5 Tips to Write a Book while Working a Day Job
The route to becoming a published author involves a lot of hard work, especially since your book doesn’t actually start to make you money until pretty late in the process. Balancing a full-time day job with book-writing is not uncommon in authors — though that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Luckily, if you’re an author who’s about to embark on this journey yourself, I’ve got some tips that I think can help you out. Let’s dive in!
1. Always be ready to jot down ideas
This tip applies to just about any writer, though it’s especially useful for those working a day job. With a full schedule, you don’t always have the luxury to ponder things throughout the day, but inspiration can strike whenever — so it’s best to be prepared.
Admittedly, you can’t always fully capture that moment when the light bulb flashes with a couple of bullet points of sentences, but keeping a notepad (physical or digital) handy to jot them down is still better than forgetting about them altogether. So as book ideas or even specific sentences come to you throughout the day, collect them somewhere you can look back at when you do have the time. That way, when you sit down to write, you already have some material to work with.
2. Make writing your new hobby
A common tip that you hear when seeking advice for writing a book is to write everyday. Of course, having time set aside daily to work towards that completed first draft is going to help you get there, but framing a writing ritual in this way can make it sound like a chore. It adds pressure and creates anxiety on those days you do miss a session because other parts of your life are particularly demanding.
As such, instead of forcing yourself to write daily, think about this task as a hobby: in fact, most authors start out writing as a hobby. Now that you’re writing a whole book, writing can be a pastime that you devote a lot of time and energy to, over an extended period! It’s not so much a responsibility as something to enjoy, so you don’t have to push yourself too hard. If you mentally label writing part of your free time — time you reserve for your self-betterment and enjoyment — you’ll soon feel more at ease to write.
If you’re not quite sure how to turn writing into a pastime, consider combining it with some other leisurely activities, like walking in the park or enjoying a good cup of coffee. Make it part of something you enjoy, and you’ll no doubt feel more motivated and happy doing it, which will only make you want to do it even more — it is a wonderful virtuous cycle!
And since we mentioned parks, let’s move on to the next tip…
3. Find some reliable writing spaces
Sometimes, writing’s all about the environment. When you’re in a space that suits you well, it can really spur your productivity, and even creativity! And what this space is really depends on the person — some work better when there is some background noise and movement, others prefer a calm and quiet atmosphere. Some like to have a lot of natural lighting around them, while others enjoy the coziness of a reading area. As such, try out some different writing locations and see which one’s most comfortable for you to create your writing ritual.
Sometimes you might not have much choice, like when you have only found time to write really early in the morning or late at night, meaning no coffee shops or library writing. But even then, think about what you can do within your home to improve your writing space. Do you have a separate desk for this side job? Are there things around which may distract you — like a TV or your phone, perhaps? Can you somehow improve the mood, maybe by adding a small house plant, a candle, or playing some suitable music? If there’s anything that can transport you from reality to the world of your novel, try to incorporate that into your writing space. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, so long as you are comfortable enough to dig in to your work.
If you do have the luxury, try to find several spaces like this. Writing a book isn’t a short journey, especially not with a day job. Sometimes, you may find yourself tired of the same old setting. In case that does happen, you might want to find someplace else, like a different coffee house, or a new park to walk to, so that you get a little variety throughout your writing process. It’ll also be a chance for you to discover other parts of your city or town while chipping away at your book publishing goal!
4. Write first, edit later
We’ve settled the crucial issues of time and space, now we can look into the actual writing itself. No two writers work the same way, so of course, every writing tip should be taken with a pinch of salt. However, if you’re really looking to get that manuscript done then do consider this one crucial tip: resist the temptation to edit your writing, and focus on putting that first draft down first.
Being a perfectionist as a writer is often an asset, but focusing on the miniscule details will tend to slow you down. Before you zoom in on the nitty gritty of your writing, make sure you get the story out there first. Write so that you can see the big picture of your book come together, and then, once that manuscript is completed, you can go back for a round of self-editing.
Doing this keeps you from spending too much of your already limited time on small matters. On top of that, once you’ve got a better grasp of the overarching plot, it’s probably easier to fix the details! You know what you have to lead up to now, and that can be a guiding light for your manuscript revisions.
Limiting the amount of time you spend editing is also advisable since once you have a manuscript, you can find yourself an editor with professional insight to help you out as well!
5. Talk to someone about your plans
Writing is very much a solitary endeavor. It may sometimes feel like you’re holding onto a big and wonderful dream that you alone can realize. And as empowering as that may be, it can occasionally be draining and demotivating.
Luckily, you don’t have to walk this road alone. While you will have to put in the work yourself, you can share your vision with a friend or family member (and especially a fellow book lover). It might even be a colleague from that day job. You’ll find that talking about something you’re passionate about can give you a big morale boost — it’s like reliving that moment that you realized you really wanted to write a book! What’s more, feeling the support and trust from your loved ones is bound to keep you motivated.
Others can also give you some perspective on a matter. Whether there’s a situation in the book that you don’t know how to deal with, or you feel burned out, you can always mention it to the people who care about you and talk through issues with someone else. Sometimes, when you’re in between too many tasks and jobs (as is often the way for authors juggling a day job), you can find yourself at a loss for what to do. In such a scenario, hearing things from a fresh viewpoint could be a great way for you to reorganize your thoughts, and find the solution to your writing problems. (Plus, if anything you’re guaranteeing yourself some readers even before the book’s finished!)
And with that, hopefully you’ve got some more ideas as to how you can juggle the tasks of a regular day job and crafting a book all at once. It comes with its challenges but the outcome — your own wonderful book — will be worth the work!
Thao Nguyen is a writer at Reedsy, a platform that connects authors and publishers with the world’s best editors, designers, and marketers. She enjoys writing non-fiction, especially the historical kind, and is delighted by the prospects that self-publishing provides for aspiring authors nowadays.
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