Finding balance in your day and time for your writing
If you find it hard trying to cram writing into an already busy day, you’re not alone. While the struggle to fit writing in among work obligations, family commitments and social life can be tiring, the below recommendations may help you find a method to the madness.
Splitting work between your day job and your writing career
For writers not yet fortunate enough to be full-time authors, and I’m in this rat race with you, it can be really frustrating to have to hold down a paying job when all you want to do is write. When holding down a paying job is imperative, structuring your day carefully can win you some extra time and space to write.
Block off time: Figure out what time of day is most productive for your writing and try to block it off. Luckily for most writers this is either early morning or late nights. Can you wake up an hour earlier and go to the gym in the evening instead, thus giving you a few productive hours while the sun rises? Can you start your job earlier so you can finish earlier in the day, thus clearing out more time in the evening for creative time? If you work shifts, how much flexibility do you have to reorder the usual schedule to meet your needs?
Avoid distractions: When you do finally get these precious hours, try to avoid distractions while you write. Close your email and social programs on your computer so you don’t have messages or reminders popping up, put your computer on mute and your phone on silent. The real world can wait while you paint a new one through your storytelling.
Free a space: Chose a location separate from your normal work and if you can’t, put the work reminders out of sight while you write. A lot of authors prefer to write out of the house, for example from coffee shops or parks, but if you want to use your work desk or office, clear away all the memos, post-its and other work-related items. Free the space and your mind will follow.
Capture inspiration when it hits: When you are at your job, you should be 100% focused on the task at hand. However, you’re always an author, you can’t help it, so keep a notebook handy for when those ideas start to flow. If a great character or plot idea arises, jot it down so you can clear it out of your mind and get back to work.
Transitioning to a full-time author
The truth of it is, writing is a full-time job. The day will come when you’ll need to consider if fitting it in around a day job is sustainable for you long-term. It’s not always easy to balance following your calling with financial security.
Once you start making some bucks with book sales, consider reducing your working hours or take a part-time job instead. Maybe there is a job that allows you to work at home or with flexible hours?
If writing is really what you want to do, maybe freelancing as a journalist, blogger, editor, etc , would allow you to hone your skills at the same time as earning some additional money until your author career blooms.
Only once you’ve written and published more than one successful book should you consider taking the plunge and quitting your day job. Loosing a stable monthly income can easily derail a writing career before it’s even had a chance to start, so don’t rush it.
Finding time for family
We all have families and friends who deserve our attention, full attention, not the glazed-eye look of a writer plotting out a new scene in his head. Kids need to be picked up, shopping needs to be done and meals need to be prepared.
Generally though, most things fall into a routine which allows the luxury of planning ahead. Block your writing times into this established schedule. If you don’t already have an organized day, try to create a timetable to bring order to the chaos and mark down your writing times in ink. Commit to them and you’ll be pleased to see they actually happen.
If you’re not finding enough hours in the day, see if you can glean snippets of time when you can still be productive, such as in school reception before pick-up time, in a coffee shop while your child is at sports practice or in the waiting room of a doctor who’s running late.
Don’t neglect your social life
Not all writers are grumpy and eccentric! Most of us just want to feel like we’ve accomplished what we set out to do at the start of the day and have had a little fun along the way.
The easiest way to do this is to set word goals, for example 6000 a day, and once you’ve hit your daily target, let your hair down. Go the gym and unwind, have a drink with friends, or just read a good book.
Hobbies and stimulating situations are important, not only for your mental health but also as fodder for your writing. If you try to not let your writing bleed outside of the specifically allocated time-slots or beyond your daily goals, you can gain the freedom to pursue other activities without guilt.
A note on marketing, blogging and networking
If it were just a simple matter of writing a manuscript, hitting print and sitting back and watching the sales, we’d all have it made. But there is a lot of hard and time-consuming work needed after publishing.
Social networking, blogging and on-line book marketing is an important part of your writing career. You need to shape your name as an author, build credibility as a source and raise awareness of your novel. It can take over if you let it. But scheduling these activities into self-contained time slots keeps them from taking over times you should be writing on your novel, working, focusing on family and friends, or just relaxing.
My overall advice is instead of throwing up your hands and saying, “There aren’t enough hours in the day!” try reordering your obligations, prioritizing writing time and space and rewarding yourself for a job well done.