1. gina
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    gina Member

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    Balancing day time job with writing

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by gina, Aug 31, 2015.

    I'm a right brained person working in a left brained field. I'd love to just get paid for writing fiction the whole day but then reality sets in. My job takes away from my creativity and I dread Monday mornings. How do you balance having a daytime job and writing a novel? It seems like my creative energy is drained by the time I get home. My commute is an hour and a half each way on the train, so I was thinking to get some work done that way.
     
  2. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I try to write in the mornings, before work. Can't always do it, but that's the goal. I saw an interview with Octavia Butler, and she talked about her routine as she was writing her first novel. She'd get up at 2:00 AM, write until time to go to work, then work, come home, and get to bed in time to get up at 2:00 AM and write again. I'd never be able to follow in her footsteps on this, but I did start getting up an hour earlier to get some writing done and it has worked out fairly well.

    If you're on a train for three hours a day, that's probably the best place to find some writing time, assuming the conditions of the ride make writing possible.
     
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  3. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    I work school hours so I kind of have the benefit of having the school holidays at home. However, with two kids at home, hubby and a cat, that doesn't mean I get thirteen weeks a year of solid writing in.

    I think you have to work out your own routine. My evenings, once the rabble are fed/watered and sorted and I've done any housework I need, are largely devoted to writing but it always surprises me how much I get done on Friday and Saturday nights when I don't go to bed until my eyes are closing.

    Your commute seems the ideal place/time to write. If you can't take a laptop to write, how about a pad and pen? Even if you can't actually write, you could spend the time jotting notes, making reminders of what you need to research, outline your characters, ask yourself questions, work out a timeline or even draw pictures and diagrams of places and property in your story.

    Good Luck x
     
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  4. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I always have my notepad and fountain pen. It's great to be able to write down a few notes, or even work on a story, any time I like.
     
  5. GuardianWynn
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    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

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    For me. I found that when pause and think. There is always a moment that you have. Maybe it is playing videogames. Maybe reading a book. Maybe watching TV.

    Writing with a time crunch I think really comes down to saying. "Instead of watching TV today. I want to write."

    Progress might be slow but the brilliant thing is when you start getting regular progress down. Before you know it. You will have a book sitting in front of you. For me? I was like. "Wait I blinked! When did this happen!"

    Also if the train commute is long that might be neat. I know some people that get on a train, and ride the full circle and write. I personally find paying someone money to sit in a train and write a little foolish but I suppose I can't much fault other peoples quirks. If you can't write that way. I suggest a pen/paper and take some notes. Notes might help those few hours you have be a lot more effective. :)

    Oh also. I have a tablet and a wireless keyboard. Practically isn't a place in the world I can't use it and it is always on me. Not sure if you have one/can afford one but food for thought. On the cheap side of things I think the cost can be as low as a hundred dollars or near it.
     
  6. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    On my commute (I drive, so can't actually write) I think about my story. I play out scenes in my head, or I go over problems I'm having with my writing and usually come to a solution. Without the internet to distract me, I get a lot of good thinking done in the car.

    I write non-fiction for a living and I find the lack of creative wiggle room makes me all the more eager to work on my novel when I get home, even though I'm tired. I don't believe in left and right brained people but I think every writer wants to express their creativity, their way. I'm not sure how you can do that if you feel your creativity is being used up in the day... can you think about your story while you work, or at a few times during the day (lunch etc), working out scenes so when you get home you're itching to get them on paper?
     
  7. FrankieWuh
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    FrankieWuh Active Member

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    Hi Gina

    You're not alone. It's been this way for writers since, well, forever. Frank McCourt, TS Elliot and Lewis Carroll, amongst others, still worked as a teachers and editors while writing their respective books (in fact many published writers are teachers so that might tell us something).

    I also write part-time alongside a day-job and have done since I was first employed by my current employer 18 years ago. Before I went part-time I was working as a data and policy analyst; not particularly taxing, and I wrote lunchtimes and evenings. Publishing my first book eventually allowed me to drop two days a week to dedicate my writing time, but I still write during my lunch-breaks even now to get stuff done, such as publicity work, even responding to questions on this forum.

    It's not ideal. Twice in my life my doctor has wanted to sign me off with stress. On occasions I've been doing too much, and since reaching 40 I've had to reconsider that lifestyle of working all hours and balancing family life (with two very demanding young children!).

    For me, actually, it's been harder to adapt my writing time around family. I was lucky enough to begin life as a published author before we had kids. I was unlucky that we had kids so early in that publishing life that it scuppered a great many things, ultimately a publishing contract (how are you meant to write anything of quality with just four hours of sleep a night for 18 months?).

    It's been easier since the kids have grown out of restless nights and early morning feeds, but I've had to rebuild my publishing career.
    It will get better when our youngest starts school next year. But my ability to keep a clear writing-mind also depends on my employer too who has grown increasingly inept after so many changes of management; it's not the same business I entered into 18 years ago.
    Really, you need a lifestyle where you are not exhausted - not an easy thing to achieve these days.

