Get A New Story: Your Day Job Is Not Your Problem

I hear from so many writers who say they don’t have enough time to write.

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.

The solution?

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.



13 thoughts on “Get A New Story: Your Day Job Is Not Your Problem

  1. Jen C

    There is so much truth to this. I have been unemployed off and on for the past two years – what better time to write, right? Except that I have written less in the last two years than I did when I had a full-time, late-night, soul-sucking job. Having too much time is just as bad, if not worse (for me) than having too little time. Because there is little structure to my days, I have a hard time building in the time to write. There’s always the excuse of, “well, I have the whole day, so…” and before you know it, you’re sitting in bed, mentally bashing yourself for not having written a word. I’m actually looking forward to going back to a busy, full-time job, because it’ll provide structure and, most likely, inspiration. Fingers crossed!

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  3. art diaz

    OH! Jenna your article is wonderful and very moving, I think i am going to copy it and have a print in my room, so i know what to do.

    It is not pretentious, but dear i have three little businesses and i want to complete ten of them and make them bigger, but you know what i would prefer to spend all my time writing instead. Because I have discovered marvelous worlds on another planets thru writing, and I guess I am not the only one.

    Thank you dear (I call you dear with no special intentions it.s the way I treat ladies)

  4. admingwyn

    I enjoyed reading this article if only to affirm that although many people have said as much when it comes to advice on how writers with day jobs can find more time to write. And I found the comments about how other people are making this work to be highly inspiring, as well.

  5. Vincent J.Doherty

    I agree with so much of this arrticle. For the last two years I have been working at home and not doing enough writing. I probably spend more time evading the act of getting in front of a keyboard than I do writing. An acquaintance of mine, a very successful and internationally known biographer admitted he has the same problem getting started each day. Remember ‘Parkinson’s Law’ – The task expands to fill the time available. This article is a timely reminder and corrective !

  6. RZapata87Ramon Zapata

    What a great article, Jenna! This resonated with me a bit too deeply and I am inspired to write no matter what now. I think sometimes the darkness of my story scares me on a subconscious level and I just have to fight through that and get my ass in the seat. Thanks so much!

  7. Linda Anderson

    Thanks, Jenna for the great article. Readers can also check out It was named a 101 Best Websites for Writers by Writers Digest. Has hundreds of practical tips to help anyone find time and space for writing.

  8. crichardwriter

    Thanks for this article Jenna – it was very timely. I recently moved to a new job and new city, so I have been struggling to get back into my regular routine. I have at least kept up with getting up early in the morning and completing my morning pages if nothing else, but I need to get back to my blogging and writing a novel. You are absolutely right about making commitments instead of making excuses, and I have started reevaluating how I use my time.

    The first commenter talked about how people can’t change jobs or don’t have the credentials, but the fact of the matter is, they can make different choices and start working towards making a change. You ALWAYS have a choice – I changed jobs during the middle of this economic crisis and found a job that was better paying and more prestigious. You can learn a great deal by studying on your own or volunteering to get the skills required to make a change – there are always options. Employers will always be looking for hard workers who are qualified and motivated regardless of the economic conditions.

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  10. Anne Burgot

    I quit a low paid job for an even lower paid job a couple of years ago to have more flexible hours and minimum responsibilities so I could “keep my soul” and focus on the writing. The job I took is in a cinema so I can watch films, keep up-to-date with what is released and see a big screen every day which reminds me of what I write for. I also figured I’d be more likely to find like-minded workmates, which I did. I don’t earn much, I certainly don’t spend much (but the good thing about writing is that it costs pennies), I live in a shared house – and how I long to have my own place! But I write. Because life gets more and more expensive, I now work consistently full-time. I still write. I’ve recently started a blog on which I post five days a week. I write even more. The less I have time, the better I get organised and disciplined and the more I write. That is not to say I don’t want to ever quit the day job but in the meantime, the only way to achieve what I want is to work at it. Hard. I’ve also cut down on solitaire… quite traumatic.

  11. Angie Lau

    I agree on some but can’t agree on others, especially “Get a better, easier day(or a full-time) job”. The writer of the article say this out too easy and ignore the economic situation nowadays. Some people whom I know have vivid creativity but they do not have the academic standing for a better day/full-time job, so the job with a wage barely over minimum wage is their lifeline–not to mention there are nasty co-workers who like to look for trouble.

    I once worked as a security guard for the Canadian Foreign Affair (shift-rotation, since I’m “unofficially bilingual”). Imagine what kind of stress and BS I got every single day! My solution for “quality writing time” is really quit the full-time (but keep it as part time) and optimize my shift with writing. This way I can earn and write.

    Just… remember the economic situation, we’re all struggling.