the summer, we’d often anchor in some cove overnight and sleep on the boat. This time was great for a young boy, as I had many opportunities to not just sail, but also to explore. I would wear myself out inflating a dinghy my Dad had stored under the seat benches, using a foot pump to fill the whole two-person boat. And since we almost never left it inflated, I also had to deflate it when I was done, store it, and then do the whole thing over the next time I wanted to paddle myself around. My sister, Dee, was often a part of this whole process and we would row to some shore line and check things out, like the time I was chased by a cow. But that is a different story.

One evening, after a lot of rowing and exploring, the whole family sat in the open cockpit at the back of the boat. We had eaten dinner and come to the time when we all hung out talking, playing board or card games. This was long before cell phones or iAnything devices could put a world of games and communication in our hands, so we actually interacted. Weird.

As parents will do, my parents eventually decided it was time for the kids to run along to bed and give them some peace. Dee and I brushed our teeth, got pajamas on and settled into our coffin-like sleeping spaces in the fiberglass hold of the boat. After a time, I imagine Dee fell asleep. But I didn’t. So I tried harder. That didn’t work. Finally, I gave up.

I popped my head back up on deck, surprising my parents. They asked what was wrong. My response: “I think I forgot how to fall asleep.”

So that was the literal beginning of my difficulty with insomnia. From that point, there were countless nights where I could not sleep until I passed out from utter exhaustion, always in the wee hours of the night, with an early school day looming. My mother was practically a saint, sitting with me many nights, rubbing my back, trying to ease me to sleep. I think I did everything wrong, for someone trying to sleep: watched TV, stared at the clock, kept thinking of things I had to do or how late it was. Generally, I was stressing about it and that wasn’t helping.

Somewhere along the line, the problem subsided but it did not vanish. To this day, there are some nights I just cannot go to sleep. But one thing that has hung around for virtually every night is that I simply cannot go to sleep early. And so, there you go.

With all those extra hours at night while other people are sleeping, I had to do something. So I tried writing.