One of my favorite bands, Muse, says it best in their song Knights of Cydonia:
Don’t waste your time,
Or time will waste you.
Like many (most) writers I have to hold down a day job to make ends meet. The whole “Starving Artist” thing sounds like fun and all… it really, really isn’t. It’s not just the starving part that happens to the jobless (free) artist, it’s also the hole-riddled-clothing artist, the too-broke-to-get a-coffee artist (sooooo not an option), the couch-surfing-taking-up-too-much-space-pain-in-the-ass artist (which is really only cool from the ages of 18-25 maybe), and worse, the having-to-mooch-off-of-the-parents artist. None of which are options by the time you get to my age (not that they ever were anyway). So, yes, I hold down a day job and do my best to put words to paper afterwards… and by after I mean after my commute, after dinner and subsequent chores, and then after spending time with my family. I might get an hour or two a night if I concentrate. I might get an hour or two if I’m not so dogged tired I can do nothing but go to bed.
I learned a long time ago, fatigue is not my friend.
I’m not the only person out there that has to hold down a day job to pay for life. Even Clark Kent had to do it, so I’m in pretty good company I think. Well, one of the ways I don’t waste all of that time between my day job, my commute, and home life also happens to be an activity that helps to build my skills in writing: I listen.
Not to music.
Not to the news.
Not even to audio books (though that’s not a bad way to build skills either).
I listen to podcasts about writing.
Every weekend I load about 8 episodes of my favorite podcasts on a flash drive and listen to them over and over again until I have them just about memorized. (with my memory, or lack there of, this process takes a while). That’s forty minutes each way, every day listening to powerful, useful, and insightful information from successful people in the business.
This helps me in many ways:
- Makes me forget about my day job giving me a solid break from my working life and my writing life.
- Gives me great and useful information.
- Gets me excited about writing (anyone wondering how this works only needs to attend a meeting with a writing group – others’ excitement is indeed infectious).
- Gives me a reason to get through the more tedious aspects of family responsibilities (chores specifically).
- Makes me not want to give into that after-work fatigue.
In fact, one of the podcasts I listened to recently talked about what some writers do to break up their day. Especially the ones who work jobs that use the same sort of segment needed for writing as they use for their day job. Part of my job is super creative so this discussion was particularly relevant for me. One writer said they do tedious chores, like yard work, dishes, folding clothes, etc. (they didn’t have the “option” of a commute – must be nice), Another said they use their commute as a way to break their day up. At which point I told my radio that’s exactly what I was doing…because they could totally hear me…yeah.
My job is multifaceted, so while this sort of “break” is useful for separating or redirecting my creative focus, it also works for the parts of my working life that have nothing at all to do with creativity. The other part of my job is very tedious so this break sort of re-energizes my focus to the creative.
One day I hope to have only one job – and have that one job be completely writing or creative related. But until that happens, since I do have to split my life into different pieces, I take the time to not waste my time and put all of my effort in to utilizing dead-space to suite my goals.
I’d love to hear from all of those work-a-day writers out there. How do you manage your non-writing time to your advantage?