Odds are you’re not a full-time writer. Few are.
That means you’re writing during pockets of your precious free time, either very early in the morning or at the end of the day.
And what else competes for those blocks of time?
- The kids
- Your significant other
- Your need to rest
You wonder, Where does anyone with my schedule possibly find the time to write?
I Hate to Break This to You…
…But you won’t find the time. You’ll have to make it.
You must chisel it out of your already packed schedule.
You may think, I’ve already tried. It’s no use. I’m way busier than you can even imagine.
I get it. Really, I do.
I’ve suffered the exhaustion that comes from holding down a full-time job and writing nights and weekends.
But let this inspire you: Of my 192 published books so far, I wrote the first 90 before quitting my full-time job.
Following these 5 critical rules made all the difference:
How to Balance Writing With Your Day Job
1. Establish rigid writing hours.
Tell the people in your life that your writing time is set in stone. And yes, it is important.
Prove this is not flexible time when you could help someone move, make a carpool run, or just hang with a friend.
Sorry, but how bad do you want this? Some things will have to go.
The people in your orbit won’t take your avocation seriously until you do. Set expectations for them and for you.
It’ll also serve as accountability. When you announce you’re committed to something, you’d better do it.
Block this time off in advance, and show up on time every time. Consistency creates habit. And habit propels you to produce.
2. Be prepared to stand firm.
Despite your best intentions and even clear announcements, some will try to lay a guilt trip on you. “C’mon, help a friend out!”
Have an answer ready, especially for the one who begins, “Hey—you’re not working…”
“Yes, I am, so, no, I can’t. Sorry.”
Does your job follow you home? Tell your colleagues when you’re available and when you’re not.
3. Work before you play, but play.
We all need downtime, play time. I enjoy TV and movies and spending time with my wife. You may enjoy surfing the net or doing yard work.
Play time is important. You need to recharge your batteries and do something fun that doesn’t take a lot of concentration.
Be sure to play every day, but make that a reward for getting your work done first. Have you noticed, as I have, that the reverse order doesn’t work?
“I’ll do my work after two online games,” or, “I’ll write after I listen to one more song,” or, “I just want to see these this list of the 21 Ugliest Sea Monsters You Won’t Believe Actually Exist.”
The problem is, playing disengages your brain, lets you wind down and relax. Reengaging becomes a chore easy to put off.
And before you know it, you have frittered away your writing time.
If the Internet is your nemesis, “Freedom app” allows you to restrict your own access to social media for as long as you choose.
4. Write at the best time for you.
It could be that neither pre-dawn or the wee hours appeal to you, but believe me, one will work better than the other.
By now you should have an idea whether you’re a morning person or a night person.
Write when you think the clearest, can concentrate, feel freshest. You’ll find yourself way more productive at one time of day than the other.
5. Keep your family first.
When I was a newlywed, five different middleaged men told me—independently of each other—that their one regret was spending too little time with their kids when they were growing up.
I got the message and set a policy. Once kids came along, I would do no writing from the time I got home from work until the time they went to bed.
That forced me to write between 9:00 p.m. and midnight. But because I maintained my family priorities, I wrote without guilt and was as productive as I’ve ever been.
Your family will hear what you say, but they’ll believe what you do.
When to Quit Your Day Job
Be real, and wait.
Don’t get stars in your eyes and assume that if you write full time, the money will automatically follow.
Prove it first.
I waited until I was making 3.5 times my salary before I finally pulled the plug on my publishing executive job.
Why didn’t I make the move when my royalties and advances equalled what I was making on the job? Because there’s way more to consider than just salary.
When you go full time freelance, you and only you pay for everything. All your expenses. Travel. Insurance. Retirement. Office supplies. E-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g.
Make sure you know the money will be there (because you’ve seen it come in from your writing alone) before cutting your ties to a steady job.
How do you balance writing with your day job? Tell me in the Comments.