    In your situation I could suggest setting aside Sunday mornings. It gives you Saturdays to get the week out of your system, and getting up at say 6am for four hours of writing or so still gives you the rest of the day to do other stuff.

    Ring-fence your writing time - it's sometimes the only way to get the writing done when demands are being placed on your time, and your stamina.
     
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  8. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Using your commute time to write sounds productive, go for it :)

    Well, I have no job but I have a tiny baby, so that's pretty much 24-7. I just try to squeeze in 30-60min of writing a day. On a rare good day I might manage more. It's pretty much at a half-a-scene-per-day pace, but it's still getting done. I find when you have big commitments, you have to lower your expectation of how much writing you can get done. For me, it is no longer realistic to expect anything more than a couple hundred words at a time, even though in the past anything fewer than 1000 I'd consider as a "bad" day. Now I'm whooping when I get 500 words.

    And that's okay. For me at least, the baby's my priority. Sure writing's important, but not half as much as my baby girl. So long as I'm getting some writing done, I'm happy :)

    So in your case, I'd say set yourself realistic expectations considering your other commitments, and be happy with any writing you manage :) even 50 words is 50 words of progress.
     
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  9. HelloSweetie
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    HelloSweetie Member

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    I struggle a lot with this nowadays too. I have a pretty emotionally demanding job in a law office dealing largely with family matters - divorce, custody disputes, seizure of kids by child services, deadbeat parents not paying for their children, kids caught between mom and dad because mom and dad aren't capable of being adults anymore, etc etc - and when I get home, the energy to put pen to paper (or fingers to keys, or whatever) just isn't there.

    I have found that if I have a set "I am writing and even if it's absolute shit it's still something" time, I am able to produce some - 100-500 words sometimes, although sometimes the Muse is kinder and gives me a thousand. It isn't worth having most of the time, but one word is better than no words.
     
  10. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    When I was still working (at a job that started at 8.30am most days) I used to get up at 4am to get a couple of writing hours in. Of course that meant going to bed between 8 and 9pm, so I'd get a full night's sleep. (Fortunately I don't have children, so there weren't any demands on my time in that direction. My husband was very understanding about my weird hours.)

    The advantage to that kind of schedule was twofold:

    1) NOBODY phones you at that hour. People don't come to your door. Or if they do, it's an emergency. Nobody else is up, so there are no interruptions.

    2) After you've had a good night's sleep, your brain is full of energy and ideas for writing.

    Because this early morning start happened no matter what, I was able to count on this writing time. Sometimes I got even more of it, such as weekends or when I did a different shift that began later in the morning or early afternoon. But I always got at least 2-3 hours in every day. This was not a chore at all. I really looked forward to it.

    The only downside was the early bed-time, which interfered with my social life to some extent. However, once in a while I just did what was socially demanded of me. It didn't kill me, but I sure resented the time away from my writing!

    Now that I'm retired, my schedule is my own to keep. Now I still get up early, but do writing at other times of the day as well.
     
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  11. tanger32au
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    tanger32au Member

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    I spend a lot of time "thinking" so the limited time I get in front of the computer is used to the maximum :)
     
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  12. No-Name Slob
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    No-Name Slob Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    It's really difficult. I work full time, and I have two kids and a husband. Any spare moment I have (rare) goes to making notes, writing and inspiration. I'm also currently seeking a freelance writing gig so I can write full time and quit my job. I'm with you ... I just want to write all day.

    But since I can't right now, I set realistic goals for myself, and I'm happy with what I get done.
     
  13. ManOrAstroMan
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    ManOrAstroMan Magical Space Detective Contributor

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    I work full time in retail, six days a week, which leaves me physically and emotionally drained at the end of the day. I probably get as much writing done on my breaks, either with a pen and composition notebook or my phone's notepad app, as i do at home.
     
  14. DeadMoon
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    DeadMoon Contributing Member Contributor

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    By the time I am done with my creatively killing job, help take care of my boy and manage to shovel food down my mouth I have, at best, two hours a night to write. Sadly by that time I am so tired I can barley manage much more then a few notes... Blah
     
  15. pyroglyphian
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    pyroglyphian Member

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    Gina, I sympathise.

    It can be difficult to find inspiration after 8 hours in an office. I've taken to doing as much as possible whilst at work - scene outlines, dialogue ideas, research etc. - jotting down things during the day which act as creative catalysts later when I finally get time to write in the evening.
     
  16. Foxe
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    Foxe Active Member

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    I work as a copywriter. My creativity is exhausted by the time I'm done my day.

    What I've noticed is that concentration and the push to write happens at a slower rate than when I would have more free time and fewer activities that used the same well. There's no way around it.

    I think it's also important to take breaks from work whenever possible and stimulate the brain with trips, adventures, out of the ordinary experiences.
     
  17. KhalieLa
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    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

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    I thought about creating a new thread, but seeing as this one already existed . . .
    **************************************
    Like most people I have bills to pay. Writing, as of yet, has not managed to bring in enough income to support my lavish life style of 2.4 kids, house with a picket fence, and a dog. That means I get up every morning and go to my “real” job.

