Posts Tagged: productivity

How to Find Time for Writing When You Have a Day Job

jean harlow typewriter
Face it: very few writers are able to make a living on writing alone. This fact used to depress me when I heard it in college. How could these brilliant artists have to suffer the indignity of moonlighting as teachers, technical writers, or office assistants? What hope was there for any of us when even serious writers couldn’t make bank?

Now I realize that this is actually encouraging. Writers aren’t some rarefied breed…any of us, even those of us with day jobs, can be writers! We are not all Jonathan Franzen (and thank God for that). Writers don’t all sit in some immaculate home office all day and type from sun up till sun down. Writing isn’t just for the rich…it’s for all of us! Even us working slobs!

Of course, this brings up a question that people sometimes (okay, like two times) ask me: How do you find time for writing when you have a day job?

To be honest, I don’t have a great answer to that one. I constantly feel like I’m not getting enough done. Between my day job, my blog, my freelance writing, and, oh yeah, that book I’m writing, it seems like there’s more work than I can ever possibly do. I feel guilty ever spending a second not working, and my way of dealing with guilt is by wasting time (I didn’t say I made sense). I’m not perfect, but I can tell you what I do to get a decent amount of writing work done while still clocking in at my 9-5 gig everyday.

1. You don’t find time, you make time.
Okay, I know this is a dumb saying, but it’s true. We all have the same 24 hours in a day. You’re not just going to magically stumble on another secret hour you can use to write. You have to make that time yourself. You can do it by waking up early, staying up late, or just spending the time you’d normally spend watching television on writing.

2. You have to sacrifice something (and that’s okay).
I’ll admit, I don’t really understand the concept of balance. If you want to pursue anything creative while you have a day job, your life isn’t going to be balanced. Something has to go. It’s up to you to decide what to jettison. This is going to make me sound like a crazy asocial weirdo, but I have almost no social life, which is great for writing. I have wonderful friends, don’t get me wrong, but I’ve never really enjoyed going out. Typically when I get home from work, I have dinner with my fella, then I get to writing or reading. Every night. It’s not “exciting,” per se, but it’s the life I want. If your social life is super important to you, then find something else you can cut out! Is it TV? Is it sleep (okay, don’t cut out sleep, but think about how much you actually need)? There’s probably something taking up your precious time that you can cut out.

3. You have to let yourself do it.
I’m my own biggest obstacle. My self-doubt and laziness are always what get in my way, and I know a lot of writers are the same way. It’s impossible to ever get anything done if you don’t admit to yourself that what you’re doing is worth doing. If it’s important to you, then it’s worth doing. It can seem like a waste of time to do something that makes little or no money, but doing what you want to do with your life is never a waste of time.

4. Cut out the distractions. I’m still trying to figure out how to do this one. I don’t watch a lot of TV or go out, but I do have an internet addiction. As I wrote this post, I checked Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. Wasting time isn’t cute, and it’s a struggle for me. One thing that works is using Freedom. Seriously, I can’t recommend it enough. It disables your internet for a predetermined amount of time, meaning you can’t refresh Tumblr or Facebook stalk someone you hate. You have to write. I’m also a fan of writing in a notebook, that way I can’t get distracted by everything else on my computer.

5. Sometimes, you need a break. Okay, I know I said earlier that you need to sacrifice and cut out distractions and blah blah blah. That’s all true. But sometimes, you really do need to go out for drinks with your ladyfriends or watch a movie or make a really elaborate meal. Consuming art, creating things with your hands, or engaging in interesting conversations will only help your work! You need to fill up the well (The Artist’s Life reference alert!) and recharge.

6. Write down the ideas when you have them. Carry a notebook (or use your iPhone) and write down the ideas, phrases, etc. you think of throughout the day. You’ll forget them otherwise. Even if you think you won’t, you will! Personally, I get a lot of inspiration for new pieces when I’m working on something else (it’s weird how the brain works!), but I can’t just drop what I’m doing at my job and start working on writing. So I make a note to myself and come back to it later on when I’m home.

7. Get a ritual. Sara Zarr talked about this a little on her podcast, This Creative Life. Her ritual when she got home from her day job used to be having a glass of wine and a cigarette. It helped her mark the transition from day job to writer. I’m not suggesting your ritual involve cigarettes, but it can help to have something you always do while writing. Lighting a specific candle, drinking coffee, or listening to a certain album or Pandora station can all help. Or maybe putting on the newest Taylor Swift album and listening to it on repeat (that one may be a personal example).

