I imagine that a lot of people who are trying to build a career as a self published writer and author will fall under the title of a day jobber. I myself am currently working a day job while trying to carve out that writing career.
Having a day job means that you have very little spare time to do the writing part and work on that dream. I work nine hours a day but the day job takes up at least eleven hours when you take into consideration getting up early and getting ready for work in the morning, driving to and from work and the much needed rest and shower when you get home. Most of the day is taken up with the actual day job. After eating and spending some time with my family I am left with just a few hours to cram in what is essentially a week’s work.
And to make matters worse I have decided to build this website where I shall share my thoughts and lessons on the self publishing world which means having to write articles and create videos taking up more of my precious time. This I am happy to do though, writing is writing and it helps me to practice. Plus I want to share the things I have learned with other like minded people and hopefully make some new friends who are on the same journey or wanting to start the journey into self publishing.
So what are the tips that I have learned so far which I am able to share with you?
1 – Understand & Accept What Your Day Job Is About & Why You Need It.
Accept that you need the job and do not allow it to depress or anger you as this will only make matters worse. Once you have spiralled into a depressive state about how much writing time the job is robbing you of or thinking about what you could be doing instead you will be left feeling annoyed, a little depressed and you might be left little or no motivation to write.
It really is destructive to allow your mind to fester on what could be, it serves no purpose and will do you more harm. I know this well as I used to do it all too often.
I have taken to wearing an orange wrist band which is clearly visible. I wrote the letters CYT – TBT on it (which have now worn off) which means Control Your Thinking – Thoughts Become Things. I wrote this on the wrist band so that every time I saw the letters and the band I would instantly be reminded to control my thinking and stop any form of negative rants which might have been going on.
You know what? It works. It stops me slipping into a negative mindset and feelings. Many times have I had the thoughts it’s just not going to happen or I give up which demotivated me to the point that I did nothing when I got home which in the long run will really make sure that it won’t happen.
The reason you have a day job is to earn the money to keep the wolf from the door as we say here in the UK. You need money to pay the bills, to buy food, maybe pay off debts to keep your head above water while you are building that writing career and if there is any left over (I hope there is) it’ll be used to fund your growing career.
It is depressing and frustrating when you think about how much time is taken up with the day job but it is needed. I work 9 hours Mon-Thursday and 8 hours on a Friday, I don’t have a long commute but I do need to get up before 6:30 AM to get ready and to get to work. With the time spent in the evening getting my food ready for the following day my working day is more like 10.5 – 11 hours and not just the 9 hours that I am in the factory for.
Going to bed early so that you are not feeling exhausted while at work also eats up your free time so having to work a day job is very frustrating and time consuming but unfortunately it is needed especially if you have a family to feed.
Understand why you are doing what you are doing, accept it and do everything you can not to become too tired or depressed.
2 – Have A Small Notepad & Pen Or Dictaphone Close To Hand For Jotting Down Ideas
It is a good idea to carry a small notepad around with you for taking down notes of any ideas that you have had for either your stories or other aspects of your business. When you least expect it you might come up with a great idea for a character, an event in your story, a sudden plot twist, maybe an idea for a book cover or something that you want/need to do with your website or social media campaign.
It is the same old story – when you think of something brilliant or important you say to yourself that’s an excellent idea, I’ll remember that for later but guess what? You never do. Sometimes it’s not the details which you forget but you can totally forget that you had a brilliant idea in the first place.
When you are at work you are paid to do just that – work. You cannot be seen sat thinking through your brilliant idea, you have to be seen doing what you are meant to be doing and that simply means that you are not allowing the idea or thought to really sink down deep into your subconscious and your memory. Which in turn means that it will not be recorded and can easily drift off into the either without you realising it.
Having a small note pad or dictaphone can be a real help. Most phones come with a dictaphone app which is great but most bosses do not like to see employees using their phone so I would suggest using a small notepad and pen. Not only are you less likely to get into trouble but you look like you are taking notes for the company. 🙂
I use a small thin notepad, it is a bit battered now due to it being carried in my back trouser pocket while I do very manual work but it gets used and is filled up with ideas. Often the ideas are nothing more than a keyword or short sentence which explains the idea briefly. As long as I have something to read at the end of the day which reminds me and allows me to expand on the idea then it has done its job.
3 – Use Your Lunch & Tea/Coffee Breaks For Working
This one depends on how long your lunch break is or what type of job that you have. I have worked at a media company in the past where I was given an hour long lunch break, in the job I do now I only have half hour to get my food warmed up, drink made and eaten.
If you are able to, it would be a good idea to try and get some work done in your break times. Now this is only a suggestion if you can do it but if you can’t then you should not beat yourself up about it. Every job is different and not everyone is able to do much in their breaks.
