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Friday, 28 March 2014

Writer With A Day Job

Write - Even On The Days You Don't Want To - Maria A Smith

How many of you saw the title of this post and thought, 'Yes, that's me,' then let out a long sigh. Is it really possible to write and hold a job down too? Can you have it both ways? Personally, I can't quit the day job, I don't have a rich benefactor anywhere who'll pay the bills, and keep a roof over my head, whilst I create my masterpiece. I doubt you can either.

Maybe it is possible to do both, I hope so, and I know lots of you get up hours before you need to get to your jobs, to put words on the page. Or you're burning hours at the other end of your day, or maybe, like someone I know, you give over one weekend in four to your writing. That is a big ask, when you have family commitments, but it certainly works for my friend. Forty eight hours to retreat away from the everyday.

It takes an enormous amount of discipline to regularly write, and hold down a steady job doesn't it? So what's the plan Batman? If you're struggling - take a look at my list.

  • Make writing a priority. Don't waste all your time on social network sites like Facebook or Twitter,  its easy to lose track of time. you can get a lot of writing done in an hour. Or use them as a carrot, tell yourself you can have fifteen minutes surf time when you've done an hour on the manuscript.
  • Set your mind to writing. Prepare beforehand by writing down what you are going to do when you next open your laptop, a note to yourself can be powerful. Make your writing a priority. Like an appointment with a professional, you wouldn't dream of turning up at the Estate Agents, Bank or Dentist not knowing what you wanted would you? Get organised.
  • When it comes to word count, consistency is key, and its said, that if you can sit down and write a thousand words a day for two months, you'll have 60,000 words at the end of it. Wow! If you can do that, good luck to you, I'm in admiration. I can't, but I might be able to write 500 words a day for two months, which is 30,000 words. Or maybe I could commit to 500 words every other day? Can you see where this is going? Break your numbers down, set a word count goal, write it down on the fridge, in your diary, put a counter on your blog, whatever you need to do to remind and reafirm your commitment to word count.
  • Plan meals in advance. I'm a big fan of the slow cooker. Chuck everything in before you go to work, when you come home ten hours later, the evening meal is there waiting for you. you've just saved yourself some valuable time. Writing time.
  • Shop online. Order the weekly groceries in one foul swoop. Have them delivered to the door, and you only have to put them away. Bags of time saved here. Not to mention the unnecessary items you put in the basket yourself. A double saving, money and time. Get into the habit. All the big players have online stores now. 

I've made a start, but what can you add to my list? Let me know and I'll post it here. Lets pool ideas on how a writer can have it all!

27 comments:

  1. Excellent advice, Maria. I am one of the lucky ones who doesn't have a day job but a lot of these still apply as it's surprising how busy the week can get(with nothing to do with writing). I particularly like the idea of writing down what you will be doing before you next open your computer - I might try that.

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    1. My memory is like a sieve these days, so I have to write lots of lists to remind myself what I should be doing! :-)

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  2. I greatly admire writers who also have a day job - although I was far more organised when working outside the home! Those are great tips, especially preparing what you're going to write - I waste more time on making decisions than on anything else (apart from social media!).

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    1. Yes, Rosemary, that was my problem, sometimes I'd spend thirty minutes trying to work out which project to work on, let alone where I was up to with it!

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  3. Hi Maria,

    Yes this spoke to me and I can relate. When I began my current project I had just closed my business and wrote full time. It was shortlived as other commitments arrived and I resorted to snatching half hour stints at odd times through the day. Then I tried writing evenings and became a frazzled wreck. The key here is, as you say, to get organised; find a balance. I have 2 partial days a week and then schedule in a few hours a couple of nights a week as well. I have a diary and run my writing like a job. I have set times for emailing and surfing, plus I take a lunch break. Having a desk where I can leave my notebook open has also been a long-awaited bonus. Find what works for you and your lifestyle. I have a menu plan for the week and a steamer and a helpful and understanding husband! ;-)
    Good luck everyone! X

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    1. Thank you Elaine, sounds like you have everything covered now. I must go back to menu planning. I start off with very good intentions and then get side tracked when it ones to planning the family meals.

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  4. These are good tips even if you're lucky to be at home during the day. However, I've still not found a slow cooker that'll hold a seven person meal!

