Managing Work and Writing

January 12th, 2009 • Kate

kt literary client Catherine Cheek had a fascinating post up on her blog this weekend about balancing work and writing, and I thought it was well worth sharing. She offers some great advice:

If you want to quit your job to be a writer, first do two things. Take a week-long “writing vacation” and write down how many hours you REALLY spend writing. Secondly, find out how much health insurance costs for an unemployed person. Then look up the cost of a typical surgery.

She also believes “having a part-time job is better than having no job at all. Quitting your job and taking three months off to write will not make you as productive as dropping from 40 hours a week to 35 hours a week will be.” Read the whole thing, and then come back here and tell me how YOU fit writing into your life.
What do you do when you’re not writing? Are you working? Are you a parent? Do you try to keep to a schedule, and treat writing like a job you need to check in and out of?
And speaking of jobs, another fab kt literary client (and fellow Clarion classmate of Catherine Cheek) Matthew Cody will have a conversation with The Bartimaeus Trilogy author Jonathan Stroud at Symphony Space in New York on Sunday, January 25th. Check it out if you’ll be in town.

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11 Responses to “Managing Work and Writing”

  1. Carrie Harris Says:

    That really is a fabulous post! Thanks for linking it.
    I've got three young kids, and one is in school for half a day. The other two nap, but that's really luck of the draw time. Some days they sleep; other days they jump around in their cribs until I finally turn the computer off and go entertain them. But it's done a very funny thing to my writing time: I rarely get writer's block these days. I have so much time to think (okay, okay… OBSESS) about what I'm going to write that I get more done in less time than I used to. So that lack of writing time has made me appreciate the time I do get, and to use it more wisely.

  2. Fie Eoin Says:

    I like her idea about treating writing like a hobby, that way it is satisfying whether or not you get published. When I had that moment with my book (the "Who cares? I love it enough to write it anyway" moment) it was a huge weight off my shoulders, and I found it much easier to write.
    As for writing around work? I find work the perfect time to write! My job is repetitive, and very conducive to daydreaming. So I take a pad of sticky notes, write down ideas and dialogue when inspiration hits, and then flesh it out on breaks and at lunch. I write about 1000 words a day, and I hardly ever write when I come home (although if the hubby is making dinner I will take my writing folder into the kitchen and sit and write while he cooks).

  3. Kiersten White Says:

    Carrie pretty much already made my comment word-for-word! I daydream during the monotonous times and write whenever I get a chance.

  4. Joe Iriarte Says:

    Fie, what do you do for a living?
    I'm a parent of two special needs kids and a high school math teacher. I write (or revise or otherwise work on writing) almost every school night from ten pm until some time between midnight and two, and I probably get at least six hours in on Saturday and Sunday if there's no sporting event I want to watch, and four hours if there is a game on. I try to treat it like a second job. I've only been this committed since January of 2008. I've taken days off, but I've managed to write a 121,000 word novel, cut said novel down to 84,000 better words, revise the hell out of it some more, and write a couple other short stories as well. I think I'm doing okay.
    I would love to some day be in a position where it made sense to switch to a part-time day job–or even a lower paying full-time job where I didn't bring work home. Maybe something seasonal. What I've found after a year of pretending to have two jobs is that it's harder to accept the time I lose to the day job–especially the at-home time.

  5. Joe Iriarte Says:

    And I call myself a writer!
    Let me clarify: I am a high school math teacher. I am not the parent of a high school math teacher! D'Oh! And I usually hit preview before I submit!!

  6. Ann Says:

    I'm a full-time technical writer and did most of my writing when I was unemployed. I've found it difficult to write my 'fun' stuff when I have to spend all day in front of a computer. But due to the economy, it looks like I'm soon to become a part-time technical writer. Aside from a few small financial concerns, I am thrilled about the possibility of 4-day weekends and writing several hours on each of those days.

  7. Julia Says:

    Interesting discussion!
    My kids are no longer at home and I’m single, however, I do have a full time job.
    I’d love to say that I’m nose-to-the-computer-screen every spare minute, but that’s not really the case. I do, however, try to write every day. My schedule is such that I like to go to the gym first thing (5 a.m.) and then off to work. If I do that, I have to write in the afternoon/evening. But, if I know I’m not going to the gym right away (like on weekends), then, I’ll get up early and write. I find that when I’m working on a first draft, the morning writing seems more productive. When I’m revising – any time of day works.
    Often, when I’m at the gym I’ll get ideas of where to take my stories – but I haven’t figured out a good way to get those ideas down on paper. Maybe I need to jot stuff down between sets. I tried writing while on a stationary bike – I’m here to say – it is totally illegible. (If anyone has any ideas – please let me know!)
    I don’t feel like writing is a ‘job’, it’s something I have to do because I can’t not write! In one way I can relate to the hobby aspect, but I don’t like to call it that because the word ‘hobby’ doesn’t have a good feel to me.

  8. jeanoram Says:

    To my friends, I am a stay-at-home mom. But little do they know, I have a secret phone booth (aka laptop) where I transform myself into a writer.
    I fit writing in where I can. Our house often looks like a disaster, but I have a very supportive husband who is the breadwinner as well as my biggest cheerleader. (He's also very understanding.) I feel cheesy for saying 'cheerleader', but he really is.
    I write first drafts quickly, but then spend ages editing. I read lots about the craft and am active in online communities. I have a 'career plan'. I update my blog regularly. I take online classes. I moderate agent/author chats. I'm active, baby! I treat this as a profession, because it is. It doesn't pay yet, but it will.

  9. Julia Says:

    Oh – have to add after reading jeanoram's comment… I like thinking of writing as a profession! (along with 'hobby', I don't like the word 'job'- lol)

  10. Fie Eoin Says:

    I'm a nuclear chemist – I test water and soil (and tissues, and Tang, and septic tank systems, ect.) for radiation. It sounds really cool, and I enjoy it, but it is very repatative and leaves me plenty of time to think. As long as something isn't blowing up (that's the fun part!)

  11. Joe Iriarte Says:

    Nuclear chemist?! Ack! Sounds like you need to know a lot of science!