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Category: writing

Balancing the Nine-to-Five with a Writer’s Life: Working versus Writing

Perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of being a writer – besides not allowing oneself to become distracted from the actual writing, of course – is the act of balancing writing with the realities of holding down a “real” (i.e., paying) job. Not many writers are fortunate enough to be able to make a living through their writing. (I’m speaking for anyone whose career doesn’t involve writing.) How do you handle this balancing act?

Here’s a typical day for me. I’m sure it is similar to many writers:

5:30am: Wake up

6:15am: Leave for work

7:30am-4pm: Work

5:15pm: Arrive home

5:15pm-6pm: Prepare/eat dinner

6pm-9pm: Spend time with wife and child; unwind from long day at work; read/write/watch movies/zone out

10pm: Bed

That 6-9 window is so small. It also assumes it’s not a night with other obligations – sports practices/games for my son, professional obligations, or extracurricular activities. It is often said that a writer’s life is a lonely one. I am fortunate to have a family who is supportive of my writing, and is okay with me locking myself away for hours at a time to write. I also happen to work at a school. Although I’m not on a teacher’s schedule (i.e., summers off), it does allow me more opportunities for time off. This week was our Spring Break, and I was able to take off the whole week using vacation time. I’ve spent a great deal of it writing, and it’s been really productive. I know when I go back to work on Monday, I likely won’t be churning out 3,000+ words a day on my manuscript. Sometimes, I allow days or even weeks to pass before I touch it again. It’s a cycle. In addition to highlighting “write” in that time frame, I also highlighted “read,” because reading is such an important part of being a writer. I have a hard time imagining a good writer who isn’t also an avid reader. I’m sure they exist, but I wouldn’t recommend it!

I’m currently reading “The Business of Being a Writer” by Jane Friedman. It delves into so much of this, but especially focuses on the dirty, no-one-wants-to-think-about-this-stuff side of writing: the business side. I’ve only just begun reading it, but I already highly recommend it!

How do you handle balancing your “real” job with your writing?

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Querying! Ready… Set… Nah, Not Yet

On your mark…

I’d decided I was ready to start querying agents, to see if I could get any nibbles on my “finished” manuscript. I put “finished” in quotes because I determined that my manuscript isn’t as polished as it could be. There’s room for improvement. I found things that need to be added, things that need to be edited, and probably definitely things that need to be removed altogether. There’s a lot of competition out there, and everything I write has to be the best it can possibly be.

It is impossible to be objective about ones own work, but as a writer, you have to be able to step back, step away, and look at what you’ve created — and it is a creation! — with fresh eyes. It helps to have critical beta readers who can point out flaws, readers who won’t tell you you’re the next Stephen King. I’m not even to that point, yet. (I thought I was.)

Get set…

Writing a query means focusing on the plot of the book, and it was at that point that I was able to be honest with myself: my plot was lacking. The book was is good, but. The book is entertaining, but. The book makes sense, but. There is room for improvement. I am confident that the book will be published someday. I know that I’ll find more things I want to revise or edit or change even after it’s in the wild. I’m okay with that. I will have moved on to the next (and the next, and the next). But for now, while it’s still in my complete control, this is my time to make it right, to make it as perfect as I can.

Not yet…

I will edit and polish and get it in the best possible shape before I even consider querying. Writing a novel takes time. There’s no sense in rushing the process at this stage; the manuscript isn’t going away. It can wait. So can I.

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