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    1. That is tricky, when I'm cooking for bigger numbers, I usually do the main in the slow cooker, like mince and onion, chilli beef or curry, then just cook a big pot of rice, or bake some potatoes.

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  5. Hi Maria, great blog as ever, I don't wrk Fri so this is normally my writing day proper...but, like yourself I'm a Panster and night owl so when number one son is in bed I might do some writing then. Have to be up at 6 am for my day job so sometimes burn the candle too far at both ends but it's a juggling act....think organisation is key and discipline...like the idea of a rigid word count per day to get the novel done. Robbing Peter to pay Paul is more what occurs in real life !!! Look forward to next post.

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    1. Hi Helen,
      If a rigid word count appeal, why not try it out? Don't set it too high though... :-)

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  6. Great advice. I try, so hard, to write every day, but at the moment I can't get my head around writing anything. Today I tried to pull up an old short story to edit, and ended up un-editing, even though it's not good the way it is.

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    1. Annalisa, I'm just coming out of a stage like that so I can sympathise, its really difficult to overcome what is making you feel that way I know...maybe take a few days out altogether?

      Sometimes we need some space to think about our writing.

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  7. One thing to remember is that there's more to writing than typing words. When you're out and about you can be researching locations, talking to friends or family helps with your dialogue, experiencing emotions (even the frustrations of the day job) help with adding emotion to our writing.

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    1. Very true Patsy, and its healthy to get out and about too!

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  8. Motivational post!! It's challenging to keep up the writing parallel to working at a day job and allotting time to spend with family and friends! But with proper planning, tracking the progress and pushing forward to reach the 'number-of-words-to-write' targets, one can definitely achieve their goals. If one's determination is strong enough, nothing can stop them as long as the focus is in the right direction.

    All the best,
    Charan :)

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    1. Thank you for visiting Charan, having focus is definitely important.

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  9. 500 words is doable for me even after a long day at work. It's too tempting to come in and flop down on the sofa in front of the goggle box and fall asleep. I try to limit passive activity such as watching television to one programme per evening, and no daytime tv (on a day off).
    There's always time for writing if you put your mind to it, but lets not forget, leave some time for reading too.
    My best time for writing is on holidays. It doesn't always mean I have to be in front of a computer. I have recently discovered pen and paper. More portable than a laptop, and I can always copy type later.

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    1. I love 'paper and pen' sessions, it feels very free. I actually start each early morning session with 10 minutes journalling about anything that is in my head at the time. Safe in the knowledge no one will read it of course... :-) Lovely to see you here John.

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  10. This is a fabulous post, Maria. This is something that affects me greatly at the moment. I try to get in the office for 6am so I can write for an hour before I start my shift, as I'm usually frazzled by the time I finish work. Tea breaks and lunch hours are also good for writing, although it's easy to get distracted (for me, at least). Loving the slow cooker/meal planning idea, it makes me want to get organised. Thanks! x

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    1. Gosh, i couldn't go into the office an hour earlier as I'd be expected to crack on and work for the company. I'm glad you can though...and I sort of like the idea of spending at least one lunch break a week writing. I may have to bring that into my own schedule. Thanks for sharing, and good to hear from you again.

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  11. Great post, Maria. I've recently dropped a Monday at work for a few months and I love having this day for writing- it has really helped me focus. I think the key when working full time is definitely organisation as I know I waste far too much time in the evenings when I come home!

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    1. Hi Vikki, that sounds like a good plan. Just having that day will probably get you ahead with everything. I think the problem is writers are constantly cramming into already busy lives.

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  12. Some great tips, Maria. Sometimes it is so hard to find those chunks of writing time. I hate it when I manage to find the time and then my creative muse is refusing to play - so frustrating! I got a couple of free days pencilled in next week for writing, looking forward to it enormously.

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    1. Hi Suzanne, I hope you manage to get those days, and the muse hits you!

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  13. They are great suggestions you have made. Prioritise! Prioritise! Prioritise!

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    1. Exactly! Just got to stick with it now. :-)

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  14. you have given excellent tips here maria :)

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I really appreciate you taking the time to leave me a comment, and I try to reply to every one. Many thanks!