Positive Writer

Write with More Confidence and Greater Satisfaction

How To Become A Prolific Writer While Holding Down A Day Job

One of the most frequent questions I receive is: How can I write and hold down a day job at the same time?

There’s a common belief (and a few myths that support it) that you can only do one or the other. But that’s not true.

Writing while holding down a day job

I have a day job, and I enjoy it. I also enjoy writing and publishing. Maybe you’re kind of stuck in a place where I once was and you’re only writing when you feel inspired and can fit it in here and there.

I figured out that if I wanted to be a writer who actually writes and publishes, I needed to take my writing seriously and give it the time and consideration it deserves.

It hasn’t always been easy and there have been times it just hasn’t worked out, but for the most part I’ve succeeded in holding down a 40+ hour week job, authoring a dozen books and maintaining several blogs, not to mention writing magazine and newspaper articles.

I don’t share this with you to boast. No. It’s been too exhausting at times for that, but it is to say…

It can be done.

Yes, it’s been exhausting at times, but it’s also been incredibly rewarding. Day jobs last until you quit or retire, but a writing career can last your entire life and the writing itself can last for infinity.

A writing career can last your entire life and the writing itself can last for infinity. (Click to Tweet)

Myths about Writing and Working

To make debunking the following myths fun, I’ll use examples from the writing lives of well-known authors:

Myth: If you have a day job you can’t be an author.

Debunk: The author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll (real name, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson), continued to work day jobs throughout his life. With growing wealth and fame, Carroll continued to teach at Christ Church until 1881, and remained in residence there until his death. He was also a working mathematician of note and a photographer. (Source)

Other authors who held down day jobs throughout their writing careers include Bram Stoker, Philip Larkin, T.S. Eliot, and Virginia Woolf, among many others.

Myth: You can’t write a bestselling book and work a day job at the same time.

Debunk: I present you with none other than, Anne Rice. Rice has held a variety of jobs, including waitress, cook, and theater usherette, among others. In fact, she wrote the bestselling book Interview With The Vampire while working her day job as an insurance claims examiner. (Source)

Myth: A day job kills your inspiration and motivation to write.

Debunk: A day job can be a great source of inspiration and motivation for writing. In fact, who knows, it could provide you with inspiration and motivation to create change and hope in the world.

John Green intended to become an Episcopal priest, but his experiences of working in a hospital with children suffering from life-threatening illnesses inspired him to become an author, and later to write, The Fault in Our Stars. (Source)


Maintain Daily Writing Rituals

In my book, “Writer’s Doubt” (have you read it yet?), I discuss the importance of daily writing rituals in order to write every day consistently.

The gist of it is:

Repeat the same actions daily to create a habit for writing at a specific time and place every day. (Click to Tweet)

If you examine your daily routines you’ll discover things you do on a regular basis and in a specific order. And that’s a good thing. What you want to do is fit your writing into your daily routine and allow it to become one of your habits.

For example, every morning you wake up and do things in a certain way. Perhaps you first make coffee, then breakfast, then brush your teeth, etc…

Having a day job makes it imperative that I allocate time for writing. I insure I write at least 2 hours before I go to work come rain or shine. And I do this by following my rituals every morning without fail.

Regardless of what time I work (shift work), I wake up at least 3 hours prior and like clockwork, 1) I brush my teeth, 2) make breakfast, 3) sit down at my desk, 4) check emails, 5) check in on my social connections and finally 5) after stretching my legs for a moment, I write on cue for at least two hours.

(Parents I know who write and work day jobs, tend to pick times to write before their children wakeup or after they go to bed.)

Whether my writing is good, bad, or ugly is irrelevant.

I write a minimum of 500 words each day thanks to my daily writing rituals. Mind you, I’m not writing every day because I’m especially motivated or inspired, I’m writing because I made it a habit for me to start writing at a certain time and place every morning.

How to make writing part of your daily routine:

  1. Take note of the things you do consistently every day before and after work. Consider writing them down so you can become more conscious of them.
  2. Create a space of time within your current daily rituals for writing every day. Make sure it’s at a time of day that works best for you. I write best in the morning and other people write better at night. When do you write best?
  3. Commit. It’s important to commit to writing at the same time every day so that it becomes a natural, automatic part of your day, regardless of whether you feel inspired or motivated. It’s believed that it takes 21 days (source) to create a habit, so hang in there and keep going. In my personal experience it takes up to 60 to 90 days, but I’m stubborn like that.


Yes, like it or not, when we commit to writing every day, sacrifices (choices) will have to be made. Many of us have hobbies that we do every day, such as playing tennis, or golf, or running, or going to the gym. What will you give up or cut back on? Unfortunately, we don’t have unlimited hours in a day – only 24.

Maybe it’s your writing that you’re already sacrificing for something else?

I used to play in a pool league and I needed to practice at least 2 hours a day to stay competitive at the level I was at. When I decided to take my writing seriously I needed to eliminate an hour of pool practice a day, and eventually, as I wrote more and more, I stopped playing pool in the league. That was my choice, my sacrifice, as it were.