8. Get a job you like or a job that’s easy, but don’t get a job you hate. Nothing will sap your creative energy like a negative work environment. If you wake up dreading work and grumble and complain your way through the day, you probably won’t be super excited or motivated to work when you get home. And if you have bad coworkers, you’ll spend precious energy hating them that could much better directed towards your work. If you have a job you like, you’ll mostly wake up happy(ish), you’ll enjoy yourself during the day (or night), and you’ll come home in a good mood with a good attitude. I love my day job, and I love having a chance to flex different muscles during the day. It doesn’t drain me or depress me, so when I come home, I’m ready to work on something else.
And if you have a job that’s easy, even if you don’t like it all that much, at least it won’t take up a lot of mental space, which will give you time to daydream about writing. And sometimes you’ll even be able to write on the job (but I wouldn’t recommend this for a job you care about! Do this only if you’re at a truly dead end job!).
Obviously, you can’t always help what job you have. You know your work situation better than I do, and you know if this crappy job is truly your only option. But if you’re just hanging onto a bad job because of fear or a sense of obligation and you sense it’s hampering your ability to create, by all means, get out now!

9. Don’t let yourself make any excuses.
So maybe you have a day job. Maybe you’re a mom. Maybe you have two jobs and you’re a mom. It doesn’t matter. Always remember that someone out there who’s busier than you is doing more work than you. That’s a fact I have absolutely no evidence to back up, but I believe it. Excuses just let you give up before you even tried. Even if you only have 15 minutes a day, you need to take that 15 minutes and use it and not complain that you don’t have more. Nothing good ever comes to people who spend their time complaining about all the breaks they don’t have. Sure, maybe you don’t have a trust fund so you can’t just stay home in your yoga pants all day and write, but you know what? Very few people have that. Don’t let yourself make any excuses. None! If you’re reading this and you want to write, you can do it. This is another dumb cliche, but you’re the only one standing in your way.

10. Don’t beat yourself up. None of us are perfect. Some days, you just won’t get that much done. Try not to feel too guilty about it. Start over again tomorrow and get back to work!

What about you guys? How do you manage to write when you have a day job? Let me know in the comments! And as always, feel free to shoot me an email at if you just want to chat.

What’s Your One Big Thing?

bill cosby decide that you want it more than you are afraid of it
A long time ago, the wonderful Alexandra Franzen had a blog post I loved about curing the muse blues. In this post, she mentioned an idea that really stuck with me…the One Big Thing.

Everyone has one, and everyone is putting it off. You probably know yours without even thinking about it. What’s that One Big Thing you’ve always secretly wanted, the thing that basically haunts you? Maybe it’s moving to a certain place, or going back to school, or starting a big new creative project. The thing you’re always thinking about, but just not doing. We’ve all got one, right?

I’ve been thinking a lot about my One Big Thing. I don’t really talk about it on here because I don’t like to talk about things as I’m doing them. I have a pretty low tolerance for talk-without-action. It’s not a quality I enjoy in other people (do it or don’t, but don’t say you’re going to do it and then peace out), and it’s really not a quality I enjoy in myself. I like to keep my big changes and projects secret until they happen. You know, like, guess what, I’m moving! Hey, I got a new job! PS, I started a blog! Oh, and I’m writing a for a new website!

It’s only in the past couple of years that I’ve become a doer, not a talker, and I like it. I like doing things and having done them. It’s a lot better and more satisfying than talking about doing things or thinking about doing things.

And yes, the weather is quite nice up here on this high horse. Thanks for asking.

The point of this post wasn’t for me to talk about how awesome I am. Far from it. The point of this post is for me to talk about the biggest way I’m failing myself, and probably the way you’re failing yourself, too. Because I know what my One Big Thing is, and I’m not working on it. In fact, I’m constantly avoiding it. What gives?

My One Big Thing is writing a book. It’s probably no surprise if you know me. It’s been my biggest dream and biggest goal since literally before I knew how to write. It’s what I fantasize about when I fall asleep at night and what I picture when I see my dream life. It’s the biggest single thing I want, and it’s the one thing that will make me feel like a huge failure if I don’t accomplish it. There isn’t anything I want more (not even pizza, you guys, and you know how much I love pizza). So…why haven’t I written a book?

Because it’s hard. Because it’s scary. Because if I fail at it, then I’ve failed at the thing I want most. That’s big. That’s bigger than big! It’s so easy to keep putting things off, to come up with excuse after excuse, to tell ourselves we’ll do the work later. But come on. We all know that’s bullshit, right? Why do we do this to ourselves?

