Writing and the Day Job

I have been a ‘full time’ author for nearly two years. I left my previous career behind for the benefit of my family and pursued the dream. I’m still loving the writing–far more than any of the marketing :)–but with college expenses for the oldest son, I’m jumping back into teaching.

And I’m nervous. Not about the teaching–that really is like getting back on a bicycle–but about keeping up with my writing and publishing goals. I have a plan, but reality always likes to spin things a little differently. Will I have time to write? When? Can I count on it? Will I get anything done?

Those of you who already manage to write on top of a full time job probably think I’m whining. And in some respects I guess I am. I will admit I’ve been spoiled, although the reason I stopped working in the first place was not solely to become an author. I quit working because my family needed a better balance. I’m also nervous about how going back to work will affect that balance overall. It’s been nice, but now we need money.

I have been comforted by some things I’ve learned through my fellow authors, especially the very successful ones.

1. Successful authors, even those I know who write regularly for Tor or Baen or any number of far-reaching publishers, still have day jobs. The advantage I see to this is that the regular interaction with other people who are real and not made up by my imagination should help fill the creative well.

2. Successful authors schedule retreats to burn through a story. I talked to Steve Diamond, author of Residue, about his time frame for completing his first novel. He wrote the first half during a four-day retreat and the second half the same way. His second book is already half written. Bravo.

3. Successful authors train their families. This is different than just having their support and respect for what you do. This is getting to a point where they understand to actually leave you alone while you’re working. I do think I have my family trained.

4. Successful authors are more productive in the time they set aside for writing. I’ve had all day to write, but I’ve spent most of that time in the other stages of the writing process. Drafting is more productive when I’ve spent enough time daydreaming. I can daydream while I’m at the grocery story, driving home, walking, attending my daughter’s dance recital. I’ve had two years to find my own groove, and it’s a very steady groove. I can knock out a thousand words every single day, but I’m not as good at the manic six-hour marathons some of my author friends use. I’m working to be productive in any situation.

5. Successful authors love to write. If I have a few minutes, I might spend them on marketing, but I’ll probably spend them on producing a new work. There’s always another story to tell.

What else do successful authors do? Especially when working around a family and a day job. Please share suggestions and experiences in the comments.

8 thoughts on “Writing and the Day Job

  1. I like #3 on training your family. My family is definitely not trained. I will literally move from room to room to have some quiet time to concentrate and write and they always seem to follow me lol Great post!

    1. It took me nearly a full two years. I did something like a retreat by going to a friend’s cabin for a few hours a day, but it’s easier now when I can grab my laptop for 30 minutes in between this and that for the day. Stick with that training!

  2. I found the day job is important. It allows you to meet new people, it’s a more conducive atmosphere for daydreaming, and often times you see or hear things you wouldn’t otherwise, which often lends to ideas. My weekends, I dedicate the morning to writing. I just tell myself I’ll get to X in my plan, and then I can relax. If I feel compelled that afternoon to write, then I add on words. I usually try for 4-8k a day for days off work. Good luck! Teaching is great for ideas 😉

  3. Work while they sleep. Outlines, word sprints, accountabuddies, I do non-writing tasks such as outlines during downtime at work. What gets me? Checking messages before I write. I always get sucked into the email and message hole.

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