If you’re like most writers and struggling to write a book with the demands of a full-time job, you’re not alone.
This is an age-old dilemma that affects many authors. Having been on both sides of the fence (writing full-time and part-time), I can share that those extra hours don’t necessarily equate to more writing.
In fact, some of my most productive sessions have been in the early hours before heading out to work.
Saying that, it can be stressful trying to work and write (especially on a deadline!) as well as dealing with daily life and its myriad of responsibilities.
Here are 8 ways to help you balance both and a few questions to consider.
1) Get more help
When I was writing a novel a year for my publisher, running a business, and looking after a young family, I asked my parents to baby-sit all the time. I’ve also asked my husband to take over certain jobs around the house, hired a cleaner twice a week, outsourced the ironing, and my sons (now a little older) have a few chores to do each week.
What are you spending time on that can be done by someone else?
2) Create the right environment
I bang on about this quite a bit because having the right set-up makes working on your book so much easier. Invest in a comfortable, adjustable chair and choose a spot that’s quiet and uncluttered. Make it a place you want to be, because after a long day at work, that sofa is going to look pretty enticing.
How can you improve your writing area?
3) Write quickly
During a writing session, focus on getting the words down, rather than editing and polishing. The more you write, the more you’ll gain momentum, which is critical in getting your manuscript finished. One suggestion is to time yourself; the pressure of a ticking clock will help maintain your focus.
How many words can you write in thirty minutes?
4) Have a plan for distractions
If you love scrolling social media, put your phone out of sight. If the kids clamour for your attention, get a babysitter. If you feel tired, write for only ten minutes. Be aware that it’s going to be difficult to concentrate after a long day at work, so prepare for any obstacles in advance.
What is the number one thing preventing you from writing and how can you address it?
5) Use your day job for inspiration
During the day, look out for interesting elements that could be included in your book. That could be a piece of dialogue, an idea for a character, a theme, or a setting. Carry a notebook with you and record anything of interest that could be used as an idea in your book.
What are some unique elements about your job?
6) Set small goals
After a forty-hour week, it’s unlikely you’re going to hit a 10,000-word target. Start with small, daily goals and build up slowly as your writing speed and momentum increases. It may not seem like much at first, but after a few weeks, you’ll be surprised at how much you’ve achieved. In my digital course, Kick
What periods of 'deadtime' do you have in your daily routine, for example waiting for meetings / kids’ pick-up, which you could use to write?
7) Get a writing partner or join a writing group
This is one of the most effective methods to help you prioritise your writing goals. I’m not sure what the psychology is behind it, but I always share my deadline with my agent or writing partner because then I’m held accountable. Writing groups, both online and IRL, are also a fantastic tool and you can find some of my favourites here.
What mini deadline (such as write one chapter / develop my main character etc.) could you commit to, today?
8) Consider a different career*
Depending on how passionate you are about writing, this tip may or may not apply to you. If you’re not yet in the job market, there are a few career options, such as a copywriter or journalist, that appeal to writers for obvious reasons. Similarly, teaching careers often benefit from longer holidays which leaves more time to put pen to paper. If you’re reluctant or unable to move jobs, you could always think about asking for more flexible hours or sabbatical options.
*Disclaimer: I'm not advising anyone to quit their job and go off and write a book without a plan!
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