Ah, the writer’s dream life! Living in a secluded cabin next to a babbling brook and creating the next best-seller as inspiration whispers through the trees. Alas, it’s time to wake up and smell the stale coffee left over from last night’s writing session: Most creative writers have day jobs. As working writers, we have to squeeze in our writing when we’re off the clock. And with a limited amount of time available, it’s easy for our writing to be pushed aside for other tasks and responsibilities. Fortunately, the time-management experts at Writer’s Relief have some tips and advice on how to be a creative writer with a day job.
How to Be a Writer With a Day Job
Distractions are almost guaranteed when you’re trying to spend some quiet time writing: The laundry needs folding, the dog suddenly needs walking, and the lawn needs mowing. You can avoid distractions by letting your roommate or family know when you’re planning to write, setting your phone to “do not disturb,” and staying away from intriguing emails and online videos. Writing time must be held just as worthy and important as any other activity.
But outside of your scheduled writing time, you should embrace distractions and use them to inspire your writing! Perhaps a coworker can be a character study for your next story. Or the family reunion might offer fodder for your next essay about family traditions and history. And people-watching at the airport may spark new ideas for a poem. Use these distractions to your advantage!
Focus On Time, Place, And Pace
Whether it’s thirty minutes a day or a few hours on weekends, it’s important to set a writing schedule that works for you—and stick to it. Use the format of “time,” “place,” and “pace” to create a schedule that suits both your writing life and your day job:
Time: Do you work best in the morning? Are you a night owl? Maybe your best writing happens midday on your lunch hour. Determine when you’re most productive as a writer and designate that time to writing. Wake up thirty minutes earlier to write, take the last half hour before bed, or jot down a few lines during break times at work. Find those moments in your day when you can focus on writing.
Place: Whether it’s a home office, your kitchen table, a chair in the corner of the sitting room, or a rocking chair on the porch, create a writing spot in your home. Make it your place, even if it’s not an entire room. This is where you go to write. Set it up as needed to differentiate it as writing space, whether it’s lighting a couple of candles or setting up an inspiration board. Change this space to claim it as yours, even if it’s just for a few moments.
Pace: Constantly writing at a breakneck speed will result in burnout, but writing only a few words during your scheduled time will cause you to miss deadlines. Set a varying writing pace to allow some flexibility in your writing schedule. You can write in quick sprints, long binges, or at a comfortable, steady speed. Choose a writing pace combination that works best for you!
Outsource Some Writer Tasks
When you’re busy with a day job and scrambling to find time to write, you don’t want to spend any of your precious writing time on market research. But it can take hours (and hours!) to research and find the best literary journals or agents for your work—and to eliminate all the markets that aren’t right. Instead, outsource your research busywork to an assistant like Writer’s Relief. Our research experts will pinpoint and target the very best places to submit your work and boost your odds of getting an acceptance! And we’re very good at it: Check out what our many happy clients have to say, then submit your writing sample to our Review Board!
Most of us have day jobs and do our creative writing outside of work hours. But just because you have to pay the bills doesn’t mean you can’t also spend quality time writing! By eliminating unwanted distractions, focusing on time, place, and writing pace, and delegating the non-writing aspects of being a writer, you’ll achieve the right balance in your work and writing life!
Question: How do you balance your day job and writing?