It’s nice to think that all writers spend the day lounging around in their pajamas, sipping lattes and joyfully typing away at their computers.
But in reality, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
The fact is that most of us have full-time or part-time jobs in addition to writing. It’s extremely tough to make a living as an author unless you have three, four, five books under your belt or your first was a huge success – even then it’s rare.
So how do you squeeze in your writing time when eight hours of your day is taken up by another (probably more boring but much more lucrative) job? What about family time, self-care, exercise, blogging and travel?
It’s easy to just tell yourself “I will fit my writing in where I can.” But I’ve learned that if you take that approach, writing often gets pushed to the wayside. So for me, it’s all about routine. It’s blocking your time to make the most of every moment, and planning ahead to be your most productive.
NOTE: The following tips and tricks work just as well for someone who is writing full-time. Both are perfectly valid means of approaching your writing life, I just like to speak primarily from my own experience – which is why this is written from the perspective of a writer who also has a day job.
To get started, write down your current routine (if you don’t have one, just take a look at your average day) and ask yourself these questions:
What tasks/activities are you most passionate about?
It’s often funny when comparing the list of what makes you happy with the list of things you actually do in a day. Lying on the couch for two hours watching the Bachelorette may make you happy OR it may just be a filler activity. Instead I could be writing or reading or playing games with family or something else I am passionate about.
What obligations do you have that are non-negotiable?
Obviously your day job is one of them, but there could be more. For me, exercise is something that I have to build into my day or my body gets angry with me. So that always goes on the schedule first.
Kids and spouses are other obligations – albeit wonderful ones – that will always come first. But regardless, it’s best to identify your priorities and plan with them in mind.
What can be sacrificed?
Sometimes tough choices have to be made. On a particularly busy week, I may have to sacrifice writing a new blog post in favor of getting more work done on my novel.
If you are part of a club or sports team, you may have to choose between it and writing. There is no wrong choice, but pursuing a writing career isn’t easy. There’s just not enough time in the day for everything.
Are there any chunks of time that you feel aren’t used to their fullest?
If you look really closely – and if you are really honest with yourself – you’ll often find little chunks of time that’s just filled between other more important activities or meetings. Whether it’s fifteen minutes or an hour! Every moment counts.
For instance, I don’t really need a full hour for a lunch break. So instead of lounging around at my desk while I eat or surfing the web, this is when I fit in my pilates class. That way I don’t have to get up even earlier to go or try to make it after work when I could be writing.
When do you write best?
We all have times of day when we have the most flow. I do my best writing work in the late afternoon/early evening for some strange reason (*cough* because I pour myself a glass of wine *cough*). Yours could be first thing in the wee hours of the morning or late at night after the kiddos go to bed. But regardless, it’s important to identify your best writing time and get that on your immediately.
Now that you know what my priorities are and where you have extra time to squeeze in activity, you can plan out our routine. I strongly recommend time-blocking your days for the first few weeks – even though sometimes it feels like overkill – as it really helps make the habit.
A few other tips to make the most of your new routine:
#1 – Prepare!
I dedicate the majority of my Sundays to prep for the upcoming. I do laundry, plan out my social media posts, prep meals, block my weekdays for appointments and tasks. Just like it is with everything else, preparation sets you up for success.
#2 – Protect your writing time.
Some friends and family (and a guy I tried to date – don’t get me started) find it strange and inconvenient that my work day doesn’t end when everyone else’s does. And sometimes it means I miss out on happy hours or phone calls or whatever other opportunity may present itself. But if I make my writing something that can be easily rescheduled, then it will set a precedent to happen more and more often.
#3 – Set goals and deadlines.
Think of them as your new best friend! They are so helpful to achieving your writing dreams, and you can learn more about to effectively do that here.
#4 – Commit!
It only takes 21 days to form a habit, but you gotta stick with it!
#5 – But don’t be too hard on yourself.
Ultimately shit happens. Illness, flat tires, dead computers, just life. So give yourself a little grace – especially in the beginning – to adjust and do what’s best for your life.
But a solid daily routine is the best thing I’ve done for my writing, and hey, you might even find the rest of your day more rewarding and your life more fulfilling.