How to Be a Writer With a Day Job Part 1: Making Time

At the beginning of January I announced that I would be doing a series this year on being a Writer with a Day job. I planned my first post for January 2019, but here it is, February 1, blizzardy and cold, and I’m just getting round to it now. Ah, the realities of being a writer with a day job.

Last year, I had the amazing privileged of being awarded a literary grant, which gave me a full four months to work as a writer with no other distractions. Then, when July came, I returned to my demanding day job and this gave me an entirely new perspective on what it is be creative and to work at a regular 9-5 where you have a boss, and assignments, and things to do that must get done, none of which have anything to do with crafting fantastical universes. When I returned to my job, I was struck with one particular wallowing grief: how will I make time for my art now???

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If you’re like me, wanting to create day after day, wanting to figure out how you will ever find time to finish your novel, your short story, your poems—or heck, even start those projects in the first place—then I’m glad you’re here. Because today that’s what I’m going to talk about, albeit rather briefly, because I have a day job to return to (Ssssh, don’t tell my boss).

#1 Search

The first thing you need to do, if you are a writer or artist working a day job, is take a long-distance look at the time you have every day for everything: regular work, home life, friends, television, the gym, sulking. Lay it all out and then move in really close and find those places you can block off just for writing. It might be that every Saturday morning you nothing for the first three hours. Why not book off one or three for writing. What about your lunch breaks? Are you really using them productively? Maybe instead of using the time to browse Facebook posts that you’ve likely already seen five times before, use ten minutes to squeeze out one hundred word on your work in progress. Take a look at your time and figure out where writing can naturally fit in. It might not be a lot of time, but a little bit adds up over a year or two.

#2 Cut

The next thing you can do is cut. Cut ruthlessly. Cut out mind-trash, and instead create a little of mind-building. In other words, stop watching so much television. Stop binging on NETFLIX. Stop watching stuff you aren’t paying attention to anyway because the characters are all immature and whiny and terrible. When people ask me how I fit in time for writing, my first answer is “I don’t watch television anymore”. You know what everyone tells me, “Oh, neither do I. Except for Black Mirror, Riverdale, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and Grey’s Anatomy. I mean, I down to like only six or seven shows.” That’s six or seven hours a week you could be writing! In fact, if you even just picked your two favorite shows, that four hours a week you could be writing. Four hours that you could be working on the world you really want to be in instead of numbing your mind with someone else’s creation. Honestly, I maybe watch half and hour to two hours in a regular week. And yes, I do binge on occasion, or watch a new release movie I’m really interested in, but I’m ruthless with my time, I want it all for my writing. All of it. But I know I should find balance, too.

#3 Marathons

A few years back I found this amazing writing group. It’s amazing because it’s a writing productivity group. We get together regularly on Wednesday and writing straight for three hours (it’s come and go so you can really just be there for as long as you choose). We don’t talk much. We just write. I get a lot of creative work done on Wednesday nights. But another thing we do a few times a year is marathons. We find a Saturday or Sunday and book off a day, a whole day, for sitting together in silence and writing. It may sound strange, but there is something about being surrounded by other writer’s writing that keeps you honest. You can’t slack off and watch Netflix, you can’t start cleaning your house, you can’t lie on the floor and wallow in writer’s block. People are watching (well, not really, but they are noticing), so you have to work. You have to spend the whole day working. And it’s amazing where one long day dedicated to a single project can get you.

JEH

 

 

 

2019 Blogging Plans: What’s Upcoming on This Site

I think it was sometime before Christmas that I mentioned I was going to spend a little bit of time thinking about what I want to share in 2019. I love blogging, I love this blog, but I don’t love how little time I have for it. Between blogging and writing books or stories, I’m always going to choose the later, so this year I’m going to cut back a bit more but at the same time try to be more regular with my posts.

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In 2019, I’m going to do a series, one post a month, about How to Be a Writer with a Day Job. Last year, I was lucky enough to be a full-time writer for four months, thanks to a grant from the Saskatchewan Arts Board, but this year I need to keep my cash flow high, so it’s full time at the day job for me. Each month, I’ll do one feature post that focuses on one aspect of being a writer while also working a day job, full-time or part-time, that may or may not have anything to do with writing. The first one will be in two weeks.

