Writing Around The Day Job

I am a professional writer, but not a full time one.  Most of my time is taken up by my more-than-full-time day job as a psychiatrist, so my writing has to fit in around my other commitments.

This is the case for a lot of writers, particularly those just starting out. It may be many years before your writing can support you and your family financially and, even then, there's a large cohort of authors who maintain a regular day job to pay the bills.

A lot of my friends ask me how I possibly have time to write, where I fit it all in. I'm going to share with you my tips for maintaining a creative writing life around day job, family and social commitments.

Maximise your available time
Writers often feel they need a concentrated block of time to write. They want to dedicate entire evenings and weekends to their work, finding The Zone and staying in it as long as possible. However, research into concentration and efficiency has consistently found that human beings cannot sustain attention for hours at a time.

I am a big fan of the Pomodoro Technique (http://pomodorotechnique.com). The idea is simple: 25 minutes work, 5 minutes break, lather, rinse, repeat. Suddenly, that odd hour between the school run and teatime becomes two Pomodoros

Identify your "dead time"
There are parts of any day that are necessary chores, but these can be transformed into productive writing time.

The biggest time-sink is commuting. If you take the train/subway, consider swapping your novel for a notebook or using a writing app on your smartphone or tablet. Last year, I had a twenty minute train commute - that was forty minutes per day, which added up to over three hours of writing time every week!

If you drive, you can use that time to listen to audiobooks - reading is a vital component of writing - or plan your next scene or chapter. A large part of writing is thinking about writing; use your time grocery shopping or your lunch hour to flesh out your concepts and characters in your head.

Use your day job for inspiration
There's a job-hunting buzzphrase that's equally applicable to writing: transferable skills. How can your day job improve your writing? What talents and techniques can you use for both?

Many jobs have one essential writing benefit - meeting people. From your teaching colleagues to shoppers at the checkout, you encounter a variety of people per day who can serve as templates for personalities, mannerisms and naturalistic dialogue. 

The old writing maxim "write what you know" also applies here. While you may not want to set your drama in an office, the experience of being holed up with the same people day-in, day-out may serve you well in writing your scenes in a post-apocalyptic nuclear bunker.

Anyone can find time to write - whether it's ten minutes per day or forty hours per week, you can find space in your life for writing. Good luck maximising your free hours, transforming your dead time, and getting inspired by the daily grind!

Rosie Claverton grew up in Devon, daughter to a Sri Lankan father and a Norfolk mother, surrounded by folk mythology and surly sheep. She moved to Cardiff to study Medicine and adopted Wales as her home. Her short film "Dragon Chasers" aired on BBC Wales in Autumn 2012. Her debut novel Binary Witness is due for publication by Carina Press in 2014. Currently exiled to London, she lives with her journalist husband and their pet hedgehog.

Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/binarywitness
Series website: http://amylanemysteries.com
Blog: http://rosieclaverton.com
Twitter: @rosieclaverton



  1. Great article! I will be checking out the Pomodoro Technique as it sounds like it can be very useful in my life. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks! I've found Pomodoro really useful, especially when I'm strict. Because what email/text can't wait half an hour?

  2. Thank you for sharing. It's wonderful to hear of other techniques to write around the daily job. I have a 2 1/2 hour commute for work every day and I think about my writing through most of it - music is a key driver of inspiration for me. On all of my devices (phone, tablet, iPod) I have a screen with only a voice recording app set in the middle. I get this setup before I start driving and if inspiration hits me, I tap the middle of the screen and start talking (only start the app when the car is not in motion). :)

    1. That is an excellent suggestion! Before smartphones, I had a dictaphone set up for those "inspiration moments" but they were such a pain to type up.

      Thanks for commenting!


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