A little while ago someone found my blog by trying to look for writing routines for full-time workers. I’m going to assume they were bummed out by my post on day jobs and how a full time one isn’t such a great idea.
I still have the same opinion about writers and day jobs, however, I’ve had to return to the dreaded day job for a little while (oh, the thrill of temping!) and I’m feeling your pain. I thought I could share a few little tricks that I’m trying during my current contract that might help others that work full-time and write on the side.
1. Set up a routine and guard it with your life
I loathe early mornings. So when I’m working, I write in my lunch break or after work. My current contract is insanely busy and exhausting, so I have to write after work. I’ve set up a little routine for myself. I do some exercise, have a hot shower, drink two coffees, eat dinner and write until my eyes feel like they’re falling out of their sockets (which is about one to two hours).
So, when can you block out half an hour or more? Can you handwrite at a coffee shop in your lunch break? Or could you stay back at work and write for an hour before you leave the office? Or are you one of these disturbingly-happy morning people than can get up at five in the morning to write before work?
Figure out when and where you are going to write and stick to it. If you let people disrupt that small window of writing time there better be a good reason, like the sky falling or circus lions have entered the building and are mauling your work mates. I know you can’t totally ignore people and you shouldn’t, but surely you can afford at least twenty minutes a day to work on your novel?
2. Do something everyday
I feel more myself when I can write for a few hours a day but when I’m working, this just doesn’t happen. My brain is crammed with work politics and to-do lists that I don’t even care about and I’m exhausted from sitting at a computer all day. I’d love to write two-thousand words or so a night but it’s a tough ask.
I have to do something though, no matter how small so I’m making progress everyday. If you’re working full-time, there is only one way to keep your story fresh in your mind and that’s to work on it everyday. Even if you only re-read a chapter that you wanted to edit and make notes, or write four hundred words, or dot point what happens in the next chapter, you are still working on your story. You’re still making progress.
3. Have a goal to work towards
When I take on a contract, I set out a writing goal according to how long I am working for. I’ve already talked about how ambitious (and perhaps, stupid) my goals are but at least I know where I’m going. My current contract is long enough that I’ve planned to finish a spew-draft of my sequel to Blood Sun. I wouldn’t be able to edit while working in this position, but I believe I can churn out a disfigured and holey first draft to work from later in the year.
Failing all of this, you might want to read Margo Lanagan’s post over on Justine Larbalestier’s blog about time off from writing and day jobs. It made me feel so much better. If anyone has a tip they could add, please leave a comment and help the poor, time-starved writers.