On Being The Writer with a Day Job

I’m a writer trying to carve a space out for myself in a very competitive, very crowded market.

In addition to this, I have a family and a day job that both require time and attention. In the past few months, I’ve managed to pull together an independent film, write two short films I also plan on producing in the fall, and a feature script adaptation of my novel, THE TRIP.

“How do you do it all?” I get asked this question a lot. The answer is really simple: writing is important to me, and I make time for it. This is the only thing that’s going to make you a writer: writing.

A little more about my journey – I’ve written, had some moderate success, gotten away from it, got back to it, had more success, and followed that general pattern. This time around I’m making a serious go at it, because there is so much information and support for an independent artist – and most of it is free. You can learn a lot of things you would in a writing program online if you’re the kind of person who can learn independently. (Full disclosure: I have a Master’s degree in writing and I don’t regret pursuing it, which is a topic for another post, but you don’t need to pursue higher education to do this)

How do you keep abreast of things? How do you keep your finger on the pulse of what’s going on?

One of the best things for me has been my smart phone. I resisted getting one for a while – and I’ll be honest. When I first bought it, it was a toy. I played Plants vs. Zombies. I played Angry Birds. I took pictures of my sushi.

Over time, though, I realized my smartphone is a tool – a small, very valuable tool. With it, I can watch my Facebook and Twitter feeds (I used to be a FB fan, but I’m having more luck getting noticed on Twitter). I can use it to visit YouTube or other sites my company won’t let me access at work. Just make sure you do it at lunch, or on your break.

Perhaps the most valuable thing I’ve found is my smartphone gives me easy access to podcasts. Podcasts aren’t new by any means, but I’m new to them. Before the smartphone I bought a cheap MP3 player. I loaded my music on it, which was easy. Loading podcasts didn’t seem that easy, so I never did it. (I still use the MP3 player for my music, saving room on my phone for podcasts)

The wonderful thing about a podcast is I can listen to it, and if it’s good, I can learn something while I’m doing something else. This is a very, very powerful thing to realize. I’m in my office, slinging code for 8-9 hours a day. Most of that time I work by myself. Sure, there’s the occasional meeting or question someone has (or I have of someone else), and I need to unplug. But during all that time when I’m writing code, I can choose to listen to talk radio. I can listen to Joss Stone. Many people do either of those. Or I can listen to something that’ll teach me something.

Having this touch to my creative outlet while I’m in the office is really nice. I feel happier. I’m more engaged in my job. I understand not everyone can do this at work, but it’s definitely worth a shot if you have this type of job like me.

If this isn’t an option for you, try it during your writing time. Instead of music, throw on a writing podcast. The good ones will teach you some great things and inspire you. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Shriekfest Radio – Shriekfest director and founder Denise Gossett interviews horror, sci-fi and fantasy filmmakers, writers, directors, and actors. Broadcast live on Thursday nights (10pm ET, 7PM PT) for about an hour. This podcast is available on iTunes and the Apple Podcasts app – it’s not listed as a podcast on its own, but you can find it under Radio Paranormal.
  • Writer’s Marketing Podcast – Mitchell runs a fantastic podcast. The length of the podcast varies from 15 minutes to an hour. Every episode packs interesting tips and insights for independent artists. Topics include social media, getting your book noticed, interviews and other marketing advice. If you think outside the box, the information you pick up from this podcast can easily be applied to marketing movies, photography, etc.
  • On the Page Pilar Alessandra hosts this podcast, focused exclusively on screenwriting. If you’re interested in writing for movies or TV, this podcast is for you. Pilar interviews screenwriters. Period. It’s an entertaining, informative podcast that clocks in at a very quick hour, and it’s got the catchiest theme song of any of the podcasts listed here.
  • The Creative Penn Thriller writer Joanna Penn shares her insights about writing, along with interviews with established authors. Every interview provides valuable insight and inspiration for any writer in an engaging hour long show.

9 Comments

  1. Hey Tim!

    Thanks for the really amazing shoutout for the podcast. I know I’m speaking for everyone on the Author-shift team by saying we greatly appreciate that you’ve listed our show along with such amazing shows. Wishing you mega success with the script for THE TRIP.

    -Mitchell

    • tmblogger

      July 19, 2014 at 5:41 pm

      Thanks, Mitchell! Keep up the good work – you really do have a great podcast, I’d say it’s one of the best I’ve heard. I learn something every episode.

  2. Tim,

    Great article, brother. It’s funny when people ask “How do you get it all done?” When I was deployed to Afghanistan I wrote two full length novels and a few short stories. When people ask what I did in my free time deployed, that’s what I tell them. They seem amazed, but what they don’t realize is that I didn’t play video games, and I didn’t have a choice but to write.

    When you’re a writer you just have to write. That’s the long and short of it. At one point I was writing about 2,000 words a day over there in about two or three hours a night. But if I didn’t I was just a really unpleasant person. It’s the way it is for those of us that write, and to be honest, during weeks where I’m on vacation, I don’t get any writing done and I have 50 extra hours.

    Thanks for the post, I’ll be sharing this, my friend.

    chandlercrawford.com

    • tmblogger

      July 31, 2014 at 7:08 pm

      Thanks, Chandler! I need to manually moderate the contents with all the spam, but I found your real reply! This is what keeps me going!

      I’ll be sure to visit your site and start sharing back! 😀

  3. I get this question too, and I’m not as busy as you are. Not as productive either. Still, people seem amazed that someone can work a ‘real’ job and do creative work as well. I usually tell them that writers don’t “Find” time to write. They write and “Find” time for everything else.

    • tmblogger

      February 5, 2015 at 8:20 pm

      Hi Tammy,

      I agree. If it’s something you want, you’ll make time to do it. That being said, I don’t buy the “suffer for your art” stereotype. Sure, giving up watching TV or playing Call of Duty is a sacrifice, but is it really “suffering?”

      Missing your kid’s dance recital or your mother’s birthday is suffering…maybe I’m weird, but don’t lose track of what keeps you in that chair!

  4. bookmarked!!, I love your website!

  5. First off I want to say terrific blog! I
    had a quick question which I’d like to ask if you don’t
    mind. I was curious to find out how you center yourself and clear your mind before
    writing. I have had a hard time clearing my thoughts in getting my ideas out.

    I truly do enjoy writing however it just seems like the first 10 to 15
    minutes are usually lost simply just trying to figure
    out how to begin. Any recommendations or tips?

    Many thanks!

    • Figure out how you want to work first – do you need quiet, or can you work with people around?

      Go somewhere you know you won’t be interrupted – a room where you can close the door or a coffee shop, put on a pair of headphones with inspiring music, and get to work. Do this a while and eventually you’ll develop the discipline to keep working.

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