Besides the fact that they are all famous authors, what do Bram Stoker, Lewis Carroll, and Franz Kafka have in common? Answer: They all held down day jobs while writing on the side. Few people have the luxury of devoting all of their time to their passion projects. If you’re having trouble carving out time to write a book while working full-time, just remember that if plenty of famous authors have done it, then you can too. Plus, you have an advantage that many famous authors didn’t have. As a full-time freelancer, your schedule is more flexible. By making a few adjustments to your schedule and your mindset, you should be able to finish your book.
Embracing the Benefits of Working While Writing
Believe it or not, there are advantages to freelancing full-time while working on your book on the side. Yes, you’ll have less time to devote to your book. However, you’ll likely work like crazy on your book during the few minutes that you do set aside for it. In the end, you might end up making more progress than if you quit freelancing to write your book.
Plus, freelance writers tend to do a lot of Internet research. They learn about all sorts of oddball topics, from peripheral neuropathy to cryptocurrency. If you freelance for a decade or longer, you’ll become a walking encyclopedia. Why not use that research for your book? What you learn while freelancing can give your book a deeper complexity that it might not have otherwise. However, you’ll still need to find the time to write, which is why you should make a reverse schedule.
Making a Reverse Schedule
Everyone gets the same amount of time in every day. And unfortunately, it’s not possible to bend the laws of the natural world and conjure up more time out of thin air. But it’s definitely possible to make the most out of the time you’ve got, so start by writing a reverse schedule. When you write a typical schedule, you’ll make a note of what you have to do at which times. A reverse schedule involves writing down tasks as you complete them. Since regular schedules can easily get thrown off-course, they aren’t the best way to analyze your time. But with a reverse schedule, you can see exactly how much time you’re spending doing various tasks.
Each time you begin a new task, write down the starting time and a brief description. Write down the time of completion once you’re done. At the end of the day, take a hard look at it and figure out where you can fit in more time for your passion project.
Maximizing the Potential in Five Minutes
It’s great if analyzing your reverse schedule allows you to carve out a solid hour or two for writing your book. But many people find that their free time is more fragmented than this. You might have five minutes to yourself while waiting to pick up your kids at school, or you may only have 15 minutes pilfered from your usual lunch break. That’s perfectly fine—you can write your book five minutes at a time. Even if you can only manage one paragraph, that will be one more paragraph than you had at the beginning of the day. And every time you manage to crank out a few more words in the spare moments you have, you’ll get a surge of self-confidence that will fuel your next micro-writing session.
If you’re still feeling stuck, try to end each writing session in the middle of a sentence. When you have a few minutes to get back to your book, you might find it easier to get started by finishing that sentence.
Making Your Book Writing Time More Productive
Whether you have five minutes or five hours to work on your book, you need to go at full speed. Distractions can be very… well, distracting to writers, but it’s important to learn how to cope with them. Do try to set limits, such as by posting a Do Not Disturb Unless It’s an Emergency sign on your closed office door (or even the back of your laptop if you lack a home office). However, distractions will inevitably occur.
If you don’t have a home office and you must work in a well-used, frequently trafficked room, try to set up “blinders.” Put a tall object behind your laptop to block your view or turn your desk to face a blank wall. Wear noise-canceling headphones. Find a soundtrack for your writing—something that won’t distract you and might even improve your focus.
You may find yourself becoming more productive with your writing time if you think of it as just another job for a client. Give yourself a deadline and stick to it. Remember that on the first draft it’s okay to have mediocre writing and spelling mistakes. You’ll edit it later. Right now, your priority is getting words down on the page.
Taking Notes on the Go
The wonderful thing about being a writer is that you live in multiple worlds simultaneously. Part of your mind is focused on your freelance work, while another part is off in Wonderland, dreaming about your characters and wondering how their day went. You may find yourself in the middle of a supermarket or a dinner party when inspiration strikes. Take a small notepad and pen with you everywhere so you can jot down a few notes about your idea.
Holding Yourself Accountable
Lastly, hold yourself accountable to your word count. Join an online writing community on Twitter or Facebook and interact with other writers. Announce that you’re writing a book and give a date for when you expect to be done with the first draft. Sharing this with other people can help you hold yourself accountable to your daily word count goal.
Tired of spending hours hunting down that next freelance job while also trying to write a book? Wish you could spend more time writing and less time looking for work? Join Writers Work today and get access to our curated, constantly updated job board, plus free tools to help you improve your writing!