Writer Wednesday: How to Find Time for Writing When You Work to Live

As seen from my office desk. Yes, I do love my day job.

 

If you’re like me, you love your job. You are grateful for the way your unique skills add to the success of some business or cause.

You may even hold a second job or do freelance work to help make ends meet.

You work to live, and you’re thankful for the steady paycheck and perks that keep you and yours sheltered, fed, and healthy. You love the daily interaction with co-workers, the benefits and perks, and the satisfaction of knowing you do your job well.

But writing is your true vocation, and that job stuff, though it’s rewarding, gets in the way of your freedom to create. You have goals and you’ve given yourself a deadline. The stories are flowing and you can’t stop thinking about that plot twist. There’s a contest here and a writing challenge there.

Yet there are only so many hours in the day. You work full-time, but you also have your after-work responsibilities. Cooking, cleaning, shopping. Caring for loved ones, sharing with spouses, volunteering for the community.

Then there’s recreation. We all need it. Reading, hobbies, social media, sports, evenings out, staying in touch with your friends.

And the bane of all writers: You need to sleep.

With a life like this, when does the writing come in? How can you find time and have the energy to do what you love?

#1: Make a Sacrifice

There’s no way around it: You have to give up something. I’m sure there are scientists in laboratories today trying to invent the 25th hour. Until they succeed, you will need to make some sacrifices in how you spend the hours you have.

When my son left for college, I ditched cable television. That was eight years ago. Back then I did it as a money saver, but now it’s one less temptation and a huge time opener.

What do you do with your free time before or after work that could be replaced with your writing? Is there an activity that could be pared down to one hour instead of two? Could you use your break times at work to read the headlines instead of at home? Will you give up a bit of watching, playing, meeting, or sleeping to gain that extra time each day?

Sacrifice is the most generous of time makers.

#2: Make it a Priority

Your family, church, social life, and work are important, and you don’t want to let your writing life overshadow any of them.

What you need to do, though, is make it known that your writing is a priority. One of the first things you can do is start calling yourself a writer. No one will take you seriously if you don’t.

Then start acting like one. Writers work. Let your family and friends know that you’re working at your designated times. They can share in your writing life as you give them the details. You may even start seeing signs of their approval.

Of course, there will come important dates and events that take precedence over your writing appointment. Your family and friends will support you even more when they see that they still come first when it really matters.

#3: Make it a Commitment

Find the time that works best for you and your household, and stick to it. If you try to squeeze in your writing time only when time becomes available, you’ll most likely end up skipping it “for a better time.” Going to your designated writing time will become a habit you will not want to break.

I’ve carved out two hours each day to devote to my writing on weekday and Sunday evenings, and Saturday mornings. I do not have a spouse or young children to work around, but I do have freelance work, day job take-home work, and family and church responsibilities to fit in.

Those two hours are appointments, placed on my calendar like anything else I’ve scheduled. Some days it’s tough, but going to my computer and working is a daily commitment. Can you make this happen for yourself? Imagine what you can do with uninterrupted time and concentration on your craft.

Working a full-time job doesn’t mean you have to give up your writing life dream. It will mean sacrifice, priorities, and commitment. Are you willing to take these steps?

How are you creating time for your writing life? Please share them with us.

(Updated. First posted on DarlaWrites.com in August 2012.)

Want more? I’ve gathered hundreds of my writer articles, along with favorite websites, and other helps for you on my Resources for Writers page.


 

Darla McDavid

I'm Darla, a writer of stories about family, friends, goodness, and God. I love cats, coffee, gardening, and tall stacks of books. Click here to subscribe to my blog. You can also find me on Facebook and Instagram. In my other life, I'm an administrative professional, a Sunday School teacher for preschoolers, and the proud mother of Dan.

2 Comments Write a comment

  1. Thoughtful post, Darla. I absolutely love the picture…a crayon drawing that shows all the faces of writing. During the last 26 years of my 30-year teaching career–I was also raising a child during much of that time–I tried to carve out writing time by sacrificing yet another hour of sleep, trading play date babysitting with friends (twice a week I gave full attention to caring for my child AND two others for a few hours; then twice a week I had a few hours on my own to write, if I could turn it off and on)–so I fully understand the problem. Now that I’m retired, I still have the writing ideas and passion but parents with Alzheimer’s and dementia have required a great deal of attention, and my own health is at question now, as well as slower energy and the need for more sleep. It goes on and on.

    But, for me, it’s the passion to continue writing that keep me going, interacting with other writers, setting modified deadlines for myself to write, edit, rewrite, submit or enter in contests, and each deadline met is a reason for celebration.

    The secret, at least for me, is to never quit. But as my daughter says, “You couldn’t quit if you wanted to. Writing is like breathing to you, and you always find something to write about.”

    Reply

    • There’s the combination — passion and perseverance. I didn’t start taking my writing seriously until my son was away at college, so I can only imagine you and other mothers trying to fit in your writing time around young children. But you did it because you could not do it, as your daughter says. I’m thankful that you don’t quit even though you have so much to carry right now. Your stories about your mother are helping many people in many ways.

      Reply

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