The Foreign Service Journal - November 2017

I ’ve been writing and being published since I was 12 or 13, when I won first place in a national Sunday school maga- zine short story writing contest. I worked as a stringer for my local newspaper while in high school, and during my 20 years in the army, moonlighted as a photojournalist and art- ist for a number of newspapers and magazines. My writing continued while I was in the Foreign Ser- vice. Always an early riser, I’d write for 30 minutes to an hour before going off to work. Then, in the evenings, I would write for another hour before going to bed—on evenings when there was a reception that could be quite late. Do that for 30 years, though, and it becomes a habit. Fast forward to retirement. When I hung up my pinstripes in 2012 and decided to devote myself full-time to writing, I antici- pated a more leisurely pace. Instead I found that having more time to write only encouraged me to write more—something about work filling the available time, I believe. After 20 years in the Army and 30 years in the Foreign Service, Ambassador Charles Ray retired in 2012 and now devotes himself full-time to freelance writing, photography and art. He also lectures, consults and does public speaking on a variety of subjects. Since 2008, when he published his first book, he’s completed more than 60 fiction and nonfiction works. Six of the latest are featured in this edi- tion of “In Their Own Write.” In addition to his own publishing imprint, Uhuru Press, he writes a young-reader-oriented series of Westerns for Outlaws Publishing. You can find his books at books at . The Writing Muscle When I worked for newspapers in North Carolina in the 1970s, an old country editor once told me that to become a good writer, one had to exercise the writing muscle regularly. His sug- gestion was to produce 1,000 to 2,000 words per day, every day. I’ve been doing that ever since. (Given that I type approximately 60 words per minute, I can get my 2,000 words written in under 40 minutes. The average word count of my books is 45,000 to 60,000, so even with my old “write in my free time” schedule, I could complete the first draft of a book in a month.) Here’s what my typical day looks like (and by day, I mean Monday through Sunday). I’m up between 5 and 6:30 a.m. I exercise, shower, dress and prepare my breakfast. Then I’m off to work—in my home office. There I spend 30 to 45 minutes going through email, and then start the writing process. Establish a writing routine that you can live with, and follow it. ON THE WRITING ROLLER COASTER BY CHARL ES RAY 24 NOVEMBER 2017 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL