Monday, June 27, 2011

Writing As a Job

Yesterday I was talking to Liz, and congratulating myself. I'd made a lot of progress on my rewrite on Saturday, enough to hit the 20K milestone. Of course, yesterday I was tapped out and having shiny new ideas distracting me.

I made like a good writer, jotted the new ideas down, and went back to work on my rewrite. But during the conversation Liz had an excellent suggestion that I've pondered ever since.

Treat your writing like a job.

Not just in the "butt in chair every day" way, but with the benefits as well. Give yourself holidays off. Keep track of your hours worked and let that accrue into sick days and vacation. Keep a set schedule of hours and work on your main project during those hours, every work day you set, just like you go to your day job.

I think this is a fabulous idea. Not just how it keeps you accountable, but how it also keeps you sane. I have issues with guilt. I have a day job, but aside from that I have a fair bit of free time. Since writing is my joy, it's what I do during most of my time off.

Normally this works out fine. But sometimes, having "work on book" scheduled in every single hour of your free time sucks. Because if I am tired when I come home and opt to veg in front of the TV instead, I feel guilty. If I am sick, more guilt. If I just don't feel like it, because I've been working on the book for hours every single day with no end in sight, I feel guilty for not working on my book.

If instead I give myself a set schedule to follow, complete with sick days and vacation time, suddenly there's structure. I spend less time flailing around for an hour, and just get right to work. I know when I need to start and when I can stop without feeling like I am slacking off.

Of course, there will probably be days where I exceed my set number of hours, but Liz has a back up for that too. When you go into overtime, you keep track of the amount of over time you spend. This accrues into time you can spend however you want. You can give yourself the day off, or use it to work on a shiny new idea.

I think writing is so hard sometimes because you can't see the end. Writing a book seems like it takes forever, and you know when you're finished you're not really done. Rewriting is hard for the same reason. There's an obvious end to the book, but the road just seems to go on and on without an end in sight. It gets hard to measure your success and progress.

If like me, you work much better when you have a set structure in place, consider doing what I will be doing today and making yourself a writing schedule. 

Sometimes it's the rules that set us free.

What about you? How to you manage your writing time? How do you find the balance between your real life and your writing? 


  1. How do I manage writing time? Poorly and erratically. ;-)

    Seriously, though, when I'm more organized, I tend to try to set specific goals. Not time, but "distance" if you will. I'm currently in the edit stage, so it is "slog through x scenes." Or whatever. The key, though, is to set realistic goals. "Finish book, make into masterpiece" isn't a realistic goal for the day.

    I also admit, I don't generally spend a full day on writing. I'm lazy like that. I do other stuff, I exercise (despite my round appearance, I actually *DO* exercise), I putter, I plan and cook meals or desserts (hence the round appearance.)

    But, I try to make sure I do some sort of writerly work, too. Editing falls into that category. Research can -but it is far too easy to get sucked in with that, as research is so intrinsically rewarding by itself. I could do that all day. But no one would pay me for that. :-)

  2. This is a fabulous idea!! I think it could really help mentally and emotionally :)

    Sarah Allen
    (my creative writing blog)

  3. Linda: I don't think you have to spend the entire day writing. I think it's good to get some balance in there, some mental space. I like your idea of small goals.

    Sarah: Thanks! I think it will help.