My typical weekday looks something like this:
4:30 am: RISE & SHINE!!! (though the sun is never out unless it’s the first week in June)
5 am: OH THAT GLORIOUS MORNING COMMUTE TO WORK (and yes, there’s still traffic that early)
5:45 am to 2:30 pm: DAY JOB (I’m a food scientist who makes lots of sauces for other people to make money…yay)
2:30 pm: COMMUTE HOME (twice as long as the morning commute)
4 pm-5:30 pm: GYM (it’s how I de-stress…paying people to make me hurt)
5:30 pm: SHOWER & DINNER
6:30 pm: FINALLY WRITING TIME
8:30 pm: READ IN BED, THEN NIGHTY NIGHT!!!
So yes, by the time I get to writing, I only have approximately two uninterrupted hours before I get way too tired and need to go to bed.
There are a few problems with this. One, I have no time for my social life. (Hmmm…I’m coming to understand why I’m still single). And two, sometimes my day job has exhausted me so much, all I want to do is watch TV when I get home.
Sometimes I do wonder if I’d be more productive if I could write full-time. But realistically, I wouldn’t be able to afford it. And I also don’t think I would necessarily be more productive if I did have a huge chunk of time to write and do nothing else.
It might sound crazy, but having a day job motivates me to keep to my schedule. It also acts as a time away from writing, a break if you will, to think about new ideas and draw inspiration. Interacting with other people, doing other tasks—this helps to stop Writers Block from setting in.
But I have come up with a few ways to help me stick to my crazy schedule and to make sure I get in some writing every day.
- Set daily goals. These goals have to be realistic and small. When I’m writing the first rough draft, I’ll make my goal to write 1,000 words per day. Not 20 pages, not 3 chapters, not 3,000 words. 1,000 only. And once I reach 1,000, I put my computer away and relax my mind.
- Keep a notebook and pen on hand. Because I never know when inspiration might strike. When I’m coming up with recipe formulations for new sauces at work, cooking over the kettle, or talking to my boss. When I’m on the treadmill, doing sit-ups or squats, or feeling the burn in my calves. When I’m stuck in traffic, some rude bastard cuts me off, or I smell the sweet fragrance of smog and gasoline. Even in my dreams or in the shower. Sometimes a simple sentence just sounds off in my head, or a scene plays out. And the first chance I get, I make sure to write it down.
- Make use of weekends. Sometimes I just have to work more on the weekend. This might mean not being able to go to every birthday party or baby shower I’m invited to, or telling my friends and family that I can only go for part of the time. I think it helps to get out of the house and go to a coffee shop or the library to write. That way there’s less distraction, and family members won’t be around to ask if you’re done yet…what about now…now?…etc.
- Write blog posts ahead of time. When inspiration strikes, I’ll write many blog posts at the same time and save some for a rainy day. This means that when I can’t think of anything to write, I can look back at some of the things I haven’t posted yet and use one of those. It also means I can blog ahead of time, like on weekends, and then schedule my posts to go live on weekdays when I’m far too busy worrying about my day job.
- Don’t stress if goals aren’t met all the time. Sometimes I’m too tired to meet my 1,000 word goal, so for that day, I’ll modify my goal to something simpler, like 500 words. Or if I really don’t feel like writing that day, I’ll read an article or a book on writing. Such as how to improve my descriptive writing, how to write better dialogue, etc. Sometimes I might even just read something for enjoyment and make a note on how one of my favorite authors conveys emotion in a certain scene. The important thing is to be conscious of trying to improve my writing, even if I’m too tired to do actual writing.
So that’s what I do, and I’m curious how other people find balance between their day job, writing, and their social life.