I’d started to think that maybe I didn’t actually want to write a book anymore. After all, I’ve got a great job and a ton of awesome freelance writing gigs. Both of those things make me happy and, more importantly, satisfied. Sure, the book would be the cherry on top, but a sundae’s still pretty good without the cherry. I mean, I wouldn’t kick it out of bed.

But recently I realized I do still want to write that book. Or, rather, books. Of course I do! I’ve wanted to all along, but I’ve gotten very good at pushing down that little voice and telling it to shut up. It’s easy to ignore that voice for awhile, but you can’t ignore it forever.

This is my promise to myself that I’m going to work on my One Big Thing. Well, I’ve been working on it, but now I’m going to work on it consistently. And I’m not going to quit when it gets hard, or get mad because it isn’t perfect, or get scared that I’m messing it all up. Because, like my #1 philosopher and life coach Drake says, you only live once. I know he uses that as an excuse to have sex with people and get drunk, but I’m using it as an excuse to write a book. I don’t think Drake would necessarily understand, but I think he’d be proud of me (Drake joke, I’m sorry).

There will always be blocks and there will always be fear, but what I’m learning is that the successful people still hit those blocks and feel those fears. The only difference is that they keep going. They don’t let anything stop them.

So that’s my One Big Thing. Out of all the uncomfortable, weird, feeling-y things I’ve shared on Welcome to Ladyville, this was by far the squirmiest. I do not like talking or writing about my goals in public, but I want Welcome to Ladyville to be a safe space for all of us. A space where we can talk about our goals and hopes as ladies, a space where we can find and give support, a place where we can find and give inspiration. Now it’s your turn. What’s your One Big Thing? What are you going to do to make it happen? Or are you already making it happen? If so, INTERNET HIGH FIVES all around! Let me know in the comments, or, as always, shoot me an e-mail at if you want to talk about writing, goals, inspiration, or anything at all.

Image via U-Create

Lady Inspiration: Maria Bamford (Again!)

The best cure for creative self-consciousness, creative jealousy, etc. from what I’ve read or what’s helped me ā€” is creativity. So, I write 3 pages of nonsense a day, I’ll commit to a pal that I’m going to write 10 premises and then call them back, I’ll PAY somebody to just watch me practice … just so I can go through a whole bunch of stuff. Just do whatever it is and that seems to shut everything up. But I have a hard time too sometimes ā€” I think everybody does.-Maria Bamford

Lady Tip #11: Don’t Ask, Don’t Get

Okay, I’ll admit that this is absolutely a line I picked up from self-help books. But do you know why it’s such a self-help cliche? Because it’s totally true.

I can’t guarantee too much to you guys, because I’m not a psychic UNFORTUNATELY, but I can guarantee you that nothing is ever going to fall into your lap. You won’t get everything you ask for, but you won’t get anything you don’t ask for. Well, that’s not entirely true. My grandparents have 11 stray cats hanging around outside their place, and my grandmother explicitly told me, “I didn’t ask for them!” But she did put out cat food, which is basically the same thing. So what I’m saying here is that you need to put out the metaphorical cat food for your dreams (your dreams are cats in this example).

You can’t get your dream job if you don’t apply for it.
You can’t write for your favorite website if you don’t pitch something to them.
You can’t get a book deal if you don’t write a proposal.
You can’t get new friends if you don’t reach out to people.

This is something I have to remind myself all the damn time. You have to ask for something to give yourself a chance to get it. Obviously it’s hard (otherwise everyone would do it, duh), but it’s also pretty simple. What is it you want? A great job? An internship? A pizza (this one is much easier than the others)? Just ask for it. See what happens. You might end up with 11 stray cats! I’m sorry, is that not a good enough incentive for you?

Image via Natalie Dee

Big Changes and Hard Work

I don’t talk about my job much on Welcome to Ladyville for a couple of reasons. First, I think it’s in bad form to talk about your job online, period. Second, hearing about someone’s job is usually pretty boring unless they’re, like, an ice-road trucker or something, or if they have lots of terrible stories.

I am going to break my self-imposed rule and talk about work for a moment, because I have some big news: I’m starting a new job next week! Okay, so this might not be big news for you, but for me it is. This new job comes almost exactly a year after I moved to Columbus, and it will change my lifestyle in a lot of important ways. Most importantly, it’s a writing job. That’s right…I’m going to get paid to write! That’s the most exciting part for sure, but there are so many other perks. It’s a great company that seems like a perfect fit for me. It’s in my neighborhood, and while working close to home would be welcomed by most people, it’s especially great for me. See, for the past year I’ve been driving over an hour each way to work. Yes, over an hour. Each. Way. Every. Day. I know this doesn’t make a lot of sense to…well, to anyone I’ve talked to over the past year. But the thing is, when I realized I needed to move to Columbus, I knew I couldn’t wait until I found a job. When I get an itch to do something, I’m not patient about it. I needed to move first, ask questions later, and so I did.

