Trying to be a writer and having a fulltime job is tough. This week I went back to work full time after having my first summer off. I worked a few days, but for the most part, it’s the first downtime I’ve had since I don’t know when. Time to write, read, think, participate in workshops with other writers; this summer was a dream. I’ve spoken with other writers about their day jobs. Many of whom are teachers and find they don’t get much writing done in the summer since they don’t have a structured schedule. I got up at my usual time with my husband, and it helped a lot since it forced me into a routine. I averaged about 5 hours a day of writing and usually 3 hours a day of reading. I’m excited about that.
Getting back into the swing of things has been taxing. I work with inmates teaching job skills then helping them find work upon release, so my job isn’t the mindless kind you see recommended for writers. My students demand a lot of time, attention, and creativity from me, and I want to give it to them. As I’ve been transitioning back, I’ve been researching how I can create a better balance for myself. A consistent suggestion I’ve seen is to get up earlier. I get up at 5 am as it is, and my mornings are for swimming, other exercises, meditation, breakfast, and most importantly, tea. I’m trying to figure out how to use my afternoons and evenings better, but how much is enough?
There’s a big push for people to measure their writing in terms of word or page count. I don’t always have new words to write. Often, I need to spend time editing. As a newer writer, I feel slow getting the result I want. I hope I get faster the longer I write. Maybe I won’t. Time will tell. So I like to measure in terms of hours. But how many per week is enough? I’m still figuring that out.
I attended a workshop about reading like a writer a few weeks ago. All writer things I did this summer addressed this topic. One of the recommendations this leader emphasized (which all the great writers do) is to make time to read. Some I’ve seen have suggested reading as many hours as you write. I’ve found that as I’ve started writing, I’ve become a slower reader. From what she said, that’s normal and correct. Pay more attention to the words on the page. But the towering stacks of books piling up around me want to be read, and I want to read them. How do I get it all done?
I’m considering setting aside post-work to dinner as reading time. Dinner with the hubs (’cause I like him and stuff) then post-dinner to bed as writing time. I may find that it doesn’t work and swap it. Maybe I’ll try my second NaNoWriMo this year and make it all writing time. But I am attempting to plan. Next, comes figuring out the weekends.
However, my day job, like many we all experience, is exhausting. I need rest, and I need relaxation, I need to maintain family and friends and sanity. Last year I heard a woman talk about balancing a day job and writing, and she said to start giving things up. Choose between writing or friends or a good relationship. Sometimes something must give. I guess for me it’s friends, but that seems sad.
I’d love to hear from you. How do you find balance? How do you create a schedule? Have you had to give anything up to follow your dream?