Monday, January 17, 2011

Squeezing the Clock

Unlike other writers who do it full-time because their writing income is sufficient, their spouses are very supportive, they're retired, or they won the lottery, I juggle a day job, which averages 60 hours per week and can reach 100; night classes and an ungodly amount of group work as I pursue an MBA; and family obligations, which are many when you're the oldest of twenty-six grandchildren (yes, we're Catholic). Although I have four weeks of vacation every year, they have been sacrificed for block week MBA courses.

And somehow I find time in my schedule to write--in fifteen-minute intervals. My morning walk to work takes fifteen minutes and I sometimes use it to work out a problem scene in my head. If I don't have a meeting, I'll take fifteen minutes during lunch to edit one of the current works-in-progress. Before calling it a night, I'll take my notebook computer to bed and write for fifteen minutes--maybe more if I don't have a 6 AM meeting.

While they might not seem like much, especially to people who write 6 hours per day and crank out as many titles per year (if not per month), those fifteen-minute writing intervals do add up. Like I juggle my life, I also juggle my writing because working on only one WIP at a time would bore me. Currently, I'm editing an 80k+ romantic suspense, fleshing out an erotic romance short, 40 percent complete on another romantic suspense, and just starting on a contemporary romance. I'm sure my editors at Carina Press and Ellora's Cave would prefer that I focus on one writing project at a time to improve my pitiful completion rate, but I find this process works for me.

So, any tips for a busy writer? (And, no, quitting my day job is not an option because I enjoy it and am accustomed to the lifestyle it affords me.)

13 comments:

Toni Anderson said...

Wow--so impressed. No tips. And I like being a writer despite the pitiful lifestyle it affords me. Although dammit today is a slow ideas day.

Wynter Daniels said...

I'm impressed, too! I feel like a total under-achiever now;-) Sounds to me like you are utilizing every moment to the fullest.

MaureenAMiller said...

I honestly believe that if it wasn't for the day job, I might not be a writer. I traveled all over the country, and writing was the only thing that kept me sane during layovers and on the plane. As reading offers escapism to many...think of writing as your escape.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

It sounds like you're doing the best you can and better than most would do. Someday the night classes will be over and maybe you'll have 20 minute intervals to write.

Marcelle Dubé said...

Wow, Ann. I'm going to stop complaining about having too little time... You're a pressure cooker writer!

Good blog. It inspires me to work harder.

Julie Moffett said...

You've totally inspired me!! :)

Ann Bruce said...

@Toni Anderson - Slow ideas days are when I pick up a graphic novel or pop in The Losers to get the creative juices flowing.

@Wynter Daniels - Sugar helps.

@MaureenAMiller - So true. My job gives me so much research material. Who knew being a peon would let me talk to the DEA a few times. (No, I didn't do anything wrong.)

@Susan Gourley/Kelley - Sometimes I pretend it's 2013 and my weekends are my own again.

@Marcelle Dubé - Don't work too hard. You'll make me look worse to my editors.

@Julie Moffett - Don't be too inspired. I could just be a masochist.

Clare London said...

Hi Ann, and it's heartening to hear from another person who's juggling everything :). I work full time too, but like Maureen says, I think it's definitely added to my experience and maturity in writing - at least, I hope so! I just wish the work/leisure balance was tipped a *little* more in favour of the time to draw breath and plot my characters properly...

I use quiet times before and after work as well, I used to get a tremendous lot done in the hour before everyone else came into the office. Also, I never go anywhere without a pad and pen to jot down any ideas because you never know when they'll strike, or how far away I may be from the keyboard at that time!

Good luck with it all! :)

Rebecca Rogers Maher said...

Wow. Just reading this post makes me tired. How do you do it? I'm guessing you rely on a strict schedule. Very inspiring.

Elise Warner said...

Ann-I'll never complain again about their not being enough hours in a day. Bravo.

Josh Lanyon said...

This was my life three years ago. I'm getting cold chills remembering.

And then, as though I had learned not a damn thing, I traded it all for an insanely overbooked fulltime writing schedule that was as hazardous to my mental health as the day job schedule had been.

I've come to the conclusion that we writers are just not right in the head.

Ann Bruce said...

@Clare London - I used to carry a pen and notebook around all the time, then this magical thing called an iPod Touch was introduced to the world.

@Rebecca Rogers Maher - Sometimes I think I wouldn't know what to do if every minute of my day wasn't booked with something.

@Elise Warner - But you're right: there aren't enough hours in the day. If I had time, I'd invent a time machine.

@Josh Lanyon - I'll get a shrink to help work out my issues...when I have the time.

Shirley Wells said...

Wow, I am so impressed. I often can't start on my writing unless I have a free couple of hours. I couldn't work in 15-minute bites. It takes me that long to get my brain in gear. :)