writing

When Writing Isn’t Enough: Finding Time to Write While Working

Roman Coins
Even ancient Romans needed money.

The idealized vision of a writer includes a person who can dedicate his or her entire life to the craft. Sitting at home or in a coffee shop spending days writing paints a pretty picture but is not realistic for most writers. James Patterson may be able to earn upwards of $80 million per year, but the income for most professional authors in the US is below the poverty line. $8000 may be a nice chunk of change, but it is hard to support a living, breathing person on that amount. That means that most writers have to have another day job that may or may not be related to writing. And that means that most writers have to find time to write while still working to keep a roof over their heads and food in their fridges.

Over the years, I’ve approached writing while working in several ways. There is no secret to it. No trick. I write morning, noon, or night.

Morning: I am one of those obnoxious morning people. Though I may not frolic and sing at 5:00 am – at least not most days – I am at my most productive immediately after I wake up. In the past, I’ve set my alarm 30-60 minutes earlier than I’ve needed to, have knuckled down, and have written. This system is great when you live alone and terrible when you live with someone who is easily woken by shifting pillows or creeping footsteps. These days I tend to leave the house by 6:30 am, and getting up too early has lost some of its appeal.

Noon: Writing during my lunch hour has its benefits and heartbreaks. Sometimes it is the only time in my day that I have a moment to write, but I also run the risk of being seen as antisocial if I don’t eat with my coworkers every once in a while. I also run the risk of melding with my office chair if I don’t take a walk around my office building at least once or twice a day. I’ve seen it happen to other, better staff. Be wary of the office chair.

Night: I suspect most people write at night. If my brain is still functional after 6:00 pm, I’ll sometimes write then too. The beauty of night writing is that all of my other commitments have been completed for the day. It is just me, my computer, and hopefully enough consciousness for a few paragraphs of writing. My brain doesn’t always cooperate, but as long as I don’t feel like I’m ignoring my significant other too much, I’ll often give night writing a go.

Ultimately writing while working means that people have to figure out what works with their schedule. Someone who works all week and takes night classes might only write on the weekend. Other people like me might write over their lunch hour or in the evenings. As long as the timing works for the individual, it doesn’t really matter when he or she writes.

If writing is important enough, people tend to make it happen even if they write at seemingly odd hours. If you have figured out another way to ease the tension between work and writing, I’d love to hear some of your secrets. I’m always looking for ways to be more efficient about the process.

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24 thoughts on “When Writing Isn’t Enough: Finding Time to Write While Working

  1. One of my ‘tricks’ is to set myself a word count. 1000 words a day is completely doable, even with a day job. I shoot for 2000 per day. That way, once I hit that goal, I at least feel that I’ve been productive. Anything over my goal is icing. Recently, I’ve also been getting words in by typing into a draft email on my phone. It’s not ideal, but it gets words written. The email autosaves every few seconds, and then I can cut and paste into my manuscript when I’m back at the keyboard. And I can do it anywhere, anytime. Find what works, and keep at it. And fist bumps to a fellow early bird!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Word counts are definitely a helpful tool. I have to admit I’m impressed that you can write using your phone. My fingers are far to clumsy for that. It does have the wonderful effect of allowing you to writ no matter where you are though!

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  2. I’ve tried some of these and also tend to prefer the morning time, using the silent hour between 7 and 8 when the other staff slowly tumbles in, to get some 1000 words down. Sometimes more, most often more. But setting the daily goal at a realistic level is crucial for motivation. I know I can do it in 20 minutes, and even if I can’t manage to get to it first thing in the morning, because I somehow get caught up in my e-mail maze, I know I can squeeze them in at lunch time. A last advantage of doing it first thing in the morning (and me being absolutely NOT a night owl, writing at night isn’t an option if I don’t want to wake up with the keyboard marked off on my face), is that it’s all done before your day even really starts. You don’t have to fret about it all day, thinking “Oh no, I still haven’t got to those 1000 words yet,” and it takes out a lot of stress of the process in itself, keeping only to good and fun part.

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  3. I’m a lunchtime writer. I don’t go in to work until 4pm so I like to go to a restaurant or casino buffet with a printout of the chapter I’m working on and a mechanical pencil. Knowing that hot, prepared food and endless glasses of iced tea surround me is comforting, plus I like the noise (except for screaming, crying kids). I can focus better away from home and away from a computer. I’m less inclined to edit when I write longhand.

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  4. Great post! I’m a night owl and a night writer, but I totally empathize with this post. When you work, it’s just plain hard to find any time to write. I’ve been trying lately to write whenever I can. I got a tiny little notebook that’s always with me to put thoughts in–although that’s still not writing.

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  5. This is great! When I was reading this, I found myself agreeing with so much of it, smiling, nodding my head. I LOVE it when I find someone who writes in the way you do. It’s conversational, it’s real.

    I consider myself to be more of an artist than a writer although I have written semi private blogs for years. But I draw more, I paint more and I photograph more. Writing, for me, is a bit like talking to myself on paper. It’s cathartic and cleansing and honest. I write as I think.

    I think you may do that too? In any case, I’m glad you liked one of my blogs. Thank you for doing that so that I could find you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you enjoy it! I’ve certainly noticed that my ‘blog voice’ is very distinct from my voice in other writing forms. I suspect that is true for a lot of people.

      I’m also excited to keep an eye on the things you create. Your photos are lovely, and it was interesting to see what you and Kindra came up with for that book cover.

      Like

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