I sacrificed pool for writing, but I had been sacrificing my writing for pool. Maybe you don’t have to sacrifice anything for the craft, but do keep in mind that the more you do the less time you have for each and that means you’ll be giving less of yourself to something.

You decide what deserves your time and focus. So decide.

Writing Sanctuary

I’ve found it extremely helpful to have a writing sanctuary in my home, a place where I feel comfortable and everything I need is within reach.

This place for me happens to be my writing desk in my office. It is free of clutter, with only a notepad and a few pens and pencils, my keyboard and my computer monitor.

Oh, and a coaster for my cup of coffee. I can’t write without my coffee (I know, bad, but it is what it is).

I highly recommend creating a writing sanctuary for yourself, somewhere you only go to write, and therefore, your mind will associate being there with writing.

Once I’m in my sanctuary I’m ready in mind, body and soul for the business of writing, and I write.

It’s About Writing

Ultimately, becoming a prolific writer is about writing. Incorporating the craft into my daily rituals and making it a habit (like, say, breathing) has worked wonders for me. I hope it works wonders for you, too.

Now go, be awesome and write!

How do you currently fit writing into your life? Share in the comments.

About Bryan Hutchinson

I'm a positive writer and when that doesn't work, I eat chocolate. I help fellow writers overcome doubt and thrive! In my free time, I love visiting castles with my wife, Joan. Join me on Twitter and Facebook.

Subscribe and I’ll send you “The Writer’s Manifesto.” Enter your email:

Like a good friend, Bryan guides you through the process of facing your inner demons, conquering the craft, and creating work that matters. ―Jeff Goins



  • Michelle King Eigemann

    Like so many times before your post came to me as needed. Just the other day I was thinking or maybe complaining about how my day job is getting in the way of…well, everything. With that being said I am very blessed to have a job and equally as blessed to have a love for words and a passion for stinging them together into sentences I hope will inspire, encourage, and build up. So now I am convicted and I will be carving out some time to write every day. is your two hours strictly for working on projects such as books etc or does that also include blog posts, journaling and things others may never see?

    • Douglas R Kiba

      I like the idea of writing a chapter a day. If a book is 90 chapters you can write it in 90 days. Or if you’d like to do 2 chaps a day, a month and a half is all you need. I don’t have a day job but I’ve tried writing between school hours, homework and sleep.
      Right now my biggest distraction is the world cup! Thank God there’s a break until the weekend.

      • lol I think the world cup is a distraction for a lot of people right now! 🙂

    • Hi Michelle,
      It depends on what I might be working on at that moment. I usually only post blog posts once a week, so when that’s done I am working on other projects. 2 hours is my minimum, but on weekends or other days off I usually write a couple extra hours if I have the time.

  • Melissa Cornwell

    I love this! Thank you for writing this when I most needed it. I second Michelle’s question!

  • Douglas R Kiba

    This is great Bryan! I also love how you’ve incorporated the Fault in Our Stars in your post. (I love that book!)
    I believe in rhythm. I also love the story I’m writing so much sometimes I’m scared of writing it. It’s like approaching a girl you like. I don’t know if other writers have this experience. But I’m happy with the pace I’m going at right now. I’m taking it slower than my previous book and it’s giving me time to examine my story from different angles and to get into the right “emotional settings” for each chapter. 
    Emotions are very important factors for me and I often visualize my scenes while delving into the feeling side of things before I write. 

    Thanks again, Bryan! 

  • Andria R Bicknell

    Excellent advice. I struggle to mediate the slow-down I crave in my life with my ambition and passion to write. I’ve been trying to zoom out, rather than zoom in. Meaning, I’ve been trying to preserve a slower, more reflective pace, rather than scheduling daily writing time. It certainly makes it more difficult to stay consistent, but it’s just an experiment with balancing my time. I am contemplating the daily practice on a smaller scale than what you describe. Ya gotta start somewhere, no?

    I am hugely blessed that my “day job” is in the writing industry! But I also know that my own writing will not progress unless I do the obvious: sit down and write…for myself. Thanks for the practical advice and encouragement, Bryan!

  • Brian, Great post. As a Navy Chaplain, I don’t have what you would call a traditional job. I’ve used a lot of excuses for avoiding writing (which I very much enjoy) while I’ve been deployed with my Marines. Mostly it’s been the emotional difficulty of being away from my family for several months, and that I’m too busy, or I just don’t feel like doing the work.
    Your post pulled on some of my excuses. Time for me to get back in the game.

    Best to you.

    • And you’ve got very compelling reasons. Even so, let’s get you back in the game!

      Thanks for all you do!

  • PatriciaW

    Fabulous post, particularly the section about sacrifice. Hits the nail on the head. Because my hodgepodge, fit-it-in-if-I-can approach rarely works, so clearly I’m sacrificing my writing for other things: sleep, time with the family, reading, TV watching, etc. Making a switch will require careful consideration, but is necessary.

