Yesterday at 11 am I finished my latest rough draft. It’s not particularly long, clocking in at around 230 pages and it needs a lot of work but the first draft is done and now I have a foundation to build on. I started writing this manuscript at the start of June, just before my move to New Orleans and benefited from only working part time for the first half of it.
When I got down here though, everything changed. I couldn’t afford to spend my entire morning alternating between five page sprints and personal errands; I couldn’t write in consistent increments building towards large word count goals. I had to spend most of my day in an office or going to meetings. My writing was still a priority to me, but I had to find time to do it, I couldn’t build my day around it.
By the time I got down here I still had around 25k words left to write. Rather than hitting my 3-4k word count goals daily, I was hitting 1500 on two separate projects. Having to start and stop throughout the day, working in a couple hundred words during lunch or the hour I had at home before an evening networking event gave me the opportunity to hit smaller word count goals before the end of the night. The small windows of writing added up to anywhere from 1000-1500 words.
Late evenings were when I did the bulk of my work, usually ending the night with an additional 1000-2500 burst before going to bed. On off days I would get a little writing done in the morning but my top priority for mornings is the gym. It’s easy to find motivation to write after a long day; it’s not as easy to find the same motivation for fitness. The gym also helps me maintain a clear head throughout the day so I can balance my work life and my creative life.
It will be interesting to figure out my editing process down here. I expect most of my editing to be done late at night. It’s more difficult to start and stop editing than it is to write a first draft. Rough drafts have the benefit of building from scratch. If you only have ten minutes you can at the very least plan out a scene. Editing is a little more focused.
My tangible advice for anyone reading this and looking to pursue writing (or other creative endeavors) while working full time is this:
*Give yourself a daily goal. Not something to do all at once but a place to reach by the end of the day (or week if you work better with weekly goals).
*Don’t be afraid to be productive in small windows. 10 minutes may not feel like a long time but if you’re flexible and give yourself a specific assignment those 10 minutes can help build towards your daily goal.
*Don’t be afraid to ask for personal space. If you don’t have the luxury of having a quiet area, ask for one. Find a way to eliminate distractions so you can be productive.
*This is the last and least concrete piece of advice I have: Be flexible. Things will not always go according to plan but humans by nature can always find a way to adapt. It may not always be comfortable, but the time is there for you to take if you’re open to it. I heard Toni Morrison give a lecture at the end of 2017 and she spoke about how she started writing when she was working a traditional 9-5 job. She said she got most of her work done on the weekends and the pre-dawn hours of the day.
Time is a funny thing. Years go by in seconds, but you can stretch a few minutes a day into an entire book.
“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” –Mark Twain