When writing isn't your full-time job.

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Regan Leigh
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When writing isn't your full-time job.

Post by Regan Leigh » July 29th, 2012, 5:37 pm

How do you handle it?

I used to work a job that was full-time, but I basically worked for myself and set my own hours. Now that I am 40 hours a week in a highly stressful work environment? With two hours of a commute in the car each day?


I have let my writing time dwindle to nothing. I manage to send out (on average) one or two queries a month for my first book. If I'm not working, I'm exhausted or just doing everyday life stuff.

And this makes me sad. Very, very sad. Because I know that I am a writer. I am a writer who wants to write full-time. I can sit for an 8 hour work day and write with no problem. Except...I don't have 8 hours and when I do...I'm EXHAUSTED. :P

Besides a new career or job, what can I do to help this? Seriously, I'm open to even the odd or unconventional suggestions. (Or just moral support from my fellow struggling writers.)

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Re: When writing isn't your full-time job.

Post by Claudie » July 29th, 2012, 7:37 pm

Well, I'm a student, so my situation isn't quite the same as having a 40-hours stressful time. Right now I work 30-35 hours at a back-breaking (because I have to be standing all the time) job, though, and when I come home I'm exhausted. And yet on most days I take a hour to eat and relax, then I sit and write until I've hit at least 1k. It's either that or I got up early to sit and write (my work schedule isn't stable).

I don't think there's a miracle solution for this. It's often hard to start up the machine after work, but about 30 minutes into the writing, I find my pace again. It's easier when I do it everyday, too, because the last scene is fresh in my mind. One of the reasons this works for me is that I've established a few "routine markers". When I write I have something to drink. I am alone (most often) and have headphones on, which almost always play the same music.

I also don't consider my day is done until I wrote my words (there are a few exceptions, but not many). This is double-edged, however. At the start when I struggled to hit my wordcount goals, it was added stress. Now it stops me from sitting in front of a movie or video game or with a book upon returning home.

I know other writers take a day during weekends to do so. They put 7-8 hours straight into writing, blocking off all other activities. Whether or not any of these works probably depends a lot on what type of writer you are, but you ought to play around with it. I remember during the winter semester, though, I barely touched my projects. It's hard to focus when there's a lot going on, but if this job is going to stay in your life, you'll have to figure something out. But you have all my support! I'm sure you'll find a way. :)
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Re: When writing isn't your full-time job.

Post by Mark.W.Carson » July 29th, 2012, 8:21 pm

I have a full time job, and a commute that's closer to 40 minutes, when I have to drop off the kid at daycare. I put in my day, and every few weeks, I have night work and on call duties, which means I can be woken up at any time of the night for any reason (It should be a good reason, but we pay next to nothing for the people GETTING the alerts, so they have no repercussions calling me and waking me up).

I try to work an hour a night, most nights, getting some stuff done. In a good hour, that's about 1500 words. Weekends, when I don't have a ton going on, my wife lets me get a few hours here and there, which can be another 3-5K. There's also days I am home sick, etc. so yeah, it took me a year for my first draft, but that was mostly due to me having to learn a lot and redo a lot.

I expect my next book to take about half as long, so maybe 7 months. If it gets picked up and makes me a ton of money (sure, right, let's dream) then I can quit, do this for a living, and devote a couple hours a day to writing).

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Re: When writing isn't your full-time job.

Post by Mira » July 30th, 2012, 1:17 pm

I'm sorry, Regan, it sounds exhausting.

If it's a new job, just know that you'll probably adjust and stop being so tired after a couple of months.

I also have a stressful job, and I'm tired in the evenings. I don't usually write during the week at all. I set aside time on the weekend, usually on Sunday when I've recovered for the week. I tend to write for an hour, go do something else for an hour, then go back and write for an hour, etc., up to around 4 - 5 hours, depending. That's a good rhythm for me. I don't push it, though, sometimes I just need to do something else. But I do find that writing can be fun and energizing for me, so it helps with my weekend recovery. Sometimes. Sometimes it's a strain, and then I do less of it. I have to balance for a tough week ahead.

It's challenging, and you definitely have my moral support, for what it's worth. :) And don't worry, you won't have this job forever. Wanting to write can definitely be a good motivator toward moving ahead in your career, so you have jobs that are less demanding and more flexible.

In the meantime, take care of yourself! :)

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Re: When writing isn't your full-time job.

Post by AnimaDictio » July 30th, 2012, 4:38 pm

The April issue of Writer's Digest has an interview with Robert Kirkman, originator of "The Walking Dead."

