Most of you that read Nothing Any Good are like me. You have a day job and you started writing as a labor of love. Sure we would all hope to someday have our writing support our families, (or at least pay for the investment that we put in to see our book published). I’ve said it on here before, though–if you’re writing to get rich, you’ll have better luck playing the lottery.
Don’t lose sight of why you started writing in the first place. The majority of authors earn less that $10,000 a year from their books. If you are writing purely to make money, I wish you the best of luck, but the statistics are not in your favor.
If you want to get rich, the lottery has better odds. Don’t lose sight of why you started writing.Click To Tweet
With this in mind, how do writer’s manage a schedule of writing and a day job. Or if you’re like me, with a demanding day job, and young kids, and a website, and… you get the point.
How Long Did Your First Book Take?
My first book took me a looooonnnnnnggggggg time to complete. Seven years to be exact. I first put the proverbial pen to paper in 2008 and finally saw Pieces Like Pottery published in 2015. I realize now, in hindsight, that much of that time was spent figuring out how to be a writer, rather than actually writing. I waited for those moments of inspiration and emotion to carry me away in my writing.
This is all well and good, but it’s not a recommended way to become a professional writer. I also found that most of my writing in those moments of emotional highs is what I usually cut out in the editing process anyway. What I tend to write at those times is sloppy and, frankly, word vomit.
So How Do You Write Consistently?
When I started writing, I thought I needed to write in a particular time and place. I would typically write at night and need to be in the perfect mood to do so. With a very demanding job, a wife, and two-year-old daughter, however, I quickly found that I was not finding much time to write at all. I had to begin writing anytime I could find a free 30 minutes.
I was lucky I did too.
Having very little time to write each day helped me to begin taking my writing to the next level, to learn to hone it as a craft, rather than writing simply being an inspirational hobby. I had to find time to write whenever I could, regardless of whether the circumstances were perfect. (That being said, I still love to write at night over a glass of wine or a Scotch. Nothing beats that.)
If you’re struggling to find the time to write, schedule it. It sounds boring, but it’s part of being a professional. It will keep you from just deciding to watch TV or clicking on that cat video on YouTube. If you’ve scheduled it in, you’ll be more prone to actually write during that time.
If you struggle to find time to write, schedule it. Sounds boring? It’s called being a professional.Click To Tweet
What If the Words Aren’t Coming?
Just write. Block off the time to write and then actually write. Don’t look at your phone. Don’t check your website or your sales numbers. Don’t get up to get a snack. Don’t research something about a certain scene or character. Just write. You can make a note to come back to a certain scene later to research it, but that’s for the editing process.
When you’re writing, make sure to actually write. You’ve blocked off the time to write, so actually do it. Even if the words feel jumbled and lifeless, keep writing. You can decide later if those paragraphs are terrible. They probably are, but that’s something you can decide later. Besides, maybe you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Or maybe those terrible paragraphs will open the words up you needed to write the good paragraphs. Regardless, just write.
So What About That Day Job?
Again, this is where a schedule comes in very handy. When there’s less time available to write, you need to block off times to do so.
Maybe you should be thankful you have that day job too. We all like to tell ourselves that we would write so much more if we didn’t have our day job, but would we? I’m not so sure.
When I was young in high school, I played four sports. I found that whenever I was in between a sports season, without practice and workouts and games, my grades in school weren’t as strong. I realized that when I was busy with classes and sports, I had to optimize every 30 minutes I had to do my coursework. I did homework between classes, or 30 minutes before class, or 20 minutes before dinner.
When I wasn’t in-season, there was always time to do it later. What happened, though, was that the time I had to do it later quickly disappeared and I no longer had the time. When I was less busy, I procrastinated more.
If you’re like me, maybe your day job is doing the same thing for you. Maybe you would actually be less productive if you didn’t focus and plan out your writing around your day job.
Find more writing and publishing tips at Nothing Any Good.
Talk about perfect timing. I was think about this yesterday as I was sitting at my day job wishing I could spend the time writing instead. Thank you for your insight!
You bet, Alia. What tips do you have to manage it all? We would love to hear your insight.
Thank you for this helpful article, Dan! I think all writers struggle and often get frustrated with not having enough time to write. And we all would like to do it full-time. I also took a long time to finish my first full-length novel, about eight or nine years. It’s an every day roller coaster, juggling it all, but unless like you said, you have the motivation to write full-time, maybe those breaks are what keep us from losing our sanity as well.
It seems to be a common tale, that first book. I think there’s just a learning curve–getting over our fears, getting over ourselves, understanding what it actually means to be a writer, etc. etc. It takes a lot of the proverbial blood, sweat and tears!