CraftSavvyBlogWriting Life

Writing Around A Day Job by Dani Collins

I’m your average wife and mother with a full time job who writes. I made my first sale in May of 2012 to Harlequin Mills & Boon in London. Since then I’ve had three books and an anthology come out with three different publishers (one of them indie.) I currently have books scheduled to come out in December, February, Spring, June, August and I have to turn in a 50k manuscript before December 31st that I expect will be scheduled for late 2014.

Even I don’t know how I’m doing it, but I wanted to break it down since I thought it might make a good workshop topic. Because, oh yeah, once you sell, you have to keep selling and by that I mean promoting. Not only are there blog posts to write (Hi!) but social media platforms to nurture and let’s not forget the website that needs updating with all those gorgeous covers and Coming Soon blurbs.

So why am I still working outside my home office? Deciding to quit your job to write is another post. My reality, and possibly yours, is writing around work and a family. My day job duties are mostly administrative. I spend eight hours a day at the company’s computer, then I go home and spend another three or four on my own so my first suggestion would be:

1. Avoid working at a computer

I met a woman at conference who is the inspiration for this column-slash-workshop. (See below: Learn to kill two birds.) She wrote for an entertainment magazine and was trying to sell romance novels on the side. On the one hand she had research at her fingertips for those glitzy Harlequin Presents, on the other she had keyboard burn out. I could relate.

Ideally you want a job that fills your well or at least balances the downside of writing. There’s a downside, you ask? Let’s talk about sitting in a room by yourself for hours on end. The balance to this would be a job where you physically move and interact with actual humans, not characters. You want to be stoked about finally sitting at your desk and tapping out those words, not feeling like it’s overtime on what you’ve already been doing all day.

2. Focus on what your day job gives you

Resentment of the day job is understandable. It steals time you could spend writing, but it can give you a physical workout, computer skills or other training, networking connections, medical benefits—yes, even in Canada this is a big deal. My job gives me money. Writing didn’t, not for years. Having a job allows me to pay dues to writing groups, attend conferences, buy a laptop, pay for a housekeeper, pay for a website… My employer even pays half my gym membership. Speaking of gym memberships:

3. Maintain your health

This probably sounds counter-intuitive, but in order to be productive after a productive day at the office, you have to take time to relax. You have to sleep well, eat well, and exercise. I go to the gym twice a week, I walk on my lunch and I do stretches in front of my favorite show every evening. I sit on a ball at work. These are all things I do to balance the fact I’m expecting a lot of myself. You’ll notice some of these things sound like doing two things at once and that’s because another secret to writing around working is:

4. Learn to kill two birds

This isn’t multi-tasking as it’s often portrayed. I remember one day feeling grossly frustrated because I couldn’t literally work on two books at once, like type on two separate documents while holding two separate storylines in my head. Multi-tasking can get you into trouble because it’s two actions at once. Texting and driving. Cooking and writing. (Fire!)

I’m talking about using one action to accomplish two goals, like writing this column then reworking it to use as a workshop proposal. I have been known to post my To Do list as a blog. It’s not sexy, but it helps me stay organized. Which brings me to:

5. Make lists! (And have goals)

Goal-setting is also another post (I should write these ideas down—oh wait, I am.) Keep in mind that a goal like ‘Write a book’ is not specific enough. Every January, I write all my long term goals in a notebook. I then break them down into chunks I can accomplish quarterly, then monthly, then weekly. I disburse them through my week and cross them off as I go, bringing them forward if they didn’t get done.

About once a month I review and make new projections. I’m flexible. I don’t fall on a sword if I fail to achieve something, mostly because I am consciously choosing to let something go. We are only human and maintaining your health is higher up this list than achieving every crazy goal we put to paper. Speaking of putting words to paper:

6. Learn to write fast and clean

Take an editing course. Read: How To Rewrite, Edit & Revise. The adage often attributed to Nora Roberts that goes, “I can fix a bad page, but I can’t fix a blank page” is true, but fixing half a manuscript that sucks is painful. A bad page is where you’ve kind of said what you meant; it’s not great, but you’re going to move on and fix it later. If you find yourself with a chapter full of those, go back to the beginning of that chapter and sort it out.

7. Write often

Write everyday if possible, even if you only have time to write a paragraph. Progress is progress. Also, frequent writing will help you develop confidence in your own voice so you’ll become a faster writer. Like anything, you get better with practice. Blogging also helps with this and also gets easier and faster with practice. Forcing yourself to post will also force you to get past the ‘I don’t know what to write’ hang up that you can’t afford if your time is limited. To that end:

8. Show up and trust that the words will show up.

A nifty trick for staying focused and productive is to put your fingers on the keys and look at the screen. When my kids were little, they used to come down the stairs and say they couldn’t sleep. I always said, “No one can sleep standing at the bottom of the stairs.” No one can write if they’re washing dishes. Get thy butt into thy chair.

But what if your kids (or husband) won’t let you write, you ask?

9. Make them give you the time

Call me selfish. I’m the honey badger on that one, especially now my manuscripts are selling and my kids are nearly out of the house. My family and friends are much more understanding of my need to write now that I have contracts to fulfill, but when I had babies, months went by without a word written.

You are the judge of how hard to push your loved ones to leave you the heck alone. All those things posted to Facebook about our time with our children being finite is true. Don’t take it for granted. At the same time, balance it against the example you are setting of dedication, discipline and pursuit of a dream. Sharing your hopes and dreams often helps your loved ones get behind you. (Promising riches that take twenty-five years to show up doesn’t work as well, she said with the voice of experience.) But I maintain that making your own dinner is a life skill every child needs to learn. Which leads us to:

10. Recognize you can’t do it all

You will have to make choices. Sometimes picking up your son from rugby will trump writing. Delegate where you can. Hire that housekeeper, pay for someone to set up your blog tour (Thanks Mel!), care less about weeds in the garden. Or don’t plant one. That was the straw I couldn’t bear this year. Yes, we have no tomatoes today.

Anything worth pursuing demands sacrifice. I’d love to say there is an easy way to write and work full time. (Coffee) It’s really just management of time and resources. Do you want the brass ring bad enough to make the adjustments? How do you write around work and family?

web-14Dani Collins spent twenty-five years dreaming of writing full time and finally made her first sale to Harlequin Mills & Boon in May of 2012. She’s still dreaming of making Romance Author her day job, but for now she writes around work, family, and enough exercise to keep her out of traction. For more information about Dani, you can visit her website, listen to her interview with Nice Girls Reading Naughty Books, or watch her interview on GFTV. She’s also active on all these hangouts: Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads

 

 

 

 

 

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As a child Angel Leigh was quite often found curled up with her nose buried in a book. By her teen years, she was writing as much as she was reading. ...