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

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

This Writer’s Life In October 2018

It’s been a while since I’ve posted an update, so I figure it’s about time. I’ve been busy lately. I just finished a new book, a beautiful ghostly story about two sisters. I’m not planning to self-publish this one, but am hoping to find an agent or a press that will pick it up, which is a bit different for me.

Since I’ve now finished two literary projects, I’m taking a break by moving back into the comfortable world of Avalum. Artifacts of Avalum Book 3, The Chain, is moving along nicely and I plan to have a good draft done before NaNoWriMo begins in November, when I hope to write something new. Here’s a picture of the cover art for the The Chain, I just love it. As always, it was done by Leah Keeler.

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Other than writing, I’ve been working on being more environmentally responsible. I’m trying to switch to using only reusable coffee cups. While to-go cups are convenient, they create a lot of waste. I imagine there will be the occasion where I need to use a disposable cup, but I’m definitely trying to reuse where I can. Here are a couple pictures of some of my favorite travel cups.

I’ve been using these mugs to enjoy way too many pumpkin spice lattes, but it’s good to enjoy fall while it’s here,  because in Saskatchewan, it’s just way too short.

JEH

A Writer’s Summer 2018 in Review

It was a busy and fantastic summer! As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I went to the ocean for a fabulous vacation and had a great time. Even though I was on vacation, I was hoping to get some writing done (a writer’s job is never done, is that right?), but I actually didn’t do much work at all and it felt nice.

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Now that my full-time writing life is at an end for now (I was back to the day job July 9th), there is a bit too much work in my life. I’m still working away on a bunch of projects, which I will blog about later this week, so most days it feels like I’m working two jobs (8-5 Monday to Friday, and Wednesday evenings and Saturday or Sunday mornings on writing, plus whatever other time I can fit in). I’m also trying to get back to the gym, so we’ll see how that goes!

But back to vacation. I’m still in that half-place where vacation feels like it was something you actually did, not just dreamed, and I definitely wish I was still sitting ocean side. I hit up some new cafes, drove over 3,000 km, through prairie and mountain, rivers, lakes, and ocean (okay, we took the ferry over the ocean). As a writer, it was great to experience all of that, and not just take the airplane shortcut.

I had some adventures, I even found what could vaguely possibly be a large black pearl on the rocks. What do you think?

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One of my favorite things about this trip (other than spending precious time with my family), was that I got to revisit Nessa, my hero from the Black Depths Series, and take the same ferry she does when she starts her journey in Sea-Witch. I had to take a copy of the book along with me, just so I could get Nessa’s photo on the boat. Here it is:

I think she looks fantastic there! I love the Black Depths World, and maybe one day I will write a second series that takes place in it (I have an idea, just no time). For now, here are a few more pictures from my vacation.

I hope you had a great summer!

JEH

Life as a Full-Time Writer: The End of an Era

Well, I’m sad to say that my days of sitting in my basement all alone and writing stories has come to an end. Or am I? I had a wonderful four months working from home on a collection of literary short stories, thanks to the wonderful Saskatchewan Arts Board, who awarded me a grant. If it wasn’t for people who support the arts, I never would have  got this time, which means I never would have developed fantastic new stories to share with you and the world.

But good times can’t last forever. At least not until I get enough sales to replace my annual salary (which is a pretty good size). And part of me missed my day job. I missed having coworkers to visit with, I missed my afternoon walks around the pond and through the garden, somedays I even missed the cafeteria.

But, I’m pretty sure I will miss the writing life more. I’ve always wanted to be a writer, and by that, I mean I’ve always wanted to spend eight hours a day coming up with characters and stories and events, and thinking about ‘what ifs’ ‘and thens’ and ‘maybe’. I’ve never dreamed that writing would be less work than this, and after my four months off, I know it’s not. In fact, it’s often more than eight hours a day because once I could immerse myself in writing full-time, the thinking rarely stopped. My mind was free to roam, and I didn’t have to force it to concentrate on contracts and applications and coworking. It was wonderful.

It seems (from all the internet articles about it), that being able to afford being a full-time writer is a more and more difficult thing. Whether it’s due to the abundance of free articles and stories on the web, changing media (to television, to film, to Twitter), I can’t say. And maybe it has always been difficult to make a living from art. Maybe it’s always been that a couple of people are lucky and the rest of us are relatively unknown. All I do know is that I have my plan to write, whether it’s on the weekend or late in the evening, I will always be writing, because I love it. Not because I hope to become rich and famous, but because I love to think, I love to think about our world and what powers humans, and I love to think about possible other worlds, other realities, and other possibilities. A writer is just what I am.

Now that I’ve finished up a couple major projects, I’m moving on to the next step in the process, which is shopping those projects around and trying to find them a home. Meanwhile, it is also Camp NaNoWriMo, so I’ve also returned back to writing genre fiction, which is a nice break from the literary, though-provoking work I was doing (Not that my genre fiction isn’t somewhat though provoking—at least, I hope it is). To that end, stay  in touch for updates regarding upcoming presentations and publications, or because otherwise I’ll miss you.

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Cheers to work well done!

Thanks for reading!
JEH

The Circlet Is Here!

Hello All!

Today is one of those great days when I get to release a new book into the world. The Circlet is now up on Amazon and Smashwords, and should be up on the other retailers shortly, though, as always, they lag a bit behind. Download, enjoy, share!

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Thank you for your support!

JEH