Other than these feature posts, 2019 will focus on the same kind of things I’ve been doing for a while know, updates on what I’ve been reading and writing, writing prompts for the inspiring writer in you, and any other special posts I just happen to love and find the time to do.

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Another thing I’ve just recently implemented this year is a 600 words per day writing goal, which for me is pretty easy to maintain. This means that by the end of the year I will have written over 200,000 words, or two full novels plus some side projects at a minimum. I’m excited about this. This is much less than my goal a couple years ago of writing 1,000 words per day, or 365,000 words in a year (closer to 4 novels), but one thing I realized when completing that 1,000 words per day goal was that it left me little time to fit in rewriting. And this year I have a lot of rewriting scheduled, to the point where I hope to release 4 full-length novels (more on these in another post).

Yesterday, I had a mini-celebration because the night before I finished a draft on a project I’d been stalling on for some time (The Chain). This is the last book in the Artifacts of Avalum series, and that may be why I slowed down. Also, I was distracted by another shiny project. So far, the year is off to a good start, and I hope to keep this trend going in 2019.

All the best to you this year!

JEH

A Reader’s 2019 Goals

On the way into my day job this morning, I was listening to the radio. One of the DJ’s was talking about some research that said we shouldn’t make New Year’s Resolutions, but make a reverse bucket list, in other words, we should write down all the things we’ve already done that we’re most proud of, and this will help us see where our interests lie, and maybe also give us confidence to tackle new, or future, bucket list items (at least that is what I think the point was anyway). I usually set my new goals in September, since this feels more natural after twenty some years of school. But one goal I do set in January is my reading goal (thanks to GoodReads and their fabulous tracking app).

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First Book to Read in 2019, will be followed by 59 more!

When I wrote my reverse bucket list, I was surprised to feel disappointment that I couldn’t add any big reads to my list. In 2018 I started Don Quixote with the goal of finishing it, but I didn’t get it done. I also, year ago, started War and Peace and read half of it before falling off the train. I really do want to read these books (and finish them!), and writing my reverse bucket list helped me find what was missing. So, in 2019, my goal is to finish Don Quixote as part of my reading goal.

In 2018, I managed to finish 62 books, so I set my 2019 goal at 60. In 2018, my goal was only 50 books because I wanted to get more writing done, but I couldn’t stop reading, so this year I increased my goal back up to 60 books. As I’m over half done Don Quixote, I don’t think having such a large book on my list will slow me down much, and a lot of the other books I want to read this year are rather slender.

So, here’s to another happy year of reading. Did you set a goal? How many books do you want to read in 2019?

JEH

Happy Holidays 2018

Just a quick stop in today to say Happy Holidays 2018! Thanks to all who read my blogs, books, and musings, I appreciate it all. I’m going to spend some time over the next week thinking of everything I want for this blog in 2019, and also setting some personal goals for writing, reading, and world building. Meanwhile, if you’re looking for something new to read, here is a free story for you, just follow this link. 

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I wish you all the happiest of holidays and coziest times of winter (or summer, depending on which hemisphere you live in I suppose!), I’ll see you in 2019!

JEH

What I’m Reading: The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater

Young Adult Book Review: The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater

I finished this series a while ago but I am just so behind on my book blogging! Long story short, I love The Raven Cycle series by Maggie Stiefvater. In fact, The Raven Cycle Series is definitely in my top 5 favorite YA Fantasy Series.

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The Raven King was a fantastic ending to this series. While I didn’t love Blue Lily, Lily Blue, The Raven King was the wrap up that I was looking for. And, if you listen to the books on audio, you also get some really cool themed music.

Have you read The Raven Cycle yet?

JEH

Post NaNoWriMo Plans

Wow. I must have been really busy last month as I did little to no blogging! Obviously I was busy creating, writing away on my NaNoWriMo Novel which is the best novel ever! I’ve already got my cover artist working on the cover, and I’m excited to one day share this project with you, but it will be a bit of time yet!

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First things, I need to finish The Circlet: Artifacts of Avalum Book 3 and get that out. I’m pretty close to being done the draft, which is awesome. If only I didn’t have this day job taking up all my time!

But, the good thing about December other than Christmas and all the good food and parties, is the time I get off work! I’m planning to use this time to balance out my writing life with my day job, sometimes it’s a challenge working a creative job alongside a real job, but most of the time it is a refreshing challenge that gets me moving!

Do you have plans for this December?

JEH