Thursday, July 21, 2016

Writing While Working a Day Job

by Linda Thorne

When was the last time I got up in the morning and asked myself what I wanted to do with my day? Since I started writing, being able to juggle time on a whim seems to hinge on whether or not I’m working a day job. Well, I've been working a full-time job now for over eight years.

I was between jobs when I first decided I wanted to be a writer. I worked hard at writing, but I also had time for me. Then a manufacturing company in the Central Valley of California hired me for a position in my profession, human resources management. The free time immediately disappeared and didn't return until two years later when the plant closed down. Once more unemployed, money was tight but time available.

After the plant closure, my husband and I moved to middle Tennessee. I found a new human resources position at a company in Nashville, now my current employer. When I began this stint of eight-years-plus, writing time became crunch time, which transformed into crushed time in 2014 when I got my first publishing contract, and then into shredded pieces of time when my book was published last year.

So, this is what writing while working a day job means to me. When I get home from work and dinner is out of the way, I’m normally tied up on my computer with social media and emails, all part of routine book marketing/promotion. On certain days of the month, instead of going home after work, I head off to the local Sisters in Crime meeting, or an after-work author event. On the weekends, I sometimes attend writing activities or regular Nashville Writers Meetup critique groups. My vacation time is spent at writers’ conferences, conventions, or festivals. I will admit these are fun, but they are also working vacations. Even my lunch breaks at work are spent catching up on my reading, another necessity to improving my writing. I do this in my car except for the hot days of summer when I take my lunch break in a nearby hospital lobby.
Now, you’ll hear people say that working a day job is the ultimate motivator in getting your writing done. Some will tell you that you’re more apt to maximize that time rather than squander it since it’s all you have. They’ll go on to say you can’t write all of the time anyway, so you should have time for a day job.

Who are these people? Where do they come from? I ask you.

Maybe they have a magic secret. I don't know. Sure, you’re not going to be able (or want) to write all of the time, but even without a full-time job, you wouldn’t have time for solely writing. There’s the promotion and marketing, getting visibility for your name and your writing projects. There are family obligations, old friends (if you have any left), and personal errands. Let’s not forget sleeping.

If I didn’t have the day job, not only could I spend more time on writing and promotion, I could do some of the things I’ve had to give up. For example, I’d love to go out to a movie again or watch more than just the national news on TV. How fun to pack up and leave for a non-working vacation, to sleep in late on occasion. I want to go out to lunch the traditional way, to a restaurant. Sometimes I want to scream out, “Give me my life back!”

Having said these words, I’m taking a heavy sigh and returning to reality. I need my day job, so I’m grateful to be employed. As far as the writing, I remind myself that I’m the one who chose to go into it hook, line, and sinker, and it’s not like I wasn’t forewarned. So, I may grumble here and there, but I’ll keep on and see where this life I’ve chosen takes me. After all, I'd like to be there if any of the what ifs come to fruition.



Ritter Ames said...

Absolutely agree with everything you've said in this post. People who aren't authors don't understand that when you're published and under contract it really means you have two full-time jobs already--writing and marketing--if you want to keep selling and remain contracted for more books in the future. I've said many times that I worked less hours when I worked in corporate management than I do now as a full-time author. Hang in there, and thanks for speaking so beautifully for all of us :)

Linda Thorne said...

Thank you. I'm so glad to have someone identify. I will eventually be working at solely the writing (and marketing - ugh), but that is at minimum two years away.

Sunny Frazier said...

Actually, I wrote more when I was working. Got the first book out in 9 months. I was more motivated, more clueless about publishing, younger and healthier. I was also using scenes from my daily job in law enforcement for my writing. Since being retired, I find many more enjoyable things to do instead of writing. I want to read all the books on my shelves, swim, lunch out with friends. I want to nap. I want to organize everything, which will never happen. Also, when I started there wasn't FB and email to eat up time. There weren't blogs to write and promotion to maintain. I would say I'm much less productive now.

Linda Thorne said...

Thanks, Sunny, but these are the comments I run screaming from and yet I believe/know they are true for many people (not me). I really only wrote the most during my various unemployment periods. I am having a tough time now. I know one author who wrote his first book (and it is getting "big") on company time. He had some type of job for a year or two where he came to work to be "available" yet there was no work. Now, that would be the perfect work/write situation, but not likely to happen to many of us working stiffs.

Susan Oleksiw said...

I can hear my own voice in your post and in some of the comments. I had an office job for 20+ years and before that I taught and free-lanced. Writing was relegated to the evening after work and I learned to be exceedingly efficient. Throughout the day I thought about the scene I was going to work on when I got home and then went straight to it. Now that I'm retired, I write every morning and most afternoons, but I think having a tight schedule helped me be more productive. Unless you are one of the chosen few, with a contract early in your career, finding time to write is going to be a challenge.

Linda Thorne said...

Susan, it's hopeful hearing about those that still got results on their writing while working. I need to do some serious time management.

jrlindermuth said...

Finding time to write when you're working a full-time job or raising a family. But, if you want to write, you'll find the time.
Like Sunny, when I worked as a journalist, I wrote whenever I could squeeze in a moment--which was often difficult because I was also raising two children as a single parent. I'm amazed now at how productive I was then-publishing articles and short stories. I didn't publish the first novel until after I retired.
Now that I'm retired I have all day to write--but there's still never enough time in a day.

Linda Thorne said...

Thank you JR. More encouragement. Maybe this is writers block and I'm using my job as an excuse, but writing books is not an easy task as I'm sure you know.

Debra H. Goldstein said...

First, after reading your post, thank you for taking time out of your schedule to attend the signing Jaden Terrell (Beth) and I had at Parnassus. It meant a lot to have you attend and even more knowing how you're juggling as it had to come from your writing time.
Second, you've nailed it. When I was working full time and writing on weekends and somewhere between midnight and 2-4 a.m., I had to be more disciplined, fun things had to go by the wayside, and I often questioned what I was doing but replied with that inner drive most writers have. Now, I've stepped away from my day job, but like Susan, I'm not as organized as I was. It took me a good year to find a working rhythm and even that is different because now it includes social media, pr, and other tasks that weren't on my radar before Maze in Blue and now Should Have Played Poker were published. I understand your joy at being published, the work behind getting there and that it entails, and the fact that you wouldn't trade it in for anything (well, almost anything....I do like my husband and kids but then again they are understanding of my insanity.)Good luck and joy balancing everything.

Linda Thorne said...

Hi Debra. I asked you at the book signing if you were still working as a judge and remember you telling us that you were not. The post of that book signing is still on my personal blog at (it's moved down a notch or two). You and Jaden had a terrific turn-out. I like your admission here that there are some things that you put before writing (like husband and children). I can relate. Thanks for your interest and comments.