How to be a Writer With a Day Job Part 2: Don’t Let Those New Ideas Run Away With You

One of the most difficult parts of being a writer with a day job that I didn’t realize until I was no longer a full-time writer, is how difficult it is to keep your head on your current Work-In-Progress. (Aside: This month marks one year since I started my grant time, that wonderful four months where I got to be a full-time writer with no worries). When I was writing full-time, the majority of my day consisted of thinking of my characters, of writing about my characters, opening up one story and closing it off. Now my days consist of scrambling to get little ones to day care, struggling through morning rush-hour traffic, checking office emails, making clients happy—and above all, spending most of my brain power on my day job. My escapes tend to be daydreams that mostly involve new, great ideas. Because—for whatever great-cosmically-inspired reason—new ideas require less brain power than old ideas.

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New ideas “just come to me”, they “fall in my lap”, “appear out of nowhere”, “must be really good if I can already see it”, and all of these little reasons I tell myself lead to the New Idea Trap.

The New Idea Trap is the reasoning that the new idea, the one you haven’t spent any time on, is the good idea. It is the one that someone will love enough to publish and give you a large advance for. The reality is that it is only good because you haven’t done any actual work on it yet. Just like the new job you got at Burgers R Us feels like it will be an amazing career where you make lots of money until you actually have to wake up at 6 in the morning to get to work on time. Work feels easy until you are actually working. Ideas are just ideas, they aren’t a book, story, or completed series yet.

So, how do you put aside those new ideas and focus on your current work in progress?

 

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Possibly by drinking coffee and writing really fast? Maybe…

 

What I do is track my new ideas. I give myself a bit of time with them. I write a few pages of background, maybe a character sketch or two, I might draw a map or write the first scene. Then, often, the fire dies down. I begin to see how much work the New Idea is actually going to be. How much of my time the New Idea is going to eat up. And I see that I’ve already put so much time into my WIP that it is better to stay that road, and move onto the New Idea once I’ve finished my WIP, once I’ve felt that sweet, sugary bite of accomplishing my goal.

But I don’t lose track of my ideas. I keep them all tidied up a few journals, tabbed with sticky notes. I keep lists of these works. And one of my favorite parts of writing is when I finish one projects, and get to pick the next one from the list. I spend time reviewing each of my potential creations, and see which one captures my attention at that moment.

And then I get to work, again. Idea book by my side, to capture whatever stray ideas cross my path while I’m sitting at my (day job) desk.

JEH

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

 

 

 

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

Upcoming Reading!

Next Wednesday, on August 1st, I’ll be reading at Readings on the River, a summer session of Saskatchewan Writer’s reading their work at the Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan tent on the Saskatchewan river in Saskatoon (how many times can I say Saskatchewan in one sentence?

It starts at 615pm and goes until around 715pm, ending just before the play at the main tent starts. Next week, August 1st, it will be the Merry Wives of Windsor. Why not come out and double up on entertainment? I’m not quite sure what I’m going to read yet, but I think I’m going to pick something more funny than serious. Hopefully the weather’s nice! The event poster is below.

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Trying to Commit to a Publishing Schedule

One of the hardest things about self-publishing (at least for me), is committing to a publishing schedule. I’m terrible at picking release dates for my books and achieving that date. Having a day job never helps, since something always comes up that slows down book development, but as I’m currently a full-time writer until July, I’m hoping I can make some big goals and stick to them. It’s been lovely going to cafés and drinking tea, and getting so much work done on projects that I love.

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In the works right now I have The Circlet: Artifacts of Avalum Book 2, which is off with my beta readers. After I get their comments, it will be another round of edits before sending the book to my editor. I’m hoping to have The Circlet released in May.

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This week I finally found the time to compile the Black Depths Boxed Set for the complete series. I whipped together an ebook cover and compiled all the books into one gigantic read. It’s live on Amazon, Kobo, and Smashwords right now, and should be up on iBooks and Nook soon. If you like to read everything all in one go (or no someone who does), be sure to spread the word.

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I’m slowly picking away at The Chain: Artifacts of Avalum Book 3, and hope to release that in the fall, with a box set of that series to follow after a couple months. There are two books I wrote years ago that I’m planning to clean up, one of which I will release as a one off and the other that I hope to shop around to a small, literary press. Both of those should be complete by May.

What I’m trying to figure out now, is what story idea should I pursue next? I love self-publishing, and I want to write a series that is similar to both Black Depths and Artifacts of Avalum. I would like to get the outlining for this series done before I head back to my day job in July, but, as I’m also working on my short story collection, I’m not sure how much time I will have.

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But, here’s a chance for you to vote. My main debate right now is whether I should write another “Port-hole” fantasy, which means the characters start in this world and travel to a different, fantastical world, (similar to Artifacts), or whether I should write a 100% fantasy, where Earth does not exist (or at least the characters in the book don’t know about Earth, because they have magic, not space travel). Do you prefer fantasy that is connected to our world, or not? Let me know in the comments!

JEH