For example: when I previously worked for the media company I worked at a computer hooked up to the internet, my phone was also connected to the company’s wifi and I was given an hours lunch break which I ate at my desk. The better half at the time used to work and so I generally had the whole hour to myself to do all kinds of stuff.
Unfortunately I now have half an hour in a canteen, no wifi connection, no computer with internet access to use and the better half (who now is unable to work due to health issues) sits down with a drink at home ready to chat to me because of the no mobile phone use during the working hours rule at work. It is the only time she can really chat to me. (She misses me and likes to chat to me on my lunch break, what can I say? 🙂 )
It is fair to say that I am not going to get much done during my dinner break but – I do what I can do. I read my notes and work through ideas. I send quick emails using my mobile internet on my phone, chat to people via various message apps regarding work and plan the evenings tasks so that when I sit down at the computer I know what I am doing and not sat staring at the monitor trying to figure out what I can and should do.
Occasionally if the better half is busy during my lunch break and unable to chat then I do some writing and editing on my tablet.
Some writers have been known to use their mobile phones as dictaphones and record large swathes of audio which they then have turned into text using software like Dragon Speakeasy which they can then edit and add to their books.
I recently heard about one writer who would go and sit in his car during his dinner break and just talk and talk for the hour. His weekly word count went up astronomically. You could do that or you could take a tablet to work and using software like Google docs or Scrivener you could do some writing and maybe do some editing of your previous work.
Again this does depend on what your job is, where you work, what you do and and how long you get. When I used to work as a carpenter and joiner there was no chance that I could do anything like that. Some jobs require you to actually sit down and have a break as they are very physically and mentally demanding, but if you are able to find time during your working downtime then use it. If not for writing and editing, use it for other important but less creative tasks.
4 – Decide On What You Are Going To Do Each Evening Before Sitting Down At Your Laptop
I touched on this briefly in tip number 3, during my lunch break I work out what I need to do that night before I hit the office. It prevents me from wasting my time. I have in the past gone to the office, sat at my desk, fired up the laptop and then sat for ages trying to figure out what I should do from a list of things that needed doing. Sometimes after several hours of wondering all I had accomplished was half hours worth of work.
That is rubbish and incredible frustrating, especially when the following day is going to be spent at the day job! I would go to work resenting myself for wasting a whole evening and there was noone else to blame but myself. It was seriously painful.
Time is very tight when you have a full time day job, it is even more tighter if you are in any kind of relationship with responsibilities. So it is up to us to make sure that we use what little time we have spare to its best. We cannot simply waste time. Time management is an awful saying, I am not a big fan of it but we do need to manage that spare time. I prefer task management, work out what needs doing, which is the most important and schedule those jobs in specific order over a specific time.
When the time comes for you to sit down at your laptop you know exactly what you are doing and you can get started right away and give it your full attention. Get those plans and lists made.
5 – Give Yourself A Dedicated Distraction Free Working Area
This is very important and also pretty obvious so I apologise if you have already thought about this but – I cannot stress how important this is – you need to have a place where you can retreat to, close a door shutting out the world behind you and work in peace without distraction.
So if you have a spare room which is not being used much, maybe a small spare bedroom, boxroom or conservatory make that your writing room/office. Ideally you want something that has a door, it is better if you can close the door and shut out any distractions and disturbances.
Some people have built successful businesses by working on the kitchen table or in the corner of the lounge but it is very hard to work when there is food bubbling on the cooker, posts being clanged as they are being washed, the washing machine in the corner whirring away or the usual arguments on the weekly soap operas blaring out of the TV speakers.
None of those things help to keep you focused or allow the creative juices to flow.
You need a place to work, somewhere where you can focus on your tasks as best as you can. Remember your time is limited and you need to get as much done as you can in that time slot. An hour of laser focused work is far better than 3 or 4 hours of distracted work.
It is also important that your family or whoever you live with understand that you want to be left alone for that time slot. They should know that you are not to be disturbed unless the building is on fire or your child is choking on a Lego brick. Obviously emergencies come first, that is a given but anything else needs to be put aside and discussed when you have finished working for the evening.
Building up a writing career is hard when you have a day job but it can be done, especially if you create a system, a how too, to help you get the most out of the time you put aside to write. Productivity is important but being productive is often down to having the background stuff set up so that you do not need to think about them.
These 5 tips should help you to set up that system of background stuff so that once you hit your laptop in an evening – or whenever your spare time is – you can hit the floor running and be writing without any doubts, negative emotions and confusion as to what you should or need to be doing.
Please let us know in the comments below any systems that you use or whether any of these tips were helpful.