Distracted Writer: Don’t Quit Your Day Job

In my last Distracted Writer post, I talked about the challenges of Syliva Plath Quotehaving a day job and writing at the same time. Let’s be honest, if you’re a writer with a day job, you probably didn’t need me to tell you how hard it is. Duh.

So today I thought I’d try the less-explored angle of how a day job can actually help your writing.

#1: Scarcity of time = Focus. Working full time (or taking care of kids full time) in addition to your writing can drive you crazy. It can also help bring focus, so that all your crazy is laser-tight on a specific target. When you only have a few minutes a day or less to write, it forces you to focus on what’s really important during those few minutes. An hour before the kids get up is no time for procrastination, my friend. Hit the ground running or your writing time is gone.

For me, 4:30 a.m. is the time because I’m often too exhausted the night before to do my best work. I’ve found I can stay focused better if I jot down what I’m planning to write the night before, even if it’s just a few words on a sticky note.

#2: Use your commute. Now that I’m working outside the home, I spend about 2 hours a day in the car dropping off the kids and getting back and forth to work. (Atlanta traffic. Sigh.) But I’m trying to make the most of that time. I listen to audiobooks since I have less  time to read at home. I also listen to writing-related podcasts, which not only help me develop skills, they keep me inspired and in touch with my goals.

#3: Get energy from your coworkers. If you work in an office or facility with other human beings, you can suck the lifeforce out of them be inspired by their energy. I’ve found that I get encouragement from my colleagues who are passionate about what they do — not just for the work we do together, but for my own writing as well.

#4: Your coworkers are also fountains of new ideas. No, you probably shouldn’t run around your office with pen and paper writing down direct quotes and stealing details from your coworkers’ lives. But real people are inspiring in lots of ways.

I love watching how people solve problems, listening to the way their  speech rises and falls, how they talk about their loved ones. It’s all great stuff, not just for connecting in real life, but also creating characters that people can feel connected to.

Manda's Business Self
Manda’s Business Self

#5: Explore your shadow sides. Every personality trait has a shadow side, and opposing traits that balance it. Most of us aren’t the same person all day long. In my head, Writer Manda, Mom Manda and Business Manda must all live in harmony. Writer Manda is like many writers: (somewhat) introverted, creative and ready to roll with whatever comes. These are good qualities for putting 100,000 words on the page.

But there’s another side of me, and my day job helps fulfill it: the extroverted me who needs interaction with people to stimulate and energize, the analytical me who likes logic and structure and saying business things (think Unikitty from The Lego Movie). Allowing that side of myself to feel professionally fulfilled frees me up to be creative and self-energizing in other hours. Assuming I can stay awake that long…


MJ Pullen

M.J. Pullen is a Distracted Writer and the mom of two boys in Roswell, Georgia, where she is absolutely late for something important right now. Her books include quirky romantic comedies and playful women's fiction -- her latest, SUGAR STREET released on 8/7/18. Join her Distracted Readers newsletter list for updates, free content, giveaways and more.

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