If you’ve been seeing tumbleweeds and gusts of wind blowing across the website over the last couple of years, you might have guessed I’ve been a bit busy in my “real life”. Since beginning my publishing endeavors in August of 2012, my life has changed almost entirely. I went through several family tragedies all in a row and experienced a devastating personal loss just last summer. All of that PLUS the fact that my day job has really picked up means I have less time for writing.
I think many of you may be in the same boat. How can you be a dedicated writer AND still maintain your busy family life and day-job-work schedule? I’m here to give you a few tried and true tips as well as some things that have not worked for me.
“Easy reading is damn hard writing.”
~ Nathaniel Hawthorne
I hope these tips will be of use to you, but if you’ve found something different that motivates you to keep up with writing and publishing please share with us!
HOW TO KEEP UP A WRITING PRACTICE WITH A DAY JOB:
// Study the craft. // Seriously. If you want to be more efficient with your writing, you need to get your nose into some writing craft books and find what does and what does not work for your particular style of writing. If you’ve formerly been a pantser, find out how to become a planner (at least a tiny planner) so that when you finally get some butt-in-chair time, you can make the most of it (since it will most likely be limited). One of the books that CHANGED MY LIFE was 2k to 10k by Rachel Aaron. I’m not kidding, that book illustrates beautifully how to plan out each part of your story (while still maintaining your creative freedom) and I saw some serious increases in my word-count at the end of my writing sessions. Get it. It will help you!!
// Set goals in terms of word-counts, not necessarily days. // Don’t kid yourself, you WILL have days when there is just too much day-job work and too little time for writing. You might work late and then still have to get food on your table and/or spend time with relatives. Some days, you just won’t be able to write. It’s a fact. Emergencies happen. Spontaneous things happen. Instead of putting that pressure on yourself to write every single day, give yourself a weekly word-count goal instead. That will work well for you while drafting. If you’re on the re-writing, editing, polishing phase of a novel-in-progress, set a weekly work time goal. This way, if you simply can’t get to writing on that Tuesday when your pipes burst in your house and you’re presenting to the board of directors about a do-or-die proposal…don’t sweat it. You can make it up later.
// If you’re draft isn’t fun and exciting to write, go back to the drawing board. // Since you’ve probably worked a long day by the time you sit down to write (or maybe you woke up at 4 am to get some butt-in-chair time before work), don’t write something that is boring to you. Write stories that excite you and make you thirst for more. You want your readers to love the story…you should love it, too. I’m certainly more motivated to make time to write a story with characters and a plot I’m thrilled about.
// Read books that make you want to write. // For me, this happens to be terrific fantasy fiction. There are some seriously amazing authors out there who continually inspire me to keep my head in the game and keep working hard at this whole writing thing. Juliet Marillier, Lindsay Buroker, C.S. Lewis, Diana Wynn Jones…the list is endless, really. When I’m feeling down about my writing, I pull out a great book and by the end of it, my zeal for my own characters and stories has blossomed again.
THINGS THAT DON’T WORK WELL FOR WRITERS WITH DAY JOBS:
// Unhealthy comparisons. // I think it is wise and can be helpful to compare your craft with someone else’s. HOWEVER, you should not be doing so as a means of berating and beating yourself up. It’s easy to look at someone’s work and say, “Oh, poor me, I’ll never be as good a writer as ________…” but is that really helpful? NO! What would be better is to look at what that writer does well and figure out why. Why do you want to keep turning the pages of that novel? Perhaps that writer uses a great hook technique or has a fast-moving plot. Use comparison in a healthy way and let it inspire you to develop your own craft. Don’t compare yourself to others just to fuel your own insecurity.
// Setting unrealistic goals. // If you have a busy day job, it is probably naive to think you’ll publish five books this year (unless you are insanely prolific and efficient–which, if you are, ‘GRATS). Instead of putting unrealistic expectations on yourself, work hard at being intentional with your goals and take into account all that you have going on. Use your calendar and schedule to help you set realistic and achievable writing and publishing goals.
// Writing in isolation. // You’ve got enough to do with a busy day job and social/family life. Don’t write in a vacuum. Send your drafts out to beta readers and a real editor so that you can get some honest, valuable feedback on your work. Use their notes to help you efficiently make your novel the best it can be. Using time wisely means managing your revisions, re-writes, and edits in an skillful manner. Invite people you trust to help you. It takes a village, folks.
I hope this post was helpful to you. I realize, of course, that every writer is different and what works for one person may not work for another. Share your own writing tips for those of us who have day jobs!
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