The choices we make, or, how I found time to write

I was asked here a few months back if I could talk about juggling having a day job and writing, and all the extra jobs that can come with being a published author (like marketing one’s books).

I’m probably not the best person to give advice on the subject. As I talked about a while back, being organized doesn’t come naturally to me. I’ve had to train myself not to be a total scatterbrain.

I also have a lot of trouble keeping up the energy to write, and write work I’m happy with, when I’m very busy. When I was in university full time and had a part time day job as well, I pretty much only wrote during the winter break and the summer holidays. When I was working full time this past fall, I got through my first round of revisions on The Way We Fall by doing nothing other than day job, revising, eating, and sleeping for three weeks. Chores, exercise, kung fu, reading, watching TV or movies, all of that got pushed to the side.

I am completely in awe of writers who manage to balance full time work and kids and various other responsibilities with a writing career. To be honest, I’m not sure I could do it.

But the thing is, I knew that about myself. So since I finished university, other than those four months last fall, I’ve only worked part time. I would write in the morning and then do short shifts during the after school hours (I work with kids) and on weekends.

For me, finding the time to write came down to the choices I made. I chose not to continue my education into grad school, which would have meant at least another two years where I’d be too swamped to write most of the time. I chose not to take on additional clients to bring my day job hours closer to full time, because I wanted to keep my writing time.

Those choices have meant sacrifices. My advance for my first book was about half what I normally made in one year part time at the day job. And that was the only book I sold in the first seven years after university.

If I’d gone to grad school, I could have gotten a higher paying and more prestigious day job. If I’d taken on more clients, just that would have meant a lot more income than the writing did. We could have gotten a nicer apartment or saved up for a house faster or gone on more trips or all sorts of other things.

There are places I haven’t been that I would like to see. There were houses I liked better than the one we bought that were out of our price range. But I like having the time to write more.

So this advice is not going to be all that helpful for people who’ve made a lot of the big life choices already. It’s difficult to re-chose. I would have a very hard time getting into grad school if I decided right now I wanted to. Which is not at all to say you can’t write in that position — tons of people do! — I’m just not the right person to give tips on it. I recommend reading Debbie Ohi’s Finding time to write (very supportive and includes additional links) and/or John Scalzi’s Find the Time or Don’t (very to the point), as well as these two threads at the Blueboards: If you have a full time job, how do you make time for writing? and Balancing work/family/writing.

But for the people who are in the position of making those choices, or haven’t gotten there yet, I’d just say, make sure you are choose a path that will make you happy more than it makes you stressed or unsatisfied. We only get one life–or at least, we only get to live this life once–so why wouldn’t you want to live it happily?

Only you know what will make you happy. Don’t let anyone else tell you that you have to follow a certain path. Find the balance of work and family and friends and other pursuits that feels best to you, and will allow you to have the things you want most.

The thing I want most is to write. What do you want?


The choices we make, or, how I found time to write — 1 Comment

  1. This is a fabulous post. It’s something I struggle with as a full time attorney and with raising my daughter and taking care of my disabled husband. I’m the wage earner so I have to chose a full time job though I’m not trying to get promoted so I have more time for family and now writing. I have to accept that I write way slower than most authors because I’m learning and because the demands of my daughter, her school, and my husband take priority. I sacrifice some time with them to write. And that’s okay with me, because my daughter is 13 and will be in high school next year. Our time living together will end sooner than I want. I want to enjoy it and if it means I get published later in life, it’s the choice I need to make.

    Thanks so much for posting this. I could so relate.

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