So many people who say they would love to write a book. But life, work, and many other obstacles often get in the way. Or maybe we let them get in the way because we're scared to start. We're scared of doing something new, we're afraid of criticism, of failure, so we keep putting it off indefinitely. But, if you overcome that fear, it is possible to write a book while working a full-time job. In this blog post (and YouTube video - of you prefer the audio/video version) I want to share with you some tips that helped me in writing my first novel while working a full-time job. I hope you find some of these tips helpful and I hope you will succeed in writing the book of your dreams.
Find the time to write with a full-time job
If you want to write a book, the first thing you need is to find the time to write it. And when you're busy with a full-time job, and adding to that the commute time, the time you spend with your family, and all the house chores, not to mention you also need a few good hours to sleep, it feels like you're already using more than the available 24 hours in a day. So, then how do people do it?! How can anyone manage to find the time to write a book when working a full-time job? Here are a few things you can try:
Short writing sessions every day
Writing half an hour per day is all you need. If you're consistent and write every day, even if it's just a few hundred words per day, you'll get to the finish line. Day by day, the words add up, and with just a few hundred words per day, in less than a year, you can have a book written by you. But you have to get that half an hour. It's not a long period of time, so hopefully it doesn't feel overwhelming. But where do you find that spare half an hour?
Any chance you could give up watching the news (which are filled with too much negativity, anyway) or watching a movie or some funny cat videos on YouTube? Yes, I love them, too! Especially since I also have a funny cat, Mickey Blue Eyes (see picture). But the funny cats/dogs/other animals can wait until after your writing session. Maybe you're already not doing any of these activities, and you wonder what else can I skip? Since we're only talking about half an hour, do you think you could set up your alarm clock just half an hour earlier in the morning (for early birds) or go to sleep half an hour later (all you night owls out there that I envy)? If you could find some 30 minutes early in the day before going to work, or late at night after you're done with all your other housework and everybody else in your household has gone to bed, that can be your quiet writing time. But sleep is important, so you shouldn't deprive yourself of sleep. If mornings and evenings are not an option, then how about your lunch break? Can you skip lunch or eat while working? That could also give you the half an hour you need to write.
If none of the above work, there's also your commute time. No, I'm not suggesting you take out your laptop and write while you're driving! But you could use dictation apps and dictate the book into your phone and transcribe it at a later time. Many authors use dictation to speed up the writing process and it might work for you, too. And if you use public transport for your commute, then you can take out your laptop, or tablet, or even your phone, and write.
I love Tony Robbins's quote about what leads to your success:
"It's not the resources, but resourcefulness that ultimately makes the difference."
For me, when I wrote my first novel, most of my writing sessions were in the early mornings. The first thing I did in the mornings was to write. When I started my day writing, I felt much more relaxed through the day because I gave myself that half an hour (or an hour sometimes) every morning to expand my creativity. That helped me be more creative throughout the entire day and brought creativity to my job as well.
Let me know in the comments when is your preferred writing time. Do you prefer mornings, or evenings, or weekends?
Full day of writing on a weekend
I was going to suggest here writing the full weekend, but I realize there might also be some other things people need to get done on a weekend. So you can still go about your weekend plans, but maybe you can take one day per weekend or every two weekends to write. A writing marathon!
When you dedicate a full day to writing, you can advance your writing more than you expect. That's because you're immersed in your book for a whole day and that can put you in a flow state. Ideas come faster when you're spending all that time in the world of your book without interruptions. If you think your will alone will not keep you writing for a whole day, try a writing challenge. I tried a 10K writing challenge several times, and the challenge always helped me to push myself towards achieving the goal of writing ten thousand words in a day. It's an added motivation to push yourself to write more. I never actually managed to write ten thousand words in a day, but the idea of challenging yourself to get to 10K keeps you focused, and makes you push yourself harder to finish it. And if you don't get to 10K, it's OK! You still made huge progress in writing your book and you're several thousand words closer to the finish line. Well done!
Writing sprints (Pomodoro Technique)
Writing sprints go hand in hand with the idea of not editing while you write. We're slower in writing when we stop to edit each sentence we wrote to make it sound better. But editing while you write might slow down your writing. Some people prefer to edit while they write, so it's up to you to decide how you want to proceed with your writing. But if you want to finish writing your book fast, it might be better to focus on finishing writing your first draft first and when it's done, you can do all the edits you want.
If you want to write fast, writing springs are your best friends. Whether you're trying the short daily sessions or binge writing on a weekend, using writing sprints will increase your output. Not only will you write more during your writing sessions, but you'll also be more focused on what you're writing.
How do the writing sprints work? They are based on the Pomodoro Technique, which encourages you to work for 25 minutes and then take a 5 minute break before going to the next 25 minute working period. When we apply this to our writing session, it means that we write continuously for 25 minutes. Keep your fingers on the keyboard! During that time, you do not surf the net; you do not research anything; you do not edit, and you do nothing else other than write sentence after sentence in your book. Then you get a 5 minute break, and then you start again. Try to write as fast as you can during each 25 minute slot and see how many words you can write during that time. Then challenge yourself to write more in each new 25 minute time slot. If you see that 25 minutes is too long for you, you can try doing 20 minute writing sprints. Or you can go for 30 minutes if you don't lose focus and you want to push yourself more.
I didn't believe it when I heard other writers talk about the efficiency of writing sprints, but then I tried it and I was amazed at the results. So whether or not you believe it would work, I suggest you give it a try. What do you have to lose? Try it a few times, and if you don't like it or you feel it doesn't work for you, you can change your approach. But I highly recommend you try this technique and watch your word count grow.
Be consistent in your writing
Writing every day makes the job easier. Why? Because if you leave a few days between writing sessions, you might forget what you wrote or you might forget what you want to write. And if you only have half an hour per day to write, you don't want to use half of that time to trace your thoughts, to remember where you were or what you're supposed to write next. You want to spend as much of that time as possible writing and advancing your book.
Consistency is important also when you're a weekend writer. If you don't have time to write during the week, and chose to write only on weekends, then it would be easier for you if you could write every weekend, or every second weekend. Just don't let too many weekends go between your writing sessions so yo don't lose momentum and so you don't waste too much time reading through what you last wrote and remembering why you wrote that and where you were trying to go with it. Here's another Tony Robbins quote I love:
"It's not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives, but what we do consistently."
Have fun writing your book
Finally, a very significant aspect of writing a book is to have fun writing it! Enjoy the time you spend creating and putting your ideas into words, sentences, paragraphs, and chapters! Don't view it as a chore. View it as a fun experience during which you get to explore your imagination, to explore new ideas, and to share them with the people who will read your book. If you do that, you'll be looking forward to your writing sessions, regardless of how short they might be. You won't even see the time fly. Just make sure you set up a timer so you don't forget to go to work because you're having too much fun writing.
Writing with a full-time job is not easy, but with patience, dedication, perseverance, and most of all, passion, you will manage to write that book you've been dreaming of writing.
I wish you the best of luck in writing your book! And remember to have fun!