    Right now I’m feeling a bit blue because work is interfering with my writing. I teach a class at a community college first thing in the morning. I work for the Census Bureau on nights and weekends and I also write for a magazine. At night I work on my novel. (My 1st book is complete-ish; in the process of editing & getting feedback from beta’s. I’m 32K words into the 2nd.)

    Anymore all I want to do is put my butt in a chair and write. The problem is that I have hardly any time. I can cut the magazine work, it doesn’t pay much anyway, but without it I’m not a “writer” because I’d no longer be paid to write. If I cut out either of the other jobs, I lose a significant portion of my income.

    How does everyone balance the compulsion to write with the necessity of paying bills? How do you know when it's time to let one of the jobs go and focus on your creative endeavors?
     
  18. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    If quitting the magazine would affect your / your family's quality of life, I don't think it's a sacrifice worth making.
    If it wouldn't make a difference, but you're clinging on because you think that makes you a "real" writer, quit! It's not going to get you any additional respect, and you can still mention in a query that you wrote professionally for x years.

    I know that employment rights are different in the US but I use up a couple of weeks of annual leave for writing. I keep 4 weeks for real holidays and use 2 weeks to sit and home and write all day. Is that an option?
     
  19. KhalieLa
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    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

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    Very different.
    The community college offers no paid time off because I'm just an adjunct. I guess they figure the summer is when you are supposed to do research and writing. So far that's been the case.

    The Census Bureau offers 40 hours of paid time off annually, but there are rules for when you can take that time. (Example: never the week of the 19th, never the first seven days of the month, etc.) And now because of budget issues we've been told that no personal leave will be approved until further notice. If they are paying us, they want us working.

    The magazine would not affect family or income. Right now all that money goes into savings anyway. (And it isn't much.) It's just sometimes I get a wild hair and think, someone should write a story on that! So, I do. There is no paid time off because they just pay for the articles I complete. I do all my own photographs, research, etc, so I figure it works out to being paid about $2/hour. This would be the thing to give up, BUT it's the work I most enjoy.
     
  20. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Well if that's the only thing that can give, you need to decide if you enjoy it more than writing your novel. You can't create more hours in the day, unfortunately, so all you can do is set your priorities.
     
  21. BookLover
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    BookLover Contributing Member

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    So everyone in the UK gets six freakin' weeks off? That's not even fair. lol.

    Since I just finished the first year at my new job, I was only allowed one week of vacation. It's in January. I work constantly and for the next few weeks up until Christmas I won't even get two day weekends. I'll be working six days a week. I have no idea how to get any writing done.
     
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  22. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    5.6 weeks is the minimum, though if you work part time it's pro rata'ed. So somebody working one day a week gets 5.6 days off. Because I'm fairly senior I get 29 days + 8 bank holidays + 1 week at Christmas.

    But other countries in Europe have higher entitlements.
     
  23. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I did the Octavia Butler thing when I was working (I'm retired now, yay!). Well, I got up at 4am instead of 2am, but it was the same idea. Sometimes I had to be at work at 8am, sometimes later, depending on my shift. Getting up at 4 meant I got between 2 and 3 hours of writing in (at least) before I had to get ready and leave for work (a 20-minute walk from the house). What was significant was that my brain was always fresh at that time in the morning, plus NOBODY pestered me! No phone calls, nobody yapping at me. Just me. Of course it did mean I needed to get to bed around 8pm every night, but I was motivated, so that worked well.
     
  24. KhalieLa
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    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

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    You're not alone. According to this ( http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/05/americans-vacation-days-2014_n_6419100.html ) 42% of American's didn't take a single vacation day in 2014.
     
  25. uncephalized
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    uncephalized Active Member

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    A lot of Europeans are flabbergasted to learn that there is no legal minimum for paid days off here. Part-time workers especially are typically shafted coming and going since it is usual for part-time workers not to be offered any health or retirement benefits as well as no vacation. Even for full-time salary workers it's common to start out at a company with only 8-10 paid days off per year (and sometimes you don't even start banking days off until you've cleared a 3-6 month 'probation' period, yet another way along with widespread pre-employment drug screening that we've started habitually treating everybody as a suspected wrongdoer by default); you might be able to your way up to a month off if you stay with the company for a long time and/or are an excellent negotiator.

    Plus the new standard is a particularly insidious practice called 'paid time off' or PTO in which your sick days and your vacation come out of the same pool of accrued time. So if you're a new employee who happened to catch a bad flu this winter, too bad for you--you used up your 5.2 days of PTO and you won't have accrued enough for a meaningful vacation until mid-2018. Except you'll likely be sick more often in coming years, since you never get a vacation and your immune system will be shot to hell from stress and overwork. So, in essence, you will never have a paid vacation again, and you'll probably die of heart failure or diabetes before you reach retirement age. For which you won't have earned a pension anyway.

    Enjoy your new job!

    If you can't tell, I'm not a fan of the employment status quo here in the US of A. :/
     

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