While most writers would probably love to be able to focus solely on their creative pursuits, the reality is that no one’s paying you to spend three years writing your novel. Very few can keep the lights on by their pens alone, especially when first starting out. For most, a full-time job is a must.
Just because you have to spend eight hours a day at your full-time job doesn’t mean you have to give up on your writing dreams. Although it takes a fair bit of discipline and patience, it’s entirely possible to balance work and writing.
In this post, I’ll share six tips that have helped me maintain a regular writing practice while also working a full-time job. Let’s get down to business.
Writing With a Full-Time Job (5 Tips for Making It Work)
Every writer is different, which means the practices that work best for me or others may not be the ones that help you stick with it even when you’re shouldering the responsibilities of your day job. That said, the tips below are tried and true. If nothing else, you may want to at least test them out.
1. Create a Routine (And Stick to It)
Day job or no, writing doesn’t happen unless you make time for it to happen. Establishing a routine and making writing a permanent fixture in it is one of the surest ways to get words on the page when you’re not working.
I’ve written about creating a writing routine in the past. You can check out that post for advice on when and how often to write. The short and sweet version is (1) figure out when you’re most productive and (2) protect that time and dedicate it to your craft.
Of course, how feasible those steps are will depend on the requirements of your day job. However, no matter what it is you do for a living, there’s some pocket of time available during your week that you can stake out as your writing time. It may be 7:00–9:00 am every Sunday, but it exists.
In my experience, the hardest part of making time for writing isn’t coming up with a routine, but sticking with it. That’s where Tip #2 can come into play.
2. Set Realistic Goals to Motivate Yourself
There is something to be said about writing for your own enjoyment. It can be immensely satisfying to put your thoughts down and release the stories you tell yourself in your head.
However, writing with a concrete end goal in mind will help push you through the early mornings, late nights, or rushed lunch breaks when you work on those stories. Chances are you don’t always feel like writing, especially after a long day on the job.
Setting some kind goal for yourself – whether that’s reaching a certain word count, submitting a piece to a favorite magazine, or publishing your novel – can provide motivation when you otherwise may have a hard time finding any.
When I don’t feel like sitting down to write, I imagine physically holding a book with my name on the cover in my hands. It seems like of silly, but that mental image has convinced me to get out of bed on many an early weekend morning.
3. Choose Your Day Job Mindfully
First off, let me acknowledge that this isn’t possible for everyone. Sometimes you can’t afford to be picky about your job. Or, you may be reading this post because you already have a day job, and finding a new one isn’t an option right now.
That’s okay! You can still build a successful writing practice using the other tips in this post.
However, if you are in a position where you can be mindful about the kinds of jobs you’re applying to, consider going after ones that will fit in well with your writing life. What that means will ultimately depend on you. However, there are generally two routes you can take:
- Choose a writing-related career so you’re always practicing your craft. To succeed as a writer, practice is a necessity. Pursuing a writing-related career so you can work on improving your skills all the time is one way you might improve your projects in your spare time. At this stage in my life, this is exactly what I’m doing.
- Spend your days doing something that’s not writing-related at all. On the opposite end of the spectrum, you may want to choose a day job that has nothing to with writing so you can save up your creativity for your current project. When I was in school for my M.F.A., I worked as a dog walker. It was really nice because it didn’t take up a lot of mental energy and I could forget about work when it was time to write.
Both options have their pros and cons. It really comes down to your personal work style and preferences.
4. Remember to Make Time for Self Care
When you’re already strapped for time between writing and your day job, it can be easy to breeze past opportunities for relaxation and even relationships. However, it’s important to remember that your life isn’t just bouncing between work and writing.
In fact, taking time to care for yourself can even improve your writing practice. For instance:
- Exercise can boost your creativity and your mood.
- Eating healthy could improve your creative thinking skills and concentration.
- Going on vacation and taking a break from your writing can refresh your mind and help you find solutions if you’re feeling stuck.
- Pursuing other hobbies that aren’t writing related can improve your cognitive abilities.
Plus, even if you’re an introvert or going for that reclusive writer persona, your relationships with other people are important. Go out with your friends, have a date night with your partner, call your parents, play with your kids – spend time with whoever matters most to you. You don’t want to look up from the keyboard one day and realize you’re alone.
5. Don’t Be Too Hard on Yourself
There are going to be days when you don’t meet your writing goals. That’s true whether you’re juggling other responsibilities or not.
If there are times when your day job is demanding more of you than usual and you don’t have the energy or the time to tackle your writing, don’t beat yourself up over it. Try again tomorrow.
Of course, you don’t want to make sacrificing your writing time a habit. But if every once in a while you have to adjust to accommodate your circumstances, that’s okay.
Don’t be ashamed of setting small goals, either. If you can only commit to 300 words a day, three days a week, don’t put yourself down for not doing more. You’re making the effort to do something, and that’s more than a lot of people.
Like I said at the beginning of this post – we’d all love to be full time writers, but we have to pay the bills. Take care of business, and your writing will be waiting for you when you’re ready to take it on again.
It’s pretty uncommon to be able to keep up with a full-time job and a regular writing practice without having to put in any extra effort to fit it all into 24-hour days. A bit of structure and planning can go a long way, however.
Until you finish the next great American novel and become a bestselling author, consider these tips for balancing your full-time job and your creative pursuits:
- Create a routine and stick to it.
- Set realistic goals to motivate yourself.
- Choose your day job mindfully (if you’re in a position to).
- Remember to make time for self care.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself.
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Featured Image Credit: Unsplash.