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Writing with a Full-Time Job
“How do you write with a full-time job?”
It’s the number one question I get because it’s hard to imagine that there are enough hours in the day to hold down a job and be a writer. It can be done, but it requires organization and self-discipline. Here’s how I’ve incorporated writing into a full-time life:
Prioritize. When you work, you have to arrange your personal schedule to incorporate writing into your life. Nights, weekends, and days off are the obvious times, but you have to juggle home and family responsibilities with these spaces, too. The key is to have specific times that are just for writing unless there’s an emergency. For me, it’s usually an hour two to three nights a week after dinner, Saturday mornings, and Sunday after church. Sometimes I take my laptop to work so I can write during my lunch hour. You have to make writing a part of your life, and take advantage of any opportunity to do it.
Get Comfortable with a Slower Pace. You’ll have to accept that completing a piece will take longer than you like, but as I once read: the time will pass whether you do something with it or not, so you may as well invest in steps toward your goal. If it takes two years to publish a book, then remember that the two years will pass whether you write or not. Just write, and eventually, the story in you flows into a finished piece. I wish I could publish multiple books every year, but I have to be happy with publishing one or two a year because that’s all I have time to do. Check my Amazon profile, and you can see that it’s added up to an expansive shelf over the years. Remember that all progress counts, no matter how long it takes. Slow progress is better than none, and the difference is that you meet a goal instead of watching time go by.
Find ways to deal with distractions. It’s part of “prioritizing” to learn how to utilize or shut out distractions when you’re in a “writing zone.” Whether it’s personal distress like health, family, friend, or work problem, or outside distractions like a neighbor doing noisy renovations, you have to learn when to make the environment part of the writing process, and when to shut it out. When life is in chaos, it’s usually a relief to work it out through writing. Sometimes it can be an escape from the pointless distractions of everyday life, and sometimes you have to learn the self-discipline to shut it out, like doing research instead of watching television or scrolling social media. I’d rarely put my fingers on a keyboard if I required perfect contentment and silence to write. In fact, I’ve learned how to harness the power of these distractions to bring them into the creative process sometimes, which leads to my next point.
Let reality feed the fiction. It’s no secret that writers find inspiration everywhere, and jobs are fertile ground for plot ideas. The people, things, and circumstances of everyday life are helpful in creating situations, characters, settings, themes, plots, and conflicts that resonate with readers. Being a writer with a full-time job helps me to connect with my readers because I know the reality they’re trying to escape when they open a book. I am contentious enough to “fictionalize” things and to mix, match, and alter details so they don’t reflect on any person or place, except for an innocent frame of reference for common things. Examples are physical locations, general settings, the exhaustion of meetings, emergencies that disrupt your planned schedule, coworkers retiring, overheard conversations, silly and unexpected interactions, things I see on my lunchtime walk around the office park, food trucks, and vending machine shenanigans. The “what if” questions that create every story spring up as easily at the workplace as everywhere else.
Understand being misunderstood. It’s no secret that most of the world sees writers as strange people. I see the anxious looks on my coworkers' faces when I bring in the laptop to work during my lunch break because they don’t know how to handle me when I’m living between two worlds. Ignore it and, as the saying goes, “you do you.” The people in your personal and professional life will learn that writing is part of who you are, and will accept it faster if you’re authentic and don’t show any shame or fear of their judgment. Acceptance starts within. If you accept yourself as a writer, then others will as well. In fact, don’t be surprised if you become the office proofreader.
Writing is part of who I am, so I can’t imagine not doing it. You find a way to do the things you love. Writing with a full-time job isn’t easy, but you can do it with some organization, time management, and simple changes in how you think and respond to the world. They’re skills you already use daily at the office. Why not reap the rewards of them in your personal life, too?
Written by Readers’ Favorite Reviewer Sherri Fulmer Moorer