This comment usually means, “I can’t find a big enough blocks of time to write,” “My family keeps me too busy,” or the one I hear most often, “My day job gets in the way.”
What would you do with all the time in the world?
If you had all the time in the world, you’d write, right?
Or would you?
I’m fascinated by the number of writers I meet who do not have day jobs, have full-time childcare or don’t have kids, have a financial cushion, are independently wealthy, or have someone supporting them, but they are not writing. Maybe they thought they needed to quit their day jobs to find time to write, and they could, so they did, but now they still can’t get themselves to do it. Instead they fill their time with other activities. At each day’s end they’re forced to swallow their uncomfortable guilt about not having written yet again.
It’s not your day job
Not finding time to write has absolutely nothing to do with your job or anything else.
It has to do with your priorities, discipline, and your willingness to face the cold, naked fear and massive resistance that comes up when you sit down to write (or think about sitting down to write).
It has to do with having the courage, strength, and will to demand from your life the time to write.
Your actions demonstrate what you’re willing to put your time, energy, and attention toward, which in turn shows what’s most important to you.
Are you doing what it takes?
Before you tell me your writing is important — of course it is — let me ask:
- Are you willing to bring what’s most important to you into alignment with what you’re actually doing?
- Are you willing to make the hard choices to let go of other things in your life? The volunteer jobs, the late night internet browsing, the inefficient ways you spend your time at that day job?
- Are you willing to bust yourself when you want to procrastinate or when the monster of resistance threatens to swallow you whole?
- Are you willing to do the work?
Day job challenges and how to solve them
Now that you’re ready to tackle this incongruity, let’s look at how to solve some of the common challenges that come up for writers with day jobs.
Challenge #1: Your day job swallows up your available time and energy so by the time you get home, you’re too exhausted to write.
Write before you go to work. Set your clock an extra 15 minutes early and get up and write. Even if you write just a half a page a day, it’s a heck of a lot more than writing nothing at all. Your worst writing is far better than the words you do not write. If you’re stuck in believing that you have to have a long block of time to write, this is for you.
Challenge #2: Your day job requires you to put in overtime and you’re constantly traveling and working late.
Solution: See #1 above, and consider writing when traveling by air or train. Also consider how effective you’re being with your time at work. Jobs that require endless sacrifice on your part are often a trap. When you think you have to work late, you do, and you keep doing it. Remember the joke about how if you want to get something done, find the busiest guy in the office and ask him to do it? Don’t be that guy. Treat yourself and your work respectfully. Get in, be efficient, get out. Rein in your perfectionism and save it for the final polish on your screenplay.
Challenge #3: Your day job sucks your soul dry and you have nothing left for your writing.
Solution: Get a better, easier day job. Seriously. It’s not okay to do that to yourself. You don’t have to quit tomorrow, but you can start designing a smart exit strategy and begin looking for a day job that will still pay the bills and keep you a little more sane so you can do the work you were put here to do.
The bottom line
Writing is important to you. The demands of a day job will devour your writing time if you let it.
Don’t let it.
With a little creativity, some advanced planning, and discipline you can write regularly AND have a day job. Just don’t let it be your excuse not to write anymore.