I know there are many writers who have the luxury of doing nothing but writing for a living. But for every one of those, there are probably at least 4 or 5, if not more, who must work a “real job” while also working on accelerating their writing career. This is tough! So it’s for all of you that this post is being written.
When you’re writing part time, and working elsewhere full time, time management becomes paramount. First, ask yourself what a reasonable amount of time would be for you to spend on your writing every day. Take into account family time and the fact that you actually have to sleep at some point!
If you say an hour, then determine what your most productive time of day is. For those early risers, you may want to get your hour in before you head off to work. For the night owls, schedule your time after your kids have gone to bed. If you’re neither (like me), you may need to jump on the computer as soon as you get home from work. Whatever it is, write it into your schedule and stick to it. Don’t even try to write “whenever you can find the time,” because I guarantee that you will never find the time.
Take advantage of time off work. Most people have the weekends off, but others may have a couple days during the week instead. When you get some days off, decide ahead of time how much more time you want to spend on your writing. I know one writer who blocks off 4 hours every Saturday. She gets up before her kids and writes until about 11. She still has the whole day ahead of her, but manages to get a lot of writing in during those 4 hours. Again, the key is to decide ahead of time what you will do–then schedule it. If you don’t, your days off will quickly fill up with everything but writing.
One final suggestion is to use downtime during work. We all have some during the work day. Whether it’s break time, lunch time, commute time (not if you’re driving, of course!), or whatever time you have that’s not “on the clock time,” take advantage of it. It’s amazing how much you can accomplish in small chunks. Always have a notebook and pen (or its electronic equivalent) on hand. As you get ideas while standing in the lunch line, or finally figure out how to rewrite that one scene that’s just not working, you’ll be able to capitalize on the opportunity.
I recently read about a famous novelist who wrote an entire book in daily 20 minute blocks. It doesn’t take much, but it’s important to always be “on.” Be thinking about what you’re writing as you go about your day and have the writing tools available to jot down what comes into your head every chance you get. You don’t have to be in front of a computer to write. Start seeing your downtime as time that’s helping you move one step closer to being able to trade in your full-time job for full-time writing.
I’d like to hear from you on this one. If you are of of these part-time writers, or used to be, what tips can you offer to help others as they juggle their writing world? What has worked for you, and what hasn’t?