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Doing It All: Writing with a Day Job

If you had asked me at the age of ten what my dream career was, the answer would have been that I wanted to be a writer. An author. The next Brian Jacques. (Hey, I was really into Redwall as a kid, don’t hate!) The answer is largely the same today, and hey, to an extent, I’ve kind of made it! I have an agent and a book deal - hooray! But like many (dare I say “most”) writers out there, I have one thing that ten-year-old me never planned on.

The dreaded Day Job! (dun dun dunnnn)

There are some writers out there who are able to write full-time from their first deal - those big, giant, six-figure deals we hear about come to mind. For most of us, a first deal is AWESOME, but ultimately just the first brick in the bridge that will (hopefully) eventually carry us to a full-time writing career.

So, we can’t quit our jobs and still pay our bills, which means we have to juggle writing and a full-time second career at the same time. It’s definitely possible! I wouldn’t say I’m an expert on the matter, since I’m still a baby in the publishing industry, but I have found some things that work for me that I figured I would share.

  • First off, stop comparing yourself to other writers. Some of them may have day jobs, or kids at home, or school, or some combination of all of these. Some may be literally living the dream and just writing full time. Also, even in ideal conditions, everyone just works at different paces! I have met writers who can slap 5000 words on the page damn near every day. I’ve met others who wrestle for 250. Guess what? They’re all writers. Eyes on your own paper - you’re already working two jobs, for God’s sake. Stop wasting time beating yourself up over how many words so-and-so on Twitter wrote this week.

  • Second, optimize your time. Calendars and to-do lists are going to be your best friend. I like to make sure I’m not agreeing to too many things on my social calendar, especially if I know I have a deadline coming up. Clearly block out your writing times on your calendar and make that time just as sacred as your day job work hours. You’ll have to sacrifice other things to do this - time with friends and family, sleep, etc., but unfortunately it’s a necessity when you’re juggling two careers at once.

  • Next, make sure you take some time to chill. I am TERRIBLE at this. My husband can attest to this. I do not know how to relax. A day off from work generally means I’m up and at ‘em at 6:30, tapping away at the keys on my laptop getting some words in. Great for productivity! Also great for burn-out. I say this to you in hopes that someday I will listen to these words myself: TAKE TIME OFF. Take a day, a week, whatever. Breathe. Find a fun hobby. Even if you’re not taking full days off from writing, make sure you’re making time in your schedule to stay healthy, mentally and physically. Make sure you still have time to move your body, prepare healthy meals, all that shit.

  • Lastly, surround yourself with people who respect your writing. Your day job can’t morph to fit your writing schedule, so unfortunately your social calendar will have to take the brunt of it. Build your circle from family and friends who understand if you have to say “no” to a party invitation because you’re on deadline, or you need to leave early so you can wake up at 6 tomorrow morning to make your word count goals for the week. People who understand that, though you may not make a livable income from it yet, for you, writing is not a hobby but a job.

Writing with a day job is tough, but it’s definitely doable! What are your best tips for managing your time while juggling dual careers? Comment, or chat with me on Twitter @mj_kuhn.

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