For those of you whose full-time career is already writing, congratulations! Meanwhile, the rest of us wish we could be you. So the question is, how can juggle writing with a full-time career?
Many writers, especially at the beginning of their careers, don’t make enough (or sometimes any) money from their writing to pay the bills, gas up the car, or keep a family fed, even if that family is just the writer and a dog. Which means that although it would be lovely to write every second of every day and get out all the ideas knocking around inside, most of the week is already chained to a 9–5 job that keeps the fridge stocked. That’s a lot of time for a career and not so much time for writing, until at last the writer, who feels less and less like a “writer” every day, must ask, “When will I ever have time to write again?”
How do all these other writers do what they love without letting their careers suffer? Was there a guidebook handed out on this subject matter and one day you missed that class? The truth is that everyone juggles their careers and writing differently, and the best way to be a writer and maintain a full-time job is to sacrifice and schedule.
Oh, and if there were a guide, it would probably look something like this:
Don’t Write Every Day
Sacrifice begins with this hardest choice: the choice to not write every single day. You’re only human and if you’re writing with a full-time career, you’re going to need days where you rest your mind and body. Now, rest doesn’t necessarily mean napping; instead, it means doing anything you find relaxing—if this is going to the gym and lifting weights, then lift away! Relaxing gives you time to handle the writing and the career, and even if your relaxation time is an hour a day or one day a week, this will be enough to recharge your creativity for writing as well as your ambition for work.
Do Write at Least Every Other Day
Most people want one day set aside or three hours every day in order to get their writing done; however, this may just be impossible for you if you’re struggling to handle your career. Instead, you need to start segmenting the periods in which you write, maybe 30 minutes to an hour every other day starting out, and then see if you can increase your writing by adding in, say, Tuesdays. Whatever the schedule, it depends on you, because right now you must give the majority of your work time to your “day” job so you can eat and pay the bills. After you add in a bit of rest time to rejuvenate yourself, then you can figure out what extra room there is for the writing.
Make the Writing Count
Then, when you have that extra room scheduled, stick to your plan and make the moments at the computer count! Don’t waste time answering email or checking Facebook. Go immediately to your book file and start typing. Don’t worry about researching every tiny bit at this point, but do make notes in your manuscript where you might need to double-check facts. You can always do that on your phone when you’re stuck at the post office or waiting in line at the grocery store.
Set Relaxation Limits
It’s an oxymoron: you need time to relax so that you will want to write and work, but you also need time away from relaxation so that you can juggle writing and work. Relaxation, writing, and working; it takes three balls to juggle properly. The key to handling these three successfully is knowing your week’s relaxation limits, and even if that does segment your schedule into one relaxing Sunday a week, at least you have that time before going back to a job and back to the clacking of keys on the computer. Don’t forget, relaxation is suggested for successful juggling, but don’t fool yourself into thinking you need more than you do, or your career and your writing will suffer.
The best way to circulate these things is to find more productive ways to spend your relaxation time. Once again, for those writers who go to the gym for relaxation, one suggestion is to bring a book along and read it while you’re on the treadmill. An even easier way to do this is to exercise with an audiobook playing. If you don’t like to exercise and read, and instead you prefer to cook and socialize, throw a dinner party once a week and cook for your guests.
Make the most of your brief relaxation periods, and you’ll find that you can limit them and yet still get what you need out of them.
For a moment let’s take a break and do some math (yes, math, perhaps not most writer’s favorite subject). Take any given work week and total the amount of time you spend commuting to work and then back home. A lot of time is spent doing nothing of value while riding a train, bus, or driving a car. There is ample time here to take advantage of this time in little ways, even if its just adding in another period of relaxation.
For riders (trains, taxis, buses): Try using this time to write in a little notebook or on your laptop computer. Many trains have compartments with little tables–try and snag these if you can; otherwise, learn how to turn your lap into a table. If you’d rather relax, then do something relaxing which will later help your writing, such as researching details for your book on your phone, reading or listening to a book, lying back and meditating on your story, or even looking out the window and imagining the entire life of some passing stranger.
For drivers: Surprisingly, you can safely juggle writing while you’re driving, but not in a way you might think. Many writers prefer to sit back and dictate to a computer or recorder while they’re doing other things and later go back and transcribe the writing they did audibly. If you use a text-to-speech app when recording, you can speed things up by emailing the file to yourself and copying it into your book file. Generally, “writing” by audio requires more editing, but you definitely have more to work with than if you had recorded nothing. It is always easier to edit something that is already written, and often you’ll be surprised at the great things that come out of your mouth! If you don’t think this is your style, then take the productive relaxation route and listen to a book or a podcast.
Don’t Make Writing Your Job
When you’re writing with a full-time career, your career is a job. Writing is not your job. In fact, you started writing because you enjoy it, right? Start allowing yourself to enjoy writing again, and you’ll find that it’s a lot easier to write when you’re not giving yourself the extra stress and added deadlines. For a while, get rid of the “chore of writing” and instead allow the random writing that will become a tool to help you establish a habit.
Tie in Your Career
Last but not least, think about your career and think about your writing, and during the next week or two, try and find a way—even if it only exists in your head—to connect your career to your desire and ability to write. If you have a slow job, this could be as simple as thinking about your writing while at work, and then when you get home, you’ll be ready to sit down and write toward the ideas you had throughout the day. Or perhaps pretend your job is what you’re writing, and that the people in your office mimic the characters in a book you’ve been penning.
The point is, take a step back and allow your worlds to coexist; they do not have to be independent of each other. Whatever connections you build between writing and career, it will help you in the process of juggling both fields.