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Making Time: The Job vs No Job Myth

Making Time to WriteHow many times have you said to yourself (or heard another writer say) “This would be so much easier if I could quit my job or work part time.” That used to be me. Having lived on both sides of this fence, I feel those of you still in the day job should know something. It’s a myth.

For one thing, most of us have a maximum words we can get out each day. For some that’s 500, for others it’s 5000, but whether you work or not, that number is not likely to increase much. In other words, time does not equal capacity.

Also, resistance remains, but now there are different distractions that resistance can use to keep us from the page. Errands, phone calls, housework, all of these things are still present and even more likely to distract you when you aren’t so focused on getting your writing in.

It’s too easy to fall into the thought that you can write later because you have all day. Discipline is required when your schedule is wide open.

Here’s another element that isn’t often discussed. Having a job gives your writer mind time to ruminate and work on the story while you work. It distracts you in good ways so your word well fills up and you’re ready to go for your next writing session. Without work, we need to create that distraction.

There are some good things about writing full time. One is that you end up with more time to daydream or cultivate the good kind of mindlessness with chores, walks, and what have you. The other advantage is that you are often able to write during the time of day you are most creative and energetic. However, establishing a routine when you first leave your job is absolutely vital or your days will fill with everything but writing.

I’ve held high-stress jobs with evening meetings and I’ve held jobs where I was on my feet 12 hours a day and on call 24/7. I had no life outside of work because I spent my spare time writing. Now that I’m not working outside the home, with lots more spare time, I have only been able to push my capacity by 1000 words a day.

If I had the means, I think I’d volunteer somewhere a few days a week or get a part time low stress job to get me away from the computer and give writing time more of a sense of urgency. Some of us just work better that way, I think.

The best jobs I had in terms of writing well were jobs that involved routine tasks that didn’t take a lot of brain function. My hands were busy while my mind was free to plan stories. If you have a job like that and your writing is going well, be thankful. It’s a win-win.

If you have the support, the money, and the desire to give up your day job to write full time, you need to know that discipline is required. Routine is important. Motivation is key. And even if all three of these things fall into place, you likely won’t produce much more in terms of word count than you did while you were working.

Only you can decide if giving up the day job is worth it, especially if you aren’t making money with your stories. A stimulating job can give you more to write about. A repetitive job gives your brain a lot of freedom. Any job can give you a better sense of urgency to keep your dates with the page. Make your own list of pros and cons, but do it with eyes wide open.


 How do you think life would be different if you could write full time? If you are no longer working, what’s been the most difficult aspect?

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16 thoughts on “Making Time: The Job vs No Job Myth

  1. These are good points. I don’t think I would write much more than I do if I quit my day job, but I’d be under a lot more stress. The day job also has it’s benefits (beyond a paycheck). I get to travel a bit, I meet interesting people. I hear interesting stories and perspectives on local and world events. I think I’ll hang in there for a while.

    • I think if I could go back to work, I’d choose something stimulating such as the travel and people you mention, or something very rote that left my mind free to work on stories. I’ve been so tempted to look around for something like that.

  2. Excellent message. I am retired and agree with everything you’ve said. The difficulties to producing meaningful writing don’t get easier with more time, they are just different. As an introvert, I find I don’t push to be with people even though, let’s face it, those interactions give us raw meat for writing.

    • This is very true. Introverted homebodies need to switch their focus to socialization. I have no objection to becoming a hermit (I’d love it), but eventually the writing suffers.

  3. LOVEE – I would actually love to get a part-time job too – although I can’t earn right now due to visa restrictions.

    But you are right. I recently came across Parkinson’s Law, which states that our work will expand to fill in the available time space. In essence, the more time you have, the more time you will take to complete a task.

    I struggle with focus. In fact, it’s been a tough two weeks for me. I am getting easily distracted, I am unable to concentrate on my writing, I am not able to form ideas – I am in a rut!

    BUT if I have a deadline looming over my head, my productively skyrockets! LOL Clearly, I need external motivators to keep me on track.

    Thank you for yet another thought-provoking article, dear Robyn!! #HUGSSS

    • Kitto and Marcy, I am quite familiar with Parkinson’s Law and have used the concept in career and now that I’m home. Deadlines can be a very good thing. 🙂

  4. How WEIRD, Robyn! I published a similar post like this just today and precious Kitto shared a concept I’d never heard before. It’s called Parkinson’s Law – The amount of time that one has to perform a task is the amount of time it will take to complete the task.

    Here’s a link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parkinson%27s_law

    Great info! xo – m3

  5. I agree with everything that you said. I worked part time for several months and while at first I was writing quite a bit on my days off, without deadlines and a schedule, I soon hit a writer’s block that took a long time to recover from. Now, working full time, I find I haven’t had as much time to write new material, but I make time daily to edit drafts of stories.

    I’ve recently joined writers’ critique groups which helps motivate me to write as I have people to answer to and deadlines of sorts if I wish to read at the next meeting.

    Basically, if you’re going to quit your job to write, then writing must become your job. If I’m not intentional about when and where I will write, I most likely won’t do it, whether working full time or part.

  6. Since I am the queen of being consumed on a daily basis by the “work monster”, I really needed to read this. I honestly couldn’t imagine not working, but I would hope my writing productivity would skyrocket. That being said, I would need to be held accountable by deadlines. My world(s) fall apart without deadlines.

    Really interesting concept that Kitto shared on the Parkinson’s Law. Never heard of it before, but have experienced it. Now I know what to call it! (thanks, Kitto!)

  7. Pingback: Making Time to Write: Forming the Write Habits | The Sarcastic Muse

  8. Pingback: Making Time to Write: Becoming Portable | The Sarcastic Muse

  9. Pingback: Making Time to Write: Finding Hidden Time | The Sarcastic Muse

  10. Pingback: Making Time to Write: Not-So-Obvious Time Wasters | The Sarcastic Muse

  11. Pingback: Making Time to Write | The Sarcastic Muse

  12. Pingback: 12 Tips for Making the Most of Your Writing Time | The Sarcastic Muse

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