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.