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A Day in the Life: Finding Time to Write

Day planner pagesAs somebody who works a regular 8-5 job and writes, some people are amazed that I get so much writing done. Here’s a little breakdown of how I sneak it all in!

In Theory

I get up ridiculously early in the morning (by my standards, which is 5:45 a.m.) and leave to catch the bus around 6:30 a.m. This gets me downtown and into my office somewhere between 7:15 and 7:30 a.m. If I’m on the ball, I can spend this time writing blog posts, submitting stories to markets, or sometimes jotting down notes or tidbits of stories.

I also use my lunch break for writing. Again, this might be blog posts or submitting stories, or work on Mad Scientist Journal slush or editing, but more often, it’s used for writing stories or bits of my novels. On a good day, I can write about 1,000 words in an hour, even around bites of my lunch. So that might be a scene in a short story or novel, knocked out during my lunch break!

Finally, I work on writing stuff three weeknights each week. This is normally when I get the bulk of my work done. On Mondays and Tuesdays, I get home at 6, throw together dinner, and then can usually get somewhere between two and two and a half hours of work in. Thursdays are our writer’s group at a coffee shop, which is usually a couple of hours of intermittent work. Wednesdays and Fridays are my nights off.

And then we’ve got the weekend. On a good Saturday, we go write for a couple of hours in the morning at a different coffee shop, but with the same writer’s group as on Thursdays. On Sundays, I get up really early to go to the laundromat, and I often take a notebook or tablet with me to get an hour of writing in while the clothes are in the washers and dryers. If I’m writing longhand, I try to get that typed up as soon as I get home, or at least at some point during the day. If our weekend is open, I can spend more time on either of these days getting projects worked on more than I normally would. (And occasional days off for holidays are a godsend for this!)

In Practice

I am not an early riser. Even getting up at 5:45 to be out the door by 6:30 is a challenge for me, many mornings. If all I need to do is shower, dress, eat breakfast, and throw mostly prepped items into lunchboxes, I can do it. If anything extra needs to be done (lunch pieces aren’t prepped, I haven’t rearranged my crochet bag, etc.), then I’m often catching the later bus, which comes at about 6:50 or so. Just 10 minutes of difference in bus times can often equal not arriving at the office until 7:45, which kills my ability to get much done before I start work at 8.

There are also some days when writing at lunch isn’t viable–if the phones are ringing a lot, or if I get distracted on social media or with games on my phone, instead, I may waste my whole lunch break. There are also some projects that I’ve worked on on my personal laptop and haven’t emailed to myself, so they’re not conducive to being worked on at work as well.

On weeknights, I occasionally lose a writing night to errands, especially if it comes on the heels of a convention weekend …

because convention weekends kill at LEAST my Saturday and Sunday schedule, and they usually bleed over into Monday, because some weekend errands (like grocery shopping) don’t get done. Jeremy helps out with a lot of our weekend errands if he can take the Monday after a convention off work (which he’s often able to do, thanks to a more generous vacation accrual rate where he works), but my grocery shopping style, in particular, is not conducive to being a shared task. And if I need to stock up on yarn because I’ve sold a lot of crocheted things, that’s something only I can do!

We also do a lot of gaming on the weekends, when we’re not at conventions. At present, we have an every other Friday game that I run, a once-a-month Saturday game, an every other Sunday game, and a once-a-month Sunday game (the only one that neither of us are the GM for, and the only one we don’t host!). They generally wipe out the most productive part of the afternoon, and by the time everyone has departed or we’ve driven back home, I’m not able to get much more writing in.

Weekends are also when we do things like take the cats in for their checkups, get our haircuts, and other miscellaneous errands. Because we’re scheduling around conventions and gaming, most of our “open” Saturdays are really quite packed with all of the things that can only be scheduled then. In months where the open Sunday doesn’t conflict with a convention, I guard those jealously. But the frequency of that all working out is rare!

Finding More Time

There are some folks who prefer waking up early to write before work. That ain’t me. I am BAD at getting up early, though we’re trying new strategies so that I’m not scrambling to get out the door on time. But I doubt I’ll ever reach the point where I can get up at 4:45 with Jeremy and get writing done before catching the bus.

And some people can stay up late to get more work done, but I stop functioning around 9 p.m., with as early as I have to get up. I can get some reading in after 9, but that’s about it! Staying up later just makes the rest of my week more difficult.

Could I drop some of the games I’m in or the one I run? Sure, I could. But I enjoy having a creative outlet that isn’t writing or crochet, too. And gaming fills that niche. I enjoy all of the games I’m in and the one I’m GMing, and it’s basically a max of six sessions per month between the four games, so not an excessive amount of time.

Could we do less conventions? Again, the answer is yes. But we also enjoy conventions, whether we’re attending or vending. And when we’re vending, that’s often to sell our writing, so its a sort of non-writing task that’s related to what we’re working on. So it’s hard to justify cutting those out.

In the end, I work with the windows of time I’ve got, and try to make the best of those windows. Some days and weeks are more successful than others, but I take whatever I can get!


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