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.



  1. Brilliant post! I can so relate to the difficulties found trying to write and work full time. It’s a tough juggling act that requires a huge amount of commitment but reaps such satisfaction when you manage to churn out the words in spite of the difficulties. Great advice. Thanks for posting this.

  2. So very true!

    Juggling so many demands at once can mean that writing falls off the back of the to-do list, but setting aside time every day, no matter what is happening, is the only way to get something done.

    I also like your comment about planning, but the key thing with planning is not beating ourselves up if we don’t get everything done that we’re aiming for. Persistence is the key and you’re doing that. I take my hat off to you for writing while working full time. That’s something I’m yet to master…

  3. This took me right back to working full time and studying while trying to carve out time to write. Wow – you’re doing an incredible job managing to write at nights after a full day of demanding work! It’s hard for me to imagine being able to do that anymore. I was always one of those *freaks* who wrote in the wee early hours 🙂

    Some great advice. And I loved Margo’s post.

    PS. Was dying to know what first draft you were working on, so am glad you mentioned it towards the end…

  4. Lynn, you seem to do the work/write thing really well from what I hear! It’s not ideal of course, but perhaps one day we won’t have to worry about full-time day jobs…

    Lyn, of all people you know exactly what I’m like when it comes to plans and goals! But the word count is coming along.

    Kath, somehow I knew you would be one of those cheery-sunshiney-morning freaks! I’ll be working on early drafts of the sequel and also the mermaid book for the rest of the year but I’ll keep you updated 🙂

  5. This is my first visit to your blog. And what a great post to stumble upon. I’m in the midst of a writing routine change wondering just how to squeeze time to write into my life.

    I’m always searching for at least a couple of hours, but your post reminded me that ‘something’, even just 20 minutes a day is worth it.

    I tried Nanowrimo last year and it was definately one way of getting words on the page. Though I confess it was 4am starts that got me through it.

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