As I turned out the light in my home office before leaving for my day job I noticed the dim glow of my computer screen as it shut down for the day. It was no different than any other work day, yet today I tarried there—and pondered my dark monitor as the life flowed out of it.
As a part time writer, how many hours a week does my computer screen sit idle and blank as I work my day job? It’s the curse of any part time writer. Our day job separates us from the work we love to do, the work we feel called to do, the work we are compelled to do.
My computer is abandoned 40-50 hours a week as I manage a marketing communications department for a division of a large multinational company. I can’t complain, I enjoy my day job and it includes writing and managing other writers. Yet, like you, I’m still anxious to return home to tackle the writing I’m most passionate about—the novels, the non-fiction articles and this blog, designed to encourage you to never give up on your quest to live your personal writer’s dream.
As I stood in my office and pondered my dark screen, I realized that, for me, the struggle as a part time writer is that I lack truly productive days, days of simply cranking out work. After I return home from my day job there is dinner, household duties, meaningful conversation with my wife and then that “oh-so-little-time” to write. And when I carve out that precious time, it’s when I am usually at my worst. I’m tired, my creative juices are all but dried up, my mind is mush, and I’m just not up to starting my “night-time novelist” job.
Yet, this is where most of us live, right? Most writers have day job so I’m preaching to the choir. So how do we be more productive writers when we already work 40-50 hours a week? And how do we fight off the tiredness that invariably comes?
1) Accept your life as it is. Let’s admit it, since we can’t control the clock or the hours of our day job, we have to accept our lot in life—and make the best of it. Waste no more time wondering how you can change your circumstances. Instead, channel that energy into how you can maximize the time you do have. More on that in a minute. (Trust me, I’m preaching to myself here.) The time I wasted grousing about this over the years I could have been writing.
2) Enjoy your day job AND your night job. Develop a positive attitude. Stop thinking of your day job as a deterrent to the life you want to live. In other words, don’t live in quiet desperation longing for the writer’s life. You only have one life. Enjoy it. Don’t wish you were somewhere else. Perform your day job to the best of your ability, allow it to stimulate your hunger for writing and then write with reckless abandon when you’re home. Take the pressure off yourself by being content where you are.
3) Maximize “snatches of time.” I often write 30 minutes in the morning before work, during my lunch hour (like today), in airports, coffee shops (I don’t even drink coffee), and on planes. I have a dictation app on my smart phone so I can dictate my ideas while I’m driving. (No texting here, please.) I keep the proverbial notebook both in the car and in the nightstand and I write down every idea that invariably floats through my mind in the shower. Examine your life. Where do you have snatches of time—10 minutes here, 15 minutes there? Snatch this time and scrawl your ideas down. They will lead to more productive writing later. Look for wasted time. What can you swap out of your schedule and replace it with writing time?
4) Exercise and rest to keep yourself fresh. It’s so easy to cut exercise to make more time to write. Big mistake. When I do this I get less done and feel like a slug. We all know the value of exercise and the power of releasing endorphins. Exercise will energize you, stimulate more ideas and motivate you to write. And, my doctor tells me, whether we realize it or not, most of us are already sleep deprived. A well-timed nap is not only good for you; it’s good for the quality of your writing.
Okay, I still haven’t answered one question. How do you solve the problem of being too tired to write after a very long day at the office?
Well, frankly, I don’t know. I’m still struggling with this, but let me sleep on it.
With all of this talk about rest, I think I will take some. I will be on vacation next week. Watch for my next blog post the following Thursday, February 16th.