Saturday, 31 December 2011

Working Writers

                                                  How do/did YOU do it?

We all know that perennial term ‘Working Parents’ and the diverse opinions that fly around on the subject: their poor progeny, driven to delinquency or freed to foster independent life-skills.

But what about Working Writers?

They come in all varieties: full-time writers, part-time writers with part-time employment and the full-time employed who write only in ‘leisure’ time.

How do the latter group manage? Presumably their output must be severely curtailed? When one hears of writers completing 2,500 words a day (I know! You do so much more/less – delete the extraneous), it must surely be discouraging for those who work full-time and can never compete on an equal footing?

With such prolific writers (Barbara Cartland, notwithstanding) of three, four (MORE?) published novels a year, might it make those, not so time-fortunate, want to throw down their pen (OK laptop – but frankly, who is likely to throw down their laptop? They’d have to work an extra week to replace it. Let’s keep this real!).

Bad enough to have to wage-slave in any employment, that detracts from the passions of a writer (books!) but what of those working in particular professions? Those all-consuming, “it’s a vocation” type employments?

Doctor:  72 hour shifts, on-call, keeping up with medical developments...

Teacher/lecturer:  lesson prep, marking, exam assessment, Outdoor-Ed trips, CPD...

Police:  all leave cancelled, sleep-disrupting shift patterns...

Army:  deployment to war-zone, Green Goddess coverage for Fire-Service industrial action...

Inn-Keeper:  Late licence, Sky Sports Coverage Saturdays, Karaoke Nights...

Working Mothers:   OMG Eeeek!!

You get the picture... Another hour, day, week, month without putting         (m)any words to paper. No time to write the first/next blooming novel let alone blog, tweet, pester agents, publishers, anyone that might read your book (if it ever gets written) PLEEESE... (pretty)

Many published authors started off in this working category, even if they have now successfully thrown off the shackles of servitude. Or at least swapped service to others, to that “free servitude” to the one-eyed, hypnotic lap-dweller, that demands you tap its keys constantly with your creative little digits.

Help us all by revealing just how you did/do manage your time in those darkest of days? Then return to see how others do it! [comments gratefully received]



  1. I am an aspiring author, and it is a challenge to balance working full time, family commitments, etc. However my new strategy involves spending my entire lunch hour writing. Even if it is on a tablet of paper in an empty conference room, with the door shut so nobody can find me. Those 60 minutes are dedicated to my craft.

  2. Hi Jenna, I've been thinking about this one myself. By the time I get home and ready to settle and write, I'm generally too tired to do justice to any WIP. Largely I write at weekends and holidays but it is a very slow process. I thought I might give lunch-breaks a try too. Even 1,000 words (over 100 days) is a LOT of writing. My only real concern is those constant interruptions! But there is always a door-lock! Let's give it a whirl and see. Perhaps you would be kind enough to come back eventually and let us know how you get on.

  3. It doesn't get any easier when you don't work. Procrastination expands to fit the time available for it. I'm quite capable of spending an hour doing sudoko, changing the disc on the CD player, checking the books on the shelves, correcting the spelling on a paragraph I wrote weeks ago then in the last available twenty minutes I sometimes get down and write my little socks off.

  4. I managed okay when I had only one child. One hour 3 nights a week, plus lunchtimes. Somehow it's SO much harder with 2 kids!
    If you have any top tips, I'd love to hear them. In the meantime, I'm going to have to hit the chocolate to cheer myself up about failing to write...

  5. Victoria, I agree with the idea, that having less apparent available time to write, does tend to focus your efforts (although I am a major procrastinator, too!)

    Yes, Rhoda, young children, especially in multiples, makes it SOOO much harder. I know that too. It is much easier once they are grown up enough not to want to hang out with you, any longer! Does any inspiring mum/dad have any more helpful tips, meanwhile?

  6. I work part-time, which I think gives me the best of both worlds. I get to go out and meet people and then get home and write as part of a structured day. Saying that, first ever novel was written as a single mum of five kids under ten, and I'm *still* not sure how that got done! But, yes, I agree that structuring and organisation is probably the way to go. Build in a set writing time (mine is from 1.30 to 4 (well, 4ish, depending on orthodontic appointments, dogs, dinner, etc), which I try to stick to as much as possible. But also, stop beating yourself up! If time isn't there, it isn't there - try to make a few minutes extra the next day. Or the next. Or even next week. Treat it as a job, with its own designated timetable, and writing will reward you.
    Got to go now, dogs need a walk and kids want food...

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  8. Time management.

    I work part-time in the evenings which works very well for me as my creative flow has always been late at night.

    My kids are older now, so it has become a little easier, or maybe I've just become a whole lot better at delegation.

    Be mean with your time. Family and friends know not to ring me between certain hours, as I'll be either sleeping or possibly editing what I'd written the night before and do not want to be disturbed.

    I order most things online, to again free up some hours and I always print out my work and do a 'clean up' whilst sat in the car waiting for the kids.

    I try to keep the whole Social Networking side of things to a minimum as well, as that is the biggest time stealer so will make one or two posts (usually in the mornings) and then turn off the wireless.

    Pasta is my friend.

    Internet is the enemy! Except when you follow a good Blog like this one Susan ;-)


  9. Thank you so much Jane and Caroline for some down-to-earth advice. "Structuring & organisation" and "time management" and limiting social networking are simple and sensible solutions. We know what time we've got, so what are we going to do with it? Right? And all that multi-tasking - you go girls! I did single mum of two, so I'm very impressed with you, Jane. Thanks too for the lovely compliment, Caroline x

  10. I'm afraid that I didn't manage to combine the three very well, Susan, writing, working and being a mother.

    I wrote my first book about 25 years ago, when the boys were two and three, but in the following year, I increased the amount of time in which I worked outside the home, and the boys began to need a regular chauffeuse - neither things, along with dealing with the home, left me much time. In the time that was left, I was too tired to feel creative, and the book went on hold for many years.

    I admire those who succeed in balancing the demands of all parts of their lives so that they end up achieving
    something for themselves.

    Liz X

  11. Thank you Liz. I find exhaustion kills creativity, although others declare it keeps them sane in such times. Nothing more exhausting than raising children (or teaching them!)

  12. I am a full-time writer and I love it. But I have found my biggest time thieves are now Social Media (Like your blog or mine:)) which I have to follow as part of my marketing. It is so much more fun to 'play' on the internet than to get down to sold work. I really have to discipline myself. Sigh. I do so hate discipline.
    Gwynneth White

  13. Balancing things is often not easy for me. Parenting needs to take center stage most of the time.