The “Work-Writing Life” Balance

I’m putting it out there, law-of-attraction-style: one day, I would like to support myself full time by writing fiction. 

Until then, like a lot of aspiring novelists, I work a regular, full-time office job. And I have to admit, lately I haven’t been doing a very good job of keeping up with my fiction writing. 

Since I’m feeling so overwhelmed by my job and other things, I wanted to remind myself—and hopefully teach you—how to find a balance and keep working on my personal projects.

Find the Right (Write?) Medium 

I’m in a really fortunate position that while I work towards publishing fiction, my day job is as a magazine writer. I love that I get to write every single day, but most days when I get home after a long day of staring at a word processor, the last thing I want to do is sit down in front of my computer and stare at a word processor. 

So about a year ago, I made a big switch to combat that computer screen fatigue. I now do the vast majority of my drafting in a pen and paper notebook instead of on my computer.

This doesn’t work for every part of my writing—I’m editing now, and most of that has to be done on the computer—but using pen and paper helps me reframe my thinking from work to home. 

Job-ify Your Creative Writing 

Sort of like, “Dress for the job you want, not the one you have.” Even if you aren’t making any money from your creative writing yet, if you want to eventually, you have to treat it like your job. 

If I waited until I was feeling creative and inspired to get my fiction writing done, I would write approximately four times a year. Instead, I stopped treating my personal projects like they were “optional.” Because if I ever am fortunate to support myself writing fiction full time, I’m going to have to write even when I don’t feel like it. 

I block out time in my schedule and try my best to treat it as sacred. Writing time is often the first thing to get dropped when things get busy—resist that urge. If you get invited to last-minute happy hour during a time you blocked out for writing, do your best to say, “Sorry, I have other plans.” 

Treating my personal writing as work sometimes takes an eensy bit of the joy out of it, but when I commit time to write, I’m always happy I did. 

Get Out of the House

No matter how good my intentions are to do some writing when I get home from work, as soon as I walk into my house, the possibilities of doing laundry or cleaning up my room or watching Chuck reruns always end up dominating my attention. 

If writing is my superpower, then my house is kryptonite. I almost never get any substantial work done there, even if I really want to. 

Instead, when I really want to be productive, I go directly to a coffee shop after work and spend an hour on whatever work-in-progress I’m focusing on before I return to the distraction-fest that is my house. 

Experiment to Find Balance

If you’re trying to establish a writing routine, but it’s not working for you, try something else. For years, I got up early to write for a couple of hours before work. The wee hours of the morning were my most consistent, productive time. 

But now I have a new job that I report to an hour earlier than my previous job, and writing in the morning just doesn’t work for me anymore. So I’m experimenting to find what does work. 

It’s a process, and it may require a good long look at your current time management, but it is possible to work 40 hours a week and still have a full and satisfying writing life. (Don’t ask me about putting a social life on top of that—there, you’re on your own.)

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