He describes his early writing years as "years of hell" -- the period of life when he was self-publishing his work and feeling like a zombie. "Sometimes I would work until 8 p.m., then come home and I would write until 2 or 3 a.m., and then I would get up at 7 a.m.," he says. "My life was terrible and I was a total basket case. After two or three years, I finally started making a living at it."

And a pretty good living it is. Kirkman produces and writes the hit zombie TV series "The Walking Dead," an adaptation of his ongoing comic book series of the same name. And as the second half of the show's second season kicks off on AMC, he's also celebrating the release of his co-written novel based on the series. How'd he pull it all off? For Kirkman, it comes down to one word: momentum.

Are you still a sleep-deprived basket case?

No, I'm really not [laughs]. I have a 5-year-old son and a 2-year old daughter, so once we had the kids I had to promise my wife that I wouldn't work nights. I have a 9-to-5 job, and I don't work Saturdays and Sundays. This is great advice that you should put in your magazine: ... blah blah blah ... [My friend] works 9-to-5 five days a week, and that's it. I said I didn't understand how he did that, and he said to me, "The work will take as much time as you let it." One day he just said, "Screw you, work, I'm quitting at 5." Eventually, he starrted getting done what he needed to get done by 5.

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Re: When writing isn't your full-time job.

Post by Sommer Leigh » July 30th, 2012, 8:35 pm

I have a normal full time job as well. I spend a couple of days a week writing after work. I get out of the house to do most of my writing so that it's sort of job-like and I don't get interrupted by life things. Then on the weekend either saturday or sunday (or both occasionally) I go to one of the coffee shops I work at and spend about 8 hours writing/editing/researching.

I think it comes down to sacrificing things you don't really care that much about for finding time to write.

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Re: When writing isn't your full-time job.

Post by LurkingVirologist » July 31st, 2012, 12:00 am

Oi, yeah it can be tricky. I've got a 9-6ish job with an LA commute (OK, so usually ~40 minutes each way). I definitely find myself having to prioritize. I haven't had cable TV in years, which has been a huge benefit for me. If I can keep my netflixs habit under control, and not overdo it on either videogames or wikipedia, I can usually manage an hour a night on most of my weekdays, then longer stretches on the weekend. I think sometimes it can be good to just get in 15 minutes. Write a paragraph. Even if you delete it the next day during editing, it keeps a little bit of momentum. For me, breaking that inertia is the biggest problem. If I don't write for 3 or 4 days, it becomes easier to put it off even longer, and I start to forget how much fun it is when I get into a rhythm.
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Re: When writing isn't your full-time job.

Post by HillaryJ » July 31st, 2012, 1:11 am

I hear you, Regan. It's a challenge.

I work 40 hours a week plus a few "social" work obligations a month that wipe out entire evenings, and I've got a husband and a four year old. I used to average around 40,000 words a month, plus edits for books and promotion for books under contract. I managed this by cutting (no tv, limited Internet) and less sleep (averaging 5 hours a night during the week, 7 on weekends). It was neither healthy nor - with a family - sustainable. I'm scaling back this summer, spending more time with the family, including weekend trips on which I don't take my computer, and trying to sleep at least 6 hours a night. I'm writing less, but I'm trying to make that time more efficient.

I use the Freedom app to cut off Internet access for 30-45 minutes at a time. I can get 500-750 decent words in that time when I'm focused. I work better with momentum, so I still try to work at least five days a week, and try for 45 solid minutes of writing time during the workweek, and about two hours each weekend day. It's not optimum output, but I don't feel as deprived or constantly exhausted. It's all about what you can manage and finding ways to optimize your writing time.
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Re: When writing isn't your full-time job.

Post by LizV » July 31st, 2012, 11:04 am

It's hard, Regan. Heck, it's hard to find time to write even without the 40-hour job; life always expands to fill the available time, and then some.

An 8-hour writing session is great when you can get it, but you may have to train yourself to write in small increments. Coffee breaks, lunchtime, etc. Carry a small notebook with you wherever you go, and use it whenever you can. Got five minutes to wait before a meeting? Get in a couple of sentences. If you're driving by yourself, get a voice recorder and dictate. Steal writing time every chance you get. It's not ideal, but those little chunks can add up pretty effectively.

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Re: When writing isn't your full-time job.

Post by dios4vida » July 31st, 2012, 4:15 pm

Truly, it's not much easier when you don't work 40 hours a week. I don't have a day job, I'm home almost all the time, and I still have problems getting as much writing done as I want. Sometimes an excess of time can be just as detrimental as a lack of it.

