Monday, February 17, 2014

There’s Something to be Said for Routine While Working a Day Job

Many beginning writers work a day job while working on improving their craft. Some get up extra early and write before leaving for work. Others work after dinner when they get home. But either way, their writing often suffers because the majority of the day when their mind and body are fresh, they’re working for someone else.

It’s hard to juggle a full-time job with writing. There are only so many hours in the day. So how do you work a job that drains your creative energies and still get your writing done? The answer is simple—routine.

Everyone does a few things by routine—brushing their teeth, showering or bathing, even eating. While working in a routine can seem humdrum, it’s a way to get organized and get more things done in a limited amount of time.

Before you can work out a routine for your writing, you need to figure out what you need to get done. Make a list of your typical writing chores—everything from thinking up and jotting down ideas to researching them to applying that research to your writing to the writing, itself. You can’t do all of these things every day, and you probably don’t need to. Allot a certain amount of time to each type of chore. Some will take just a few minutes while others may take several hours. Divide up the ones that take longer to do, such as writing an article or story, and divide them up into segments that you can work on daily.

It’s actually a better idea to write for shorter periods of time rather than in long stretches, so dividing up your writing, and perhaps your research times will most likely help you in the long run.

Take a look at your daily schedule. You probably don’t think about that much. Instead, you get up, clean up, eat breakfast, go to work, work at your job, eat lunch, work more at your job, go home, eat dinner, relax, and go to bed. The next day you start that basic routine all over again.

What you need to do is work your writing chores into that already established routine. You probably don’t think you have any time, but if you analyze your daily schedule, you may find that you have quite a few blocks of extra time that you could spend doing one or two writing chores.

Map out a schedule—create a spreadsheet of it so you can carry it with you. One good thing about all the technology that’s around you is that you can use it to your advantage. To paraphrase an old saying, “You can take it with you”—your writing, that is. (More next week on using technology to expand your writing and create a portable office.)

Begin by blocking in all the necessary things you need to do every day—washing, eating, cleaning, driving kids places, and working at your job. Study what you do for a week to see how long it take you to say eat breakfast. Do the same with all the other things you have to do. Then adjust your spreadsheet schedule for the times you’ve discovered.  What’s left is the time you have for writing chores. At first it may not look like you have any time left. But look again.

Can you add time anywhere—get up an hour earlier or go to bed an hour later, take less time for lunch, take less time for relaxation or relax while doing lighter writing chores like thinking of ideas or even researching online?

Now add writing chores into your schedule. Work up a routine. For instance, housewives used to reserve Mondays for wash day, Tuesdays for ironing, Wednesdays for cleaning bedrooms, Thursdays for cleaning living and dining areas, Fridays for food shopping, etc. You need to do the same with your writing chores. Assign particular chores to particular days of the week. And do them only on those days whenever possible. In addition, you need to allot time for writing every day or every other day. If you’re schedule is packed, then write for a time on weekends.

While this may sound like a lot of work, it will take a while to establish a writing routine, just like it has taken a lifetime to establish your daily routine. You’ve got to re-educate yourself so that writing becomes an integral part of your daily life, not just a once-in-while pastime.

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