Many writers dream of days they can devote entirely to their craft. But the reality is that working a day job in a field often unrelated to writing is sometimes a financial necessity, especially for new and debut authors.
When people learn that I write novels and hold a full-time job, they often ask me, “How?” They struggle to understand the balance of time, but I’ve made it a point to work hard to fulfill my love of both a professional life and my love of a writing life.
Also, what I’ve come to learn is that rather than seeing full-time work as a hindrance to the craft, writers can channel advantages of their situation to maximize writing productivity. Here’s how to do that:
Use time that surrounds your full-time job to think about writing.
For instance, on my commute, while I’m exercising or while I’m cooking dinner, my mind slides to my work-in-progress. During these times are when I flesh out my characters, develop plot points, imagine scenes of dialogue and consider conflict. Once I see these in my mind, it’s much easier to write them later. Also, permitting myself to think about writing during these times helps me stay focused on my full-time job to meet my responsibilities there since I know I’ll be able to come back to my writing later.
Earmark the downtime in your day job as a timed writing sprint.
During a lunch break, for instance, consider setting 30 minutes of time aside for a writing sprint, where the focus is on fast, unedited writing on a certain scene. Doing so allows the words to get on the page, and they can be edited at a later time outside of the work day. I also find that this practice gives me a welcome distance from my work in terms of breaking up the writing and the editing to provide a fresh perspective.
Some writers benefit from drafting with pen and paper to avoid digital distractions, but others benefit from technology, like dedicating a simple laptop to their craft but not connecting it to the internet. Alphasmart is a brand of portable, battery powered keyboard that works for some, and others use dictation software that provides a voice to text application. Dragon NaturallySpeaking is one for Macs.
Take yourself seriously.
Writers come in all varieties, as do their techniques for getting words on the page. Don’t think that because you hold a day job that you are any less of a writer than those who toil at the craft all day. Guard your time, set goals, and treat yourself as the writer you are.
Making time for writing isn’t always easy, but it can happen even for those who work full-time. Be proud of your writing accomplishments, especially when they are completed while managing other responsibilities. That, in itself, is success.
Do you have other tips for writing and working full-time? What works for you? Share your experiences in the comments section below.
Audrey Wick is an author with Tule Publishing and a full-time English professor at Blinn College in Texas. Her debut women’s fiction title Finding True North released in April, and its sister story, Coming Home, released in July 2018. Her writing has also appeared in college textbooks published by Cengage Learning and W. W. Norton. Audrey believes the secret to happiness includes lifelong learning and good stories—but travel and coffee help. She has journeyed to more than 20 countries and sipped coffee at every one. See photos on her website audreywick.com and follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @WickWrites.
Even if you don't have time to write a novel, you might have time to crank out a really short story! If so, enter it into our Short SHORT Story competition by Dec. 17!