I think the trick is to make the most of the time you have - however much that is. Don't stress to write more than is feasible for you. Some of you talk about 8 hour writing sprints on the weekend, and I can hardly understand that. I write in 2-3 hour shifts, usually two a day, and I'm done by 2pm (whether by choice or not, my brain just shuts off at 2). I don't try to force myself into longer days because I know that burns my creativity out and then I'm off writing completely for a week or so. But I also try not to slack off and just "not write today", no matter how bad I may feel. I at least show up in my office and try for a while. If I haven't done a darn thing in an hour or so, I can concede for the day. But I made the effort, and the next day I'll often make up for it. Oftentimes I surprise myself by grumbling as I sit down, thinking I won't make any progress, and then banging out an entire scene without a pause (very rare occurance for me). Sticking to it, no matter what (within reason), has its benefits.

It all comes down to perseverance, determination, passion, and all that other stuff, I guess.
Brenda :)

Inspiration isn't about the muse. Inspiration is working until something clicks. ~Brandon Sanderson

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Re: When writing isn't your full-time job.

Post by Shipple » August 2nd, 2012, 7:55 am

I do have one new suggestion:
If you're so exhausted at the end of the day, consider shifting your day so that you get up much earlier and have an hour or so to write in the morning. In the morning you're nice and fresh, and, once you get used to the new hours, you might find you're really productive then.

Of course, maybe that won't work (I wouldn't blame you), in which case you need to start trying to MAKE yourself write after work. Getting used to a new work schedule takes time, but I think you'll eventually adapt (or at least adapt better than you are right now while it's still new). And, eventually, if you make yourself do it often enough, you might find that you really can do it after all.

Alternately, if neither of those option work for you, you'll just have to make time on the weekends, which, unfortunately, definitely means giving some other things up (and sometimes those other things include a house that's not quite as clean as you'd like it).
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Re: When writing isn't your full-time job.

Post by trixie » August 3rd, 2012, 11:30 am

This is a constant struggle for me. Add to it the fact that I live in Minnesota where summer lasts about a day and a half. So right now, I'm juggling trying to find a new job, trying to lose weight/exercise, trying to cover my summer commitments, try to keep an online presence (here, Twitter, FB, blogs) writing group commitments, hang out with friends, and read a book.

And then I wonder why I don't have any new words.

So, I started making sacrifices. I stopped working out and going to the gym. It's a small trade off seeing as it's SO BLASTED HUMID this summer. But when Sept rolls around, I will get back to morning runs and I know I'll have to actually TAKE a 60-min lunch break (as opposed to just rolling through it like I do now).

I have a book on my phone that I'm reading. It's not idea, but it's easy because it makes me feel like I'm "sneaking in" reading time.
I'm cutting WAY back on my internet time and TV time.
And I gave up weeding. I know that sounds silly, but it's true. I've given myself a "Hall Pass" to get out of weeding for the rest of the summer. Sorry, neighbors.

These little things are helping me stay sane so when the weekend rolls around, I can give 5-7 hours to writing and not feel overcome with guilt. Things will shake up and change in September, but for the month of August, this works.

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Re: When writing isn't your full-time job.

Post by LizV » August 3rd, 2012, 12:06 pm

trixie wrote:And I gave up weeding.
The year I finished my first novel, my lawn looked like a jungle. ;)

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Re: When writing isn't your full-time job.

Post by ladymarella » August 8th, 2012, 8:31 pm

I'm a full time uni student. Well I'm only in 3 days a week, but I'm studying history, so readings and assessment takes up a lot of time. I have a 2-3 hour round commute a day; which can be good for writing, but I also do uni readings there, or catch up with friends. I also have a part time job and am heavily involved in church activities, both at uni and at home.
So how do I fit my writing in?????
A few weeks ago I set myself a deal that my first draft would be finished before the start of this semester: it didn't happen, seeming as i was on a conference last week of holidays, but I did type of 17,000 words in about ten days.
Usually I try and do some on the train; I always take it to uni with me.
I also try and cram some in at night or in the mornings; I need to get back in my old habit of waking up early to write.
I'm not getting as much drafting done as I'd like, but I'm doing lots of typing, so in the end hopefully it all evens out.
I just try and do it when are where I can.
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The world may be divided into people that read, people that write, people that think, and fox-hunters.'- William Shenstone,

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Re: When writing isn't your full-time job.

Post by CharleeVale » August 10th, 2012, 11:16 am

I'm a full-time Master's student, so I definitely feel your pain.

On top of classes, I work for the school as a recruitment officer (as my assistantship), I work in the office, and I have an internship with Entangled publishing. I honestly don't know how I fit in time to write sometimes, and I won't lie to you, sometimes other things suffer when I do take the time.


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