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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Writing and Staying the Course When You’re Working a Full-time Job

It can be very difficult to keep yourself motivated to write when your days are busy and all that’s left to you are a few hours of free time either at the beginning or the end of the day. I know this for a fact.

Earlier this year I was fortunate to have my days to myself and my writing flourished as a result of it. Now I’m back doing a full-time contract which takes up nearly 12 hours of my day and I have little time left for myself in which to write. No problem you say, it only takes a couple of hours a day. And you’re right. It’s just that after working a full day I’m not in the right frame of mind to sit and write for another couple of hours. Writing has become another thing on my list of non-work chores to do. And that’s a sad thing.

So I was wondering, what do you all do out there, those of you that write while keeping a full-time job, to keep yourself motivated to write? I have my schedule and am trying to stick to it, but I am afraid I am still falling behind a little on that. Most of my free time is at weekends but there’s so much I want to do at weekends!

Oh well, I guess I’ll just have to suck it up and do the best I can. And who said being an author was easy?


  1. Carlie M A CullenJuly 13, 2011 at 12:11 PM

    I can definitely empathise! I not only have a full time job, I'm also a pro dance teacher and teach Saturday mornings, Monday & Tuesday evenings and have occasional competitions to attend on Sundays.

    I relish the time I can spend writing and yes there are times when I'm tired or I have household chores to do, but I try not to set myself unachievable goals with my writing. Even if I only manage to write one single paragraph on any given night, that is an achievement. If I manage to write 1,000 words, I'm really happy.

    I've found amazing support from my friends on Writers Guild & my wonderful daughter encourages me all the way. That's a huge motivation right there!

    I think trying to stick too rigidly to a schedule is counterproductive and can actually demotivate you. It's bound to stress you out if you fail to stick to your regime and your writing will suffer as a result.
    So be kind to yourself, allow yourself some down time if you need it, allow your schedule to slip. Better still, do away with your schedule for a couple of weeks and just chill a bit. If you don't feel under pressure to write, it will be more enjoyable, it will flow and be more natural and you will achieve much more in the long run.

    I wish you luck and hope this has helped!

  2. I find that the best thing is habit. It's like brushing your teeth. Even one page a day will write a book a year. That's not bad, and it keeps the insanity at bay.

  3. I'm fortunate to have summers off from my job (I'm a teacher), so I have three months to write like mad. But it is important, as the other commenters have said, to keep a writing habit going while you're working. Also, not to be too hard on yourself. You have to be realistic about what you can accomplish, and also flexible as your energy level changes depending on what's happening at work. Good luck!

  4. I've learned after several years as a working journalist where the only constant in my schedule is unpredictability that my key to continuing to write is knowing that some days I won't. For example, Tuesday is Election Day, which means I'll be at work from 0700 to 2200. I might get a decent-sized break in the middle if the day stays quiet, but I can't count on it. So I have no writing goal for Tuesday. :)

    My other key is to write before work. I get up an hour earlier than I need to and usually write for most of that hour so I can get my words done first thing. It's tough, especially because it means going to bed at 2130, but it's often the difference between writing and not, so for me it's worth it.

  5. My horrible job for a crappy employer in a terrible economy is all the motivation I need to keep writing. It actually helps to do things to free my mind from the prison of that job. Reading email on the phone, looking at lessons and works of fiction on my Sony Reader, plotting and planning. All help to get through the days. Then I have time for writing in the evenings.

  6. I don't hold myself to a schedule (except during #nanowrimo). I also find that getting up early is easier than using my post-work brain.

    It helps to think of your story throughout the day, like when you're walking to your car or eating lunch. Run through scenes in your head while waiting in line at the grocery store. Something might occur to you that gets you exciting to write, even at night!

  7. I agree with the commenter who suggested writing in the early morning, before work. Even if I'm a little slow to get going, this is a great way to find the time. At the other end of the day, my brain is usually too ready for unconsciousness...

  8. Paul: Would you be interested in helping raw talent that pops up ever so often at our site: We get questions all the time on there about to publish, edit, etc. and you seem like a great person to help these souls a little. We are happy to point them to your resources as well. Thanks.

