I don’t know too many writers who don’t have day jobs, myself included. Most of us try to juggle work, family time, chores, and writing—and something, or someone, always seems to get slighted because of the time we take for our writing. Most of the time, it’s our writing that suffers.
No work—no money to pay the mortgage. Ignore your family and you’re likely to face a rebellion after a while and lose the much needed support for your writing career. Chores. Personally, I can only let the yard grow into a weed patch for so long—and I feel like I need to pull my weight so my wife doesn’t have to do everything around the house.
So—how do we fit in our writing time?
I’m lucky. No question about it. I work at home and don’t have the constraints of a Monday through Friday, 9 to 5 job. But…I have deadlines every day. I work a lot of Saturdays and Sundays. I work until 9 or 10 at night a lot. Essentially, I work every day. Sometimes, I think it would be easier for me as a writer if my work schedule was more structured.
More about my day job in a second.
Like I said, I’m lucky. I write the first thing in the morning. After I have poured myself a cup of coffee and let the dogs out to do their business. I don’t stop until I get the number of pages written I have set for myself that day, usually 4. I spend about 2 hours writing, then I shift gears, get a shower, and go to work. A few things things are important here. First, I have a daily writing goal, 4 pages. Second, I make writing a priority. I spend at least ten hours a week writing—and I write at the same time every day.
So—where do YOU find an extra 10 hours a week? What do you sacrifice? Giving up watching the evening news gives you 5 hours—and you’ll be in a better mood if you don’t watch all the bad stuff anyway. Giving up watching Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune gives you another 5 hours. Or you can spread 10 hours over 7 days and you have less hours to find every day. The point is, you can find the time. You have to. Or you won’t be writing. And you won’t be a writer.
I’ve often told people who say they want to write but don’t have the time to write a page a day (7 pages a week) and after year, you have a novel. Plain and simple, if writing is important to you, you’ll find the time. No matter what your day job is.
Now, about my day job. I own a publishing services company, but my primary job is indexing. I write 50 to 60 back-of-the-book indexes a year. That averages one a week, but life is never that simple. Most of the time my projects come is clusters. I can have 4 or 5 indexing projects on my schedule at one time. A quick primer on indexing: It is nearly the last task that takes place in the book production schedule because the pagination has to be set in stone (if changes get made after the indexing phase it can be a real nightmare—but it happens). If the copy editor took too much time, it usually affects my schedule since the date the book has to be shipped to the printer is set months in advance—same with the proofreader or anybody else in the production cycle. This past week for example, I had a 500 page book come in on Friday and I had to deliver the index on Tuesday. Trust me, I didn’t take the weekend off. I worked. And I wrote my fiction pages, too.
On average, nearly 30,000 pages of text cross my desk in a year, and in 10 years, I have never ever, never ever, missed a deadline. My indexes always ship on time, even if it means working 16 hours a day. And that is just the indexing part of the business.
The great thing is I get paid for reading and writing. I just finished indexing a book on physics. I don’t know how or when I will need to know about Newton’s Laws of Motion, but as a writer I’m sure it can’t hurt to have that stuff mixed into the soup of that makes up my brain. Recently, I did a technical editing job on a photography book. Funny thing. The novel I finished in September is about a professional nature photographer—photography is one of my hobbies. Not all of the books I work on fill the soup bowl, but a lot do. It’s a great job. But a busy and demanding job.
If I didn’t write first thing in the morning I wouldn’t have enough brain cells left at the end of the day to write a sentence. Writing a good index takes every ounce of creativity and skill I have left after writing. But writing in the morning is what works best for me—it may not be the best time for you, for your schedule. Find what’s comfortable and show up every day.
I know I’m lucky—I can’t say that enough. I have a job that’s interesting, challenging, and feeds me as a writer. But it didn’t just happen, and it doesn’t continue to happen for any other reason than hard work, discipline, and perseverance. All of the same qualities that are needed to succeed in the writing biz.
My guess is, most writers are good at their day jobs. My challenge to you then, is to put the same amount of dedication into your writing. Make it a job. Make it a priority. Make a life out of it. Show up every day…
For more information about indexing, visit www.asindexing.org