Words on a Page Writings about writing

On writing part time

A red, analog alarm clock

Writing is hard work. But that work becomes harder when you’re trying to balance writing with a day job, family and friends, and the other interests and obstacles in your life.

I know this all too well. During my freelancing career, a large chunk of my work was done in the evenings and on weekends. And since moving overseas in 2012, I’ve had to take the dreaded day job. So I understand all too well the demands on a part-time freelancer. Balancing writing with the rest of your life can be tough. But it is possible.

Here’s some advice for anyone who’s struggling to write part time.

You need a plan

Don’t just sit down in front of a keyboard and wait for inspiration to take hold. That’s a sure-fire way to not write much. If anything at all.

As your writing time is limited, you’ll need to use that time as efficiently as you can. That means planning ahead. To do that:

  • Put together a list of ideas.
  • Outline those ideas.
  • Set reasonable targets when tackling those ideas.

What to I mean by the last point? Saying that you’ll write three chapters of your novel in an evening is probably unreasonable. A more realistic goal would be to write, say, a pair of 500 word blog posts or two or three pages of that book or screenplay that you’re working on. Or you could complete the first draft of that article you’ve been commissioned to write.

Carve out time to write

This is probably the biggest obstacle you’ll face. There are only so many hours in a day, and there are often so many things that need to be done.

That doesn’t mean you can’t try to set aside an hour a day for writing. If you have a family, negotiate with them to get that time. If you’re single, cut out TV or using the internet. Write instead.

If you can, use quiet or dead moments during the day to write. We all have those moments. The interval after you’ve put your kids to bed. A chunk of your lunch hour. Those minutes in the morning between breakfast and heading out the door. You can produce an outline, write notes, pen a few paragraphs, or more in that time.

And remember that writing doesn’t need to be done with a keyboard. You can use paper and then type it up later.

Try to write every day

Doing that will keep you sharp. It will help you log the hours of practice that you need to improve and will help you hone your skills.

Writing daily will develop the discipline of writing. Without that discipline, you won’t get any writing done. You won’t move forward. You won’t improve.

But don’t get upset or frustrated if you can’t write everyday. You’re only human. Life sometime puts very large obstacles in the way of what we want to do. And remember that it’s OK not to write every so often.

Always have a pen and paper nearby

You never know when an idea (or something more) will strike. If you don’t get it down immediately, there’s a good chance it will slip away when you have time to record it.

Which is why you need to keep a pen and a notebook handy. When an idea or a sentence or a bit of dialogue enters your brain, jot it down in your notebook. I have at least three notebooks in play at all times, and I make sure they’re all within easy reach.

Why not use a smartphone or a tablet? You can if you want to, but I find that writing by hand is smoother and faster. There’s less of a chance that what I’m trying to capture will slip away while I’m trying to capture it.

Writing part time can be difficult. To say the least. But it’s not impossible. It takes a lot of planning, discipline, juggling, and effort. In the end, though, all of that is worth the reward.

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