Elizabeth: Writing is not my Day Job

iStock_000021963294LargeWhile some of the Ladies here on the blog are fortunate enough to be able to write full time, writing is not my day job. I have a full-time day job that keeps me busy five days a week, fifty-two weeks a year (minus some vacation time here and there). I have a team to manage, high-visibility projects to keep on-track and deliver on-time, and a time-consuming commute, which only leaves nights and weekends free for all of the non-work things I want to do. Writing has to battle with the gym and the laundry and a host of other activities for the time, and it doesn’t always win out. Not surprisingly, the result is that progress on my WIP has been disappointingly slow. This has become even more frustrating as one by one, the other Ladies here are finishing their drafts.

That’s why this week, writing IS my day job. Thanksgiving week is typically slow at work so this seemed like the perfect time for me to use some of my saved up vacation hours so I could be a full-time writer for at least a few days. Day one of my writing week kicked off on Monday and, as my family can attest, I spent the majority of the day in my writing chair with my laptop and my manuscript close at hand. While I didn’t wind up with the thousands of new words that I was hoping would just start to flow of their own accord, I did add several hundred new words. More importantly, I got my head back in the story. Equally important is that last night, for the first time in ages, I fell asleep thinking about my story – the method that has always been extremely effective in helping me untangle story lines and figure out plot points.

Tuesday’s writing session had to wait until after lunch – due to a 30% off coupon and the need for an outfit for a holiday party – but when I sat down to write, the ideas I had thought of the night before helped get me past that “staring at the blank screen wondering what to write” phase and straight on to “words on the page.” As long as I can consistently get words on the page each day, I’ll be happy with the results of this week, though making major progress would, of course, be even better.

If this week works out the way I’m hoping it does, I may just have to make writing my day job on a regular basis. Fortunately I have a lot of vacation time saved up.

I may also have to give some serious thought to writing in the early mornings, rather than waiting until the end of the day when everything else is finished. I hope it doesn’t come to that though. I am really not a morning person.

So, when is your most effective writing time? Morning, evening, short bursts of time, long uninterrupted blocks?

Edited to add:  Just a few days in, but so far this week has already been extremely productive.  I think this idea is a keeper.

17 thoughts on “Elizabeth: Writing is not my Day Job

  1. I’ve had a tough time this week with being exhausted — even at 8:30 a.m. after my commute. It’s really hard to dip into story and keep all the big huge world in one’s head. But not too hard to research, so I’ve been proud of myself for staying “in story” this week even though I’ve written very little so far.

    I really should go for a nap, and see if that helps restore my writing function. But I found a photography manual from 1900 and I need to do a darkroom scene next . . . .

    (-: Decisions, decisions.

    • Somehow it seems easier to find time to research than time to write, though researching can often turn into a big time destroyer. Hard to decide between a nap and a darkroom scene – maybe you can fit in both.

  2. Hoping you find the magical formula that lets the words flow. I can’t wait for the day when I have an entire bookshelf dedicated to the works of the 8 Ladies!

    On a side note, I saw an article the other day that said people are biologically either “larks” (morniing people) or “owls” (evening people). And that they can find chemicals in people’s skin that accurately predicts which one. Since it sounds like your most productive time is later in the day, can you take half-days of vacation and write in the afternoons? (Ignore me if this is off-the-wall or useless.)

    Pulling for you!

  3. I am so with you Elizabeth. Full time job not writing. Plus, I am taking 2 courses towards my masters right now so writing (other than 2 20-page research papers) falls down on the list. Family obligations get in the way too, but we all have those interruptions. I pretty much gave myself a pass during this semester. I am hoping to write my final project, which is a full-length hero’s journey in the spring (hoping lots of words on the page in January). I’m so happy for you that you found/took time to write.

    • Michille, I’m amazed at all you are able to get done. I remember combining work, school, and family and can’t imagine adding a full-length hero’s journey into the mix. If you can do all that, I surely out to be able to figure out how to mix work and my WIP.

  4. I understand your frustration, Elizabeth. Glad you’re having a good week. Dreaming about your book is an excellent sign.

    I spent several years trying to balance writing and life with an enjoyable but time consuming job. Eventually I discovered I couldn’t, though I know plenty of people do somehow make it work. I thought Jeanne’s post a couple of weeks ago about changing around her schedule to carve out an hour’s writing at her most productive time of day was very inspiring. I’m amazed Michille has time to sleep.

    Jeanne’s suggestion above sounds good to me. If you’re not a morning person, then trying to block out writing time early in the day is not going to help you feel the joy. I’m the total opposite – give me ten minutes to make a pot of coffee, and then I need to get my butt in the chair and my hands on the keyboard before I do anything else. I’ve been working with a timer – one hour on, fifteen minutes to walk around or check emails, then another hour, and so on. That’s been working well. And writing every day helps. It’s still not easy, but it’s a hell of a lot easier.

    • Jilly – I’m always impressed with anyone who can get up in the morning and be productive. My creative brain is more like a slow cooker. Once you plug it in it takes a while to reach an effective cooking temperature. Glad your early mornings have been working for you and that you were able to make the change to full-time writing. That change is not on my horizon anytime soon as I’m rather expensive to maintain, what with my love of travel and fondness for books an shoes.

  5. Not writing every day when you want to can be terribly frustrating, but as Jenny would say, there are many roads to Oz. The fact that you’re dreaming about the story means, I think, that it’s a good one. It’ll keep. You’ll get it finished.

    • Thanks for the optimism Kay. There are indeed many roads to Oz. I just can’t help wishing sometimes that my road was more direct 🙂 I’ll just have to keep focusing on the fact that every word I add gets me one word closer to “The End.”

  6. I hope that this writing week will not only get you farther along on your WIP, but also will allow you to recharge your batteries. High-stress/high-responsibility jobs sap your mental, physical, and even emotional energy. And the commute – yikes, the commute! I was lucky enough to go from a 1-hour to a 15-minute commute for the past few years. Now that I’m a consultant, I’m back to the occasional long commute, and I don’t know how full-time commuters do it :-(.

    I agree with Jilly – I am surprised that Michille, Elizabeth, and several of the 8LWs have time to sleep. So kudos to all of us for carving out the time and making the concerted effort to get our stories on the page :-)!

    • Nancy, yes, so far this week has definitely moved me further along. And you’re totally right about the battery recharging aspect. I did that back at the end of September when I went to Ireland, and it made a big difference when I got back to work (for a short time at least). I think incorporating standard breaks from the day job is definitely going to be part of my writing strategy going forward. Fortunately I have a lot of vacation time stored up. Now to figure out how to balance everything so neither the day job nor the writing suffer.

      • Not sure whether this would work for you, Elizabeth, but back when I had a ridiculously busy job I used to sit down with the work calendar in January and book out my whole year’s holidays (well, say 90% of them). Then I could space them out sensibly and I knew when they were coming up, so I took account of them when I was planning my work. After a while, my colleagues got used to it. If I hadn’t done that, there would never have been a good time and I’d have ended up with a huge stash of untaken vacation days.

        • That’s a great idea Jill. I didn’t do that in the past, which is why I have so much leave saved up now that I have to take it or lose it. I”m going to book out the rest of the year when I get back to work on Monday and then tackle 2015 after that. I feel more relaxed already 🙂

  7. Pingback: Elizabeth: Celebrating 2014 | Eight Ladies Writing

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