Writing with a Day Job, Five Kids, and Life at the Door

If you are looking for advice about writing with a day job, you may be disappointed. I haven’t got it figured out yet. I keep telling myself if I am going to call myself a writer, I better be writing! But life isn’t that simple. Writing books and magazines sit stacked on my nightstand, my every intention to spend just twenty minutes reading something to keep my mind on the craft on weeknights, so that on the weekend I can work on my current project.

But most evenings I am too tired to read. My day job consists of reading, writing, and sitting in front of a computer all day so usually the last thing I want to do when I get home is take a seat in my home office and get back to “work.” I also have a few other obligations pulling at me–five kids and a (very talkative) husband who desire my undivided attention–and dinner!

So am I writer or not? Quitting my day job is not an option. Isolating myself every weekend in order to write or revise a few chapters (if interruptions are at a minimal) creates guilt at best and irritation at worst. So I’m not consistent. But I’m not giving up either. One weekend, I will spend time with my family or clean the house (or both). The next weekend, I apologize in advance and dive in.

I have somehow managed to set aside random chunks of time and I finally did it! I completed my first fiction manuscript and submitted it to an interested publisher.

I will now begin Part 2 after some serious research on the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. I could not start this until Part 1 was complete and I had worked out certain plot elements.

So now that my brain has a little wiggle room, I need to get into a better routine of putting writing on my mind on a daily basis. In the past year or so, I have discovered a few things that work well in keeping me going–so I’m sharing with those of you who haven’t already figured out your own method.

5 Ways I Am Learning to Write Around My Day Job

1. Set aside time (any time) to research, write, and seek writer’s “food” through various online and in-person networking. Just five minutes of reading an article in Writer’s Digest, Twitter, or my inbox can fuel inspiration.

2. Writing is no longer a solitary profession. Writers need each other to keep going. I couldn’t do this without the camaraderie and encouragement I get from my writer’s critique group. Personal feedback on my writing over the past year alone has improved the quality of my writing in many ways.

3. Always have that next project in mind. I have at least a dozen story ideas on the verge of becoming my next project. My strategy involves taking all the unique stories that make up my life and the lives around me and applying the “what if” twist. The possibilities are endless.

4. Using technology to organize and capitalize when inspiration hits in unplanned moments. I have started using Evernote and Concept Draw MINDMAP as means of collecting bits of research, character sketches, and plot points. Maybe I’m behind the times on this concept, but I am beginning to see the benefit of using tools like these to access and store writing inspiration as I go about daily life. What if that single mom standing in line at the grocery store fits the concept of a secondary character? Before the details about her unkempt appearance clashing with her perfect “mani-pedi” skip my mind, I can store the details on a phone app in seconds.

5. Giving up normal “down time” to write, even when I’m tired and don’t feel like it. At the moment, I could be playing Skyrim with my 11-year-old. And that is what I will be doing in about five minutes (just as soon as I proofread and post this!)

Yes, this mom of five plays Skyrim as a way to bond with my kids and escape from life’s obligations for a little while. I’ll save the details on how that came to be in another post!

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