I think one of the hardest things to figure out when you're trying to be a writer, but still have a full time day job, is time management. How do you give your writing the focus and dedication it deserves, without burning out?
This is a tightrope I've been walking lately, especially since my mentorship requires a minimum of 20-25 hours per month. On the surface, that really isn't a lot. In fact, it's only five hours a week. That's an hour every evening, Monday to Friday, with weekends free for fun. So why is it so hard?
There's a lot of answers to that question. The first, is that it isn't. Not really. There aren't many things in this world that are easy, especially not those worth doing, so why complain about such a minimal requirement? Why not accept it as set in stone and move on? We know with absolute certainty that we must get up and go to work in the morning. We have to if we want to continue to have a roof over our heads and food to eat. Why not approach our writing schedule the same way? Why not be uncompromising?
Of course, that leads me to my second answer. Which is that work sucks, and when we finally get to come home for the day, we don't really like having something else that we have to do waiting for us. We want to unwind, relax and put the nasty, icky-ness of work out of our minds until tomorrow. But having a set schedule for writing doesn't mean there's no time to unwind. It means just the opposite. If I have time set aside specifically for writing, and use it, then when I'm done I can relax guilt free. There's no "I should be..." hanging over my head. And often, once I start writing, I quite enjoy it and will often work past the required time because I'm in the zone.
And then there's the third answer. Not only does work suck, but it sucks the life out of you. That sounds more depressing than I mean to, but it's kind of true. Depending on your job, it can take a lot out of you. Whether it be customer service, number crunching or other kinds of problem solving, by the time you're done, you aren't just bone-tired, you're brain-tired. So, it can be hard to coax out a creative thought. I do my best to remedy this, by fitting in a little creative time throughout the day. I read a book at lunch, and if I'm waiting in line or have a free moment, I give myself permission to daydream. I let myself drift off to la-la land for just a few minutes. Sometimes, it's writing related and I'll use the time to try play out a scene and get inside the head of a character. But sometimes it's a free for all. In any case, I find when I come home I'm a lot more primed and ready.
The truth is, writing with a day job will always be difficult. But it's a sacrifice a lot of us have to make in pursuit of our dream. And in the end, it's worth it, because a harder life with the dream is better than an easier one without it. At least, that's how I see it.