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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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