Many writers fall into work that takes them away from writing creatively; whether we work 9-5 as editors, copywriters, retail assistants or teachers, we still call ourselves ‘writers’ because that’s also our ‘job’. So how do you keep working your creative profession when you’re already working elsewhere?
It can be difficult to find the time or to keep motivated, and many people let their writing fall by the wayside (a writer still needs to eat, right?). But you don’t need to choose one or the other. You can write that novel and work full-time!
1. Wake up earlier
The biggest complaints when trying to write and work are not having enough time and not being motivated. You work all day in the office (or you work from home) and when you’re done you have zero drive to get onto the computer (trawling Twitter and watching Game of Thrones is so tempting). But this is an easy fix.
Make sure the first thing you do in the day is write. This way, you’re not bogged down by the troubles and stresses of your day-to-day life and the thought of staring at a screen won’t make you want to cry. Set your alarm just an hour earlier than usual (not every day, but two or three days is fine) and write freely and creatively.
You’ll be surprised how much you can get done in an hour (my personal record so far is just over 1000 words). It can be difficult to pull yourself out of bed, but remember this at 5.30am:
The past-you wanted it, the future-you will thank you for it, the present-you can handle it”
2. Find pockets of time
If you commute to work or have appointments during the day, use those pockets of time to focus on creative ideas. Jot down a poem while you’re waiting for your lunch date or have a mental-chat to your character while you’re on the train.
If you work from home or you’re seriously strapped for time, you can schedule these pockets in. Force yourself to take five minutes to scribble out your ideas or to do a quick writing exercise (you can schedule these creative breaks for three times a day) and soon enough you’ll be brimming with story plots and snippets of inspiration.
3. Keep reading
Don’t give up on reading just because you’re tired at the end of a long day. Take time out to read, just as you take time out to write. We’re always told that the key to being a good writer is to be a good reader, and picking up a book can be the best way to get inspired and excited about words again.
Read to enjoy the book, but don’t forget to learn from your experiences.
Underline your favourite passages (yes, underline them), focus on the technical elements for a few minutes when you’re done, and be conscious of how you can use your reading to inform your writing (because when you’re time-poor, every little bit counts!).
4. Organise your writing work-life
So you’ve finally found the time to write but you haven’t picked up a pen or looked at your Word document for ages and you’re stuck on where to start.
Picking up where you left off can be hard, so organising your writing life the same way you organise your other work is vital (writing is a ‘job’ after all). Invest in a whiteboard or a good journal to log your ideas and writing activities, and keep detailed notes for your future self.
You can also download simple organisational programs online (Trello is my favourite, or Microsoft has OneNote) where you can keep tabs on upcoming competition deadlines or remember whether or not you sent that story to that journal last month.
5. Enjoy different creative pursuits
Writing and reading aren’t the only ways to stay inspired when you’re not feeling creative at the end of the week.
Spark up your passions again by getting out your pencils or paints. Do some colouring in (it also helps to relieve stress) or get crafty with activities like knitting and scrap-booking.
Changing up a regular writing and reading routine can give you a fresh feel, rejuvenating your muse and giving you new ideas.
It’s important to let ourselves go every once in a while, and hands-on creativity can be just the thing to put you in the right headspace to get started on a new story or re-kindle your love for lost characters.