In an earlier post, I wrote about job interview questions, something I thought of while reading a humorous article online about what not to say in an interview. It made me think about writing when you have a day job and how tough that is.
I haven’t talked to any other writers about this; I still don’t have a critique group at this time. There is one here I’m sort of interested in, but it meets when I have skating lessons.
Between my lessons (which I can’t afford right now, dammit), working, taking care of chores, etc. and trying to keep up with all my peeps, it’s hard for me to get my daily allotted verbiage on the page. I can’t imagine doing it with a family. I have a lot of respect for people who do. I’m not the kind of person who can work two jobs, but that’s what I’m trying to do. Only I’m not getting paid for one (yet).
Writing takes energy and it’s even more difficult when you’ve spent most of it at work. I found an excellent article here on keeping your focus on writing when you have a day job. It’s by a screenwriter named David Anaxagoras. Go ahead and read it; I’ll wait.
Read it? Okay, he has one suggestion that I had to find out, somewhat painfully, on my own. In the section entitled “Remember who and what you are,” he says you have to disengage from the drama of your job and keep in mind that you are a writer, first and foremost. It’s just a job. You can still do it and do it well, but don’t let it take over and sap your energy.
I had to do this to escape stress. After writing Rose’s Hostage, I took a break and realized how god-awful tired I was. It wasn’t because I was up every night until 11:30 writing then getting up at six to go to work. It was because I let the job get to me, let the stress of miscommunication and procrastination and all the other office drama ruin my day. When I got home, I had little or no energy left to write queries, do editing work or plan my next project. I was completely unfocused.
I’ve been looking at ways to maximize my productivity and I’ve tried to use bits of time during the day that pop up occasionally. I’m lucky in that I work at a desk, and I can sneak in a blog post or a scene or two here and there when I have a little downtime.
During Arlee Bird’s Alphabet Blog Challenge, I had editing to do at night and did the posts at lunch. It’s around forty-five minutes of useful time. I have to drag my laptop to work to write at lunch, but that’s how I wrote most of my book and will probably write the next ones until I either run screaming out the door or get my “big break.” At some point I’m going to spring for a netbook. Lugging my laptop around is getting kind of painful.
I also carry a flash drive on a lanyard around my neck, and whenever I think of something I’d like to get down or make a note of, out it comes. By doing this, I feel connected to my writing during the day, something David suggests in his article. The flash drive is also a talisman for me; sometimes I find myself squeezing it, as though it were a religious medal or a lucky piece. If I get too frazzled or despair threatens, it helps ground me and remind me of my real work.
I try to maintain a positive attitude about my work. I know that my chances of quitting my day job aren’t very good, but that doesn’t mean it will never happen. I have to just keep plugging away. As long as I’m doing it I’m learning and making myself a better writer. One of my grad school instructors told me that time spent writing is never wasted, no matter what I’m working on. She was right.