I am, to put it mildly, excited about my new job. And the reason I wanted to talk about it a little on the ol’ blog, despite my “no job talk” rule, is because I feel like it relates to a lot of what I usually talk about here. I got this job, in part, because of the writing I’ve been doing online. The writing I’ve been doing at nights, on the weekends, on my lunch breaks, in every second of “free” time I had for the past year. And while I realize a lot of people might think it’s tacky to talk about how hard I’ve worked to get what I want, I don’t think it’s tacky at all. Or maybe it is, and I just don’t care.

Because here’s the thing: so many people don’t like to admit they worked to get the things they want. By people, I mean women, mostly. Whenever we accomplish something, we’re supposed to smile humbly and say something to the effect of, “I just got lucky!” as if we stumbled onto this opportunity by accident. This might seem innocuous, but by denying our work we’re not only harming ourselves, but other women, as well. None of us get anywhere by accident, and to act like we do is to deliberately lie to each other. It’s fine, I think, to admit exactly how we got from point A to point B, and how we hope to get to point C.

In a lot of ways, it seems like I got this job suddenly, but it wasn’t sudden at all. I worked hard for it, and you know what I realized? I’m tired. Like, really tired. And that’s okay! Sometimes, over the past year, I was so exhausted I cried. I was so tired I started fights with my boyfriend about absolutely nothing. I was so tired I couldn’t really ever go out and do anything, not even dinner, on weeknights. I was so tired that on Fridays, I typically fell asleep as soon as I got home from work and slept through the night. And all of that is just fine. I couldn’t work a day job, use my nights to write, and get a full night of sleep, have an active social life, and be a perfect girlfriend. That old line about women “having it all” is just that. A line. I’ve been sleeping less than 6 hours a night for the past year, and guess what? It sucks. I feel terrible, like, 75% of the time and if I even sit down for too long, I’ll fall asleep. That’s not fun. But, frankly, my goals matter more to me than just about anything (excepting my family, friends, and boyfriend, obviously), and I don’t feel the need to ever pretend like I’ve achieved them by accident.

Way back when I was in the process of moving to Columbus, I was packing up my stuff and looking for an apartment while buying a car and dealing with a lot of personal problems and trying to write everyday. It was extraordinarily stressful, to say the least, and one day I was complaining to my dad about how I couldn’t handle it all. That’s how I felt; like I literally couldn’t handle all the things I was trying to do (it’s worth noting that I, um, don’t exactly handle stress well. Usually tears are involved). He told me something that I still think about all the time: “Once you get through all of this, you’ll know you can handle it, and it won’t seem so hard next time.”

That might seem trite, but things seem trite when they’re true. Sometimes things seem overwhelming, but you can almost always get through them, and then you know you can do it. Is that cheesy? Totally, but you should know by now that I don’t care about stuff like that. This new job is a big, big step towards Living My Truth, Oprah-style (side note: self-help books are always trying to get my to Live and/or Speak My Truth, and honestly, I still don’t really know what that means. That doesn’t stop me from saying it semi-sarcastically, though!). I owe a lot of it to you guys! Writing my posts on Welcome to Ladyville gave me the confidence to start submitting writing to websites, which led to me being published on websites, which led to a lot of great things, including getting this job. I can’t thank you enough for all of your comments and support…I really do feel like we’re a community of lady-friends who all want the best for each other. Getting this new job means I’ll be doing something that interests me during the day, and I’ll finally have time to sleep a healthy amount, get more exercise, and hopefully not be as much of a grouch. Finally!

I hope, if you’re in a position right now where you’re scared to make a change, you’ll take a small step today towards your goals. No one understands the fear of change more than me. My fear of change is, like, my most defining personality trait. Your goals and your life are totally worth it, though. When I started writing not that long ago, I had no connections and no credits. If I can do it, you can do it. Trust me. And by “do it,” I mean “achieve a small fraction of my life goals that totally aren’t that impressive to anyone but me.” Listen, you guys, all I want is for you to find your paid writing job in the sky.

In conclusion, here’s an inspirational song from our girls Garfunkel and Oates. Go for it!