Juggling between Day Job and Writing Career can be a tricky thing. I’m lucky in that I work from home, which affords me time to listen to music as long and as loud as I like, plus my commute is about twenty feet from my bed and into the next room. But there’s not a lot of time to do much writing work, even during slow times. We both wake up around 6am and start our days at 7:30am. I have a half-hour for lunch at noon, and two fifteen-minute breaks (one in the morning, one in the afternoon). Then there’s the time right after work, where we’ll occasionally head over to the local YMCA for some exercise and getting off our duffs. We’ll have dinner soon after that, when we return.
That gives me about two hours in the evening during the weekdays to work on whatever project I happen to be on. We’ll get into bed around 8:3oish and read for an hour or two before passing out for the night. Like any other writer, I really wish I had more time to work with. But somehow I pull it off.
How do I do it? Well, a few things, really.
Assigned time. My midmorning break (around 9:30am) is when I do my longhand writing. Specifically, I write a daily entry in my moleskine journal. I don’t give myself a subject to write about; it’s just a personal entry of things on my mind at time. It may or may not have anything to do with writing, but as long as I’m writing something, that’s all that matters. The afternoon break (around 2:30pm) is less structured, but it’s there for me to use if need be.
Being conscious of the use of my time. Not gonna lie, I get sucked down the Wikipedia rabbit hole and the cat gif vortex and the Twitter noise just as often as everyone else does. I’m okay with a bit of goofing off now and again; it gives my brain a rest, especially if the Day Job has been stressful. But I’ve also trained myself to shut down the browser as soon as I realize I’m just wasting time. [An unexpected plus is that my reaction time has gotten faster; I’ll waste five minutes instead of fifteen now.]
Being on a roll. Sometimes I’ll get into a groove and not want to stop. Why stop when I can still go? I used to do this all the time with my old Belfry writing habits, and I still do it with the housework, so why not? I’ll get one blog post done, and if I have enough time, I’ll write another one. And if I’m still on that roll, maybe I’ll work on something else. At least until i get tired or get diverted by something more important. The downside is that I might exhaust myself now and again, but it’s a small price to pay. This works out especially well if I’m having a slow day at the Day Job.
Planning out my day. This is where the whiteboard comes in. I’ve made it a point that I want to write two blog posts a week for each site. For the most part I’ve been keeping that, even though some of the entries have ended up going live in the afternoon (like this one) rather than first thing in the morning. [That’s been my own fault lately. Still working on the planning part.]
And of course, deadlines. I haven’t given myself a strict deadline for when I finish editing The Balance of Light, given that this one’s getting a severe surgery as compared to the other two, but I’ve at least told myself that I want it done by the end of the year. This worked out well for the other two books: I’d chosen a specific date at least a month and a half in the future as the drop date and made sure the book was finished at least a week beforehand. This meant that I’d focus on nothing except for the editing, formatting and publishing of the books for that amount of time — this meant that things like the 750 Words would fall by the wayside, that the blog posts might end up a bit scant, and that I’d conveniently forget to work on any other projects. But the payoff was perfect: once the project was considered done, I gave myself a week off to relax and play catch-up with everything I’d put aside. By the time I’m back to normal, I’m ready to go on the next project.
But what about the Writing/Day Job juggling? That’s a good question. What I’m trying to say here is that looking at it in terms of Day Job versus Must Do All The Things isn’t exactly the right way to do it. The trick is to already know that you only have a finite amount of time. I only have about two hours of free time in the evening which I can fully dedicate to whatever writing project I’m on. In those two hours, I’m going to do my damnedest to keep myself focused on it. And during my Day Job hours, if the pace is slow enough that I can get away with it, I’ll work on something quick and easy like Daily Words, or write part of a blog post. Otherwise I’ll stick with the scheduled assignments during my free time. In turn, that lightens up my end-of-day load of work that still needs doing.
It’s tricky, but it can be done!