Anne Rice wrote Interview with a Vampire while working a full-time job.
T.S. Elliot worked at a bank when he wrote The Waste Land.
Bram Stoker published nine books while working as a theater manager.
Today I’m counting down five tips, in order of how important I think they are, for writing while you have a full-time life.
Although the times have changed, the need to bring home the bacon has not. Those of us with creative passions are often required to work day-jobs to fund our lifestyles (because our first drafts most certainly do not pay the bills).
There are also those that equally enjoy their day job and writing, and may never leave their full-time jobs.
Still there are others who have a full-time life, who are stay-at-home moms or dads, take care of an elderly loved-one, or volunteer daily for a nonprofit.
This is difficult to juggle while trying to write a novel!
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For those that don’t know, I work full-time, at least 40 hours a week. Since I started taking my writing seriously, I’ve struggled with finding the time to write.
These tips are realistic tips. They’re not “MAKE TIME TO WRITE,” although that’s obviously important. I tried to break it down to help you guys in your daily lives. These tweaks will be realistic for almost any writer.
These are also epiphanies I’ve had in recent years that I hope serve you well on your own writing journey.
First up on the countdown:
And I’m not even talking about lists for your writing.
How could this possibly affect how much writing time you have? Here’s a scenario that I’ve played out more times than I care to admit.
Say you need to go to the grocery store after work. You really need milk, toilet paper (because there’s not one square in the entire house), and dinner fixins. It’s only 3 things so you can remember that!
You do all your shopping, braving the after-work traffic and crowds and finally get home.
Only when you open your bathroom door do you realize you forgot the toilet paper.
Now, you don’t want to make your loved one pick it up on the way home, or maybe they’re already home. So since you didn’t make a list, now you have to take the time to drive back to the grocery store (or CVS because you’d rather pay for the inconvenience at this point), wade through a bunch of people, stand in line because there’s only two registers open, and drive all the way back home. If all of that took 30 minutes, and it probably took longer, that’s 30 minutes of writing time wasted.
Don’t rely on your memory for ANYTHING. It can’t be trusted when your writing time is at stake. Make to-do lists, and grocery lists and mark calendar events in a joint location (so your husband or wife knows when soccer practice is).
Organize your life so you don’t waste a second of your precious writing time.
On a similar note, once you have everything written out, you can prioritize what needs to be done first. Make a plan at the beginning of every week so you’re better prepared for life.
Because life tries to get in the way of writing time. All. The Time.
Are your parents coming to visit on the weekend? Then you know you’ll have to pick up the house throughout the week.
Do you also have an editing deadline next week? Instead of cleaning for two days straight and then editing for four solid hours after work on Wednesday and Thursday, space it out. I know I can’t sit in front of my computer for that long without wearing myself out.
Plan for the known events in your life so you can also plan in your writing time while being the most productive.
In this example, keep your creative energy up by writing for two hours each day, and cleaning during your breaks or after you’re finished.
Chris Fox, whose channel I will link down below, talks about your “creative well” and how it’s important to both fill it back up, and not totally deplete it.
Be realistic about what you can do and plan accordingly. Don’t deplete your creative well!
I’ve mentioned this tip before, but it’s so important. Anytime you find yourself waiting in line or driving or walking from the parking lot to your office building, let your mind wander to the scene you plan to write that day.
I’m an outliner, and even though I know what I’m going to write, I still let my mind wander to better visualize the scene. Prepare yourself for your writing session by passively thinking about it all day.
Need to develop your characters? Get in their heads during the day while you’re doing mindless tasks. You can’t write while you’re doing laundry, but you can definitely iron out some of your more problematic character or plot areas.
While you’re at it, look for inspiration everywhere to fill your creative well.
I listen to audiobooks everyday to and from work, and am always more motivated to write my own story after listening to a snippet from a good book.
Get yourself pumped for your writing sessions and have a plan for what you’re going to write.
This one is difficult because it means different things for so many people.
Is working out important to you? Analyze your workout time to see if there’s a way to streamline it. Is the gym 20 minutes from your house? Buy weights or an at-home gym. Do your cardio outside or work out with YouTube videos to avoid that wasted 40 minute drive.
Does cleaning take up a lot of your time? Some writers find it extremely helpful to hire a cleaning lady. This could be once a week, it could be once a month. Now that you’re taking writing seriously, all of your time is money. For some, having a couple extra hours a week to write is worth paying a cleaning lady.
Do you meet up with your girlfriends for brunch every Sunday or your guy friends for poker every Wednesday night? Ask yourself if that’s time well-spent. Could you go every other week rather than once a week?
Is a large chunk of your Thursday night spent taking your kid to and from gymnastics practice? See if there’s another parent (obviously that you trust!) that can trade up carpooling with you. This can cut your driving time in half, and eliminate the need for you to sit there and watch your kid do front flips into a foam pit.
Can you use public transportation? For some, this doesn’t increase their travel time that much, and opens up some time that can be used to write while you’re on the bus.
Pick apart the things taking up your time and see if you can streamline them.
Something I’m doing this week: looking into grocery delivery.
And last, my top tip for you all:
Writing habits are important. In a perfect world, we could all write for 2 hours immediately before or after work. When you have a full-time life, writing for two hours at any time of the day seems impossible.
So break it up throughout the day.
Write 1,000 words at lunch in your car or a nearby cafe.
Have an appointment? Punch out 200 words on your phone while you’re waiting.
Waiting in line to pick up your kid after school? SAFELY dictate 300 words.
Imagine how much writing you could get accomplished in these little pockets of time if you took your tools with you on the go.
I’ve been SO much more productive lately following this one step. Rather than browsing Twitter or Instagram on these breaks, I write or edit.
Bring your notebooks, your cell phone app (I’m jealous of those that have Scrivener on their phones...darn iPhones!), or your laptop with you everywhere you go, and I promise you you can fit so much writing in before you even sit down for a planned writing session.
My next big purchase for my writing will be a tablet with a keyboard so I can bring my writing on scrivener with me everywhere (and not have to lug my computer around).
That’s all I have for you today, I hope you found this content helpful! If you have a full-time job or life, and have advice of your own, please leave a comment on any tips you have down below! I would love to hear from you!
Until next time, Happy Writing!