  9. Ram - would love to... Let me know what you want!

  10. That will always be a helpful blog Paul. Been following your blog and somehow those write ups have given me enough motivation to go on with what I have started though really it's very hard to juggle corporate life, family, friends and writing but the latter has liberated me the most.
    Work will always be work and it will really bridge me through our everyday life but writing is all I really wanted, maybe eversince. I was derailed for awhile and face an unknown of what I really wanted to do then everything was put into its proper place.
    Not easy to write fiction though, I'm stuck with my plot and my characters and I was stayed crossed on the spot. Nailed to chapter 7 actually but I'm moving forward gradually, dragging.
    But again, writers like you who selflessly share whatever knowledge you have acquired and innate are very very huge help to aspiring ones like me.
    I'll try to be a morning writer, I believe ideas are fresher and overflowing.
    Keep up and God bless with all your endeavors.

  11. Write early
    take a break at work and write
    write in bits
    keep a goal, make a spreadsheet. Make yourself at least enter in zero every day so you can stare at your lack of progress and promise yourself to do better the next day.

    Make your goal manageable --3 pages a day of writing, 4 a day to read through and notate, 750 words are some examples of mine. It's awesome if you go over but if you don't have time for much, a little is better than none.

    I have been working like a dog for two years but I have a stack of journals past my knee

    This has been on my mind lately, I will probably do a blog post about it next week

    Make sure you are prioritizing your writing time on the right projects while still leaving room for new ideas. maybe you need an intern to tweet for you etc, stagger your blogposts a bit longer in between

  12. Thanks for the comment, Wren. Thankfully I have now found my balance, although of course there are still not enough hours in a day. Take a look at some of my later posts!

  13. When did you sneak into my home office to get that picture of my desk?!
    Have you been peeking?! Haha! @EvangelinaJo

  14. I have so enjoyed reading all these comments. I am obviously not alone. There is no easy answer. We just have to write. Right?

  15. I've written during my commute. Now I go to a cafe for an hour after work to chip away at my writing projects and try to spend more time on the weekend.
    If I don't find time to write, the writing invades the rest of my day cropping up with story ideas or insight into my novel. Writing helps me feel even. When I was working at a theater in NYC as a stage manager (during my 20s) I would write on my electric smith corona typewriter in the green room from midnight to two am. Those were fun days and I got a mid-length play out of it. @lanceliot

  16. Totally feeling this right now. Thanks for the post, and thanks to everyone for the suggestions. Now if only the renovation sites (I'm in architecture) would stop having site meetings at night, taking away from my writing time!

  17. Man, can I relate to this post. I work full time, have a wife that works afternoons which makes me responsible for feeding myself and the kids. By the time dinner and chores are done and the tikes are asleep I'm so tired all I want to do is nap on the couch.
    My process usually involves stealing minutes. I'll write on my lunch break or in between chores at home. Saturday mornings I like to get up before anyone else and take my coffee outside to the backyard and write longhand for an hour. It usually quiet, solitary, and when I usually have the most energy.

  18. Take a note from Author Jack Canfield, "If it aint fun, don't do it." This is how he and his family live their lives and I'm sure trying it too.

    If writing is becoming a chore, don't do it. Write because it's fun. You always have energy for those things you like to do and things that are fun. Recall all the times you couldn't wait to get home or couldn't wait to finish dinner because you had to write something down. Because it was exciting and fun to get your vision/inspiration on paper.
    Don't look at your writing as a JOB. Look at it as something you look forward to doing and you'd be amazed at how you find the energy and time to do what you love.

  19. I somehow manage to write even though I have a full-time job, a 2 year old, and my wife works too. Needless to say I have a very full happy life :)

    If you love something enough you will still manage to find time to do it!

  20. Well, Paul, much sage counsel above! Writing early in the day, not setting yourself targets, going somewhere to write for a change of scene, etc. Ultimately, though, if you really want to write, you find the time. Maybe not as much time as full-time writers can, but you still find it. I juggle a demanding job with being a single dad, but I still squeeze in time to write because it's my passion. Looking at that impressive list of works you've finished, I should say that you manage to do so as well!

  21. I have a full-time job that keeps me on the road most days and am a husband and father of six, so I completely understand the value of free time. I agree with a number of the posts above, specifically those that advocate an early morning start.

    Motivation, like inspiration, comes to me in different forms and at different times, but typically comes down to a love of language, to the power of words to incite passion and change, or just a different point of view.

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