    • It helped me to write down what I was doing throughout my day. The hard part is deciding what you’re going to sacrifice. Maybe cut back on some TV watching? 🙂

      • PatriciaW

        Less the TV watching and more the reading which relaxes me after a day at work. But then I get caught up in someone else’s story…

  • Great tips ~ and thanks for debunking the myths(excuses) we can come up with to say “we can’t write.” Needed this kick-in-the-pants today 🙂 Awesome post!

  • Nan Sampson

    Thanks Bryan! Great, practical, useable advice. Love your bog (and your book!).

  • Bryan Davis

    Thanks Bryan, great advice which hits home. Love the Blog!

  • Great post Bryan. Love how it keeps going back to the things you shared in your book.

    • The great thing about “Writer’s Doubt” is that I never get tired of writing about those issues. I’m glad you noticed. 🙂

  • Mikhaeyla Kopievsky

    Thanks for the motivation, Bryan! I especially liked your comment about finding inspiration in your day job. I recently discovered that the skills and tools I use at work can help me with my writing approach – https://mikhaeylakopievsky.wordpress.com/2014/07/03/how-to-get-from-a-to-b-navigating-the-story-between-your-plot-points-part-1/

    • Ha Mikhaeyla, I was just reading your blog. I like how you see going from A to B as a road trip. Very interesting and compelling writing.

      • Mikhaeyla Kopievsky

        Thanks, Bryan!

  • Great examples fellow coffee-lover, it can be done! Now I’m off to write, but first to declutter my desk.

    • Oh the clutter!!

      You’ll need plenty of coffee for that job! 🙂

  • Charlotte M. Evans

    I wrk a full time job have 6 year old twins and I write. 140 pages into first novel.

  • Great article. Love the positive attitude. It’s all about the writing no matter what.

  • Gerad Forte

    I originally got into the writing habit by doing it on an app in my phone. Not glamorous at all, but it was low friction. I would sit in Starbucks and tap away first driaft notes on my Galaxy. It looked like I was texting, so I didn’t get the “what are you working on?” questions or questioning looks. I didn’t get to step outside my body and be impressed with myself for sitting down and being a writer. It was an extremely low stakes endeavor. No ceremony: a series of private victories. Now I write everyday. One a laptop, like a sane person. 1000-3000 words a day.

    • Awesome story, Gerad! I personally think writing on your phone is fairly sane. At least, it better be, or I’m in trouble!

  • Awesome post, Bryan! I have started to focus on daily writing and it’s transformative. I don’t schedule it as well as I should or could, but have gotten in the habit of writing every day and I’ve stuck to it. I’m doing more planning these days and setting a writing schedule/ritual is next on the list.

    • You’re writing everyday and that’s what is most important! I’m sure over time you will find that time that most naturally fits for you, if you haven’t already.

  • A great post, Bryan. I have always hesitated to call myself “writer” for just that reason – I have a day job. But you’re right that it’s a myth that the two are mutually exclusive. In fact, my day job has actually pushed me to be more motivated to write (whole other long story). Finding a special time and place to do it. Oh, yes, and coffee is a must!

    • Great Lisa! I’m meeting more and more people who are motivated by their day jobs to write in their off time. You’re a writer!

  • Mohamed

    I have taken a lot of online writing courses. I have come a long way, compared to where I was. But I still believe I could have gone further if I had devoted more time to writing. I only write when I am compelled to. I am always waiting for free time to come. The reality is that free time may never come, we have to make the free time. Our employers, families and friends compete to make the most of our own time. I have liked Bryan’s idea of waking people by shaking them violently with strong words. I hope I will be able to make the unavoidable decision of sacrifice and respond regularly to the calling of writing.

    • Yep. Need to schedule in the time, Mohamed. And stick to it. When there’s a will, there’s a way.

  • Thanks Bryan for the Post – I know you have said before that we need to make writing a habit -but It is just taking a while to get through my thick skull. Thank you for the reminder

  • Thanks for the idea Bryan – I think I’m going to try and write at least 500 words every day and hopefully, some days, I’ll be inspired (and have enough free time) to write a little more than usual 🙂

    Every little helps right?!

  • Mia Moore

    The key word here is “commit.” Writing requires discipline, not a deeper connection with the muses. I also like your discussion of sacrifices. Great article, Bryan.

  • Bryan~I love this! I am currently holding down a 9-5 and perusing my writing at the same time. What has worked for me is coming home from work and meditating for exactly the same amount of time and writing at least 500 words right after. This has been wonderful to bookend the end of the work day, clear out my internal space and set a foundation for my writing.

  • Kirk Apolo

    I like the valuable info you provide in your articles.
    I will bookmark your weblog and check again here regularly.
    I am quit certain I will learn many new stuff right here!
    Good luck for the next!

    Please visit my site: new games

  • Pingback: Monday Must-Reads [07.21.14 The Last Month's Worth]()

  • Pingback: Dog Days of Summer Links | Becky Black()

  • Pingback: Become A Better Writer with 51 Mind-blowing Resources | Positive Writer()

  • Katharine

    Wow. You’re saying I could be a writer who actually writes. I could. The 500 words is only a couple of longhand pages.
    And I do have a ritual or rising, coffeeing, and reading. What better time to add writing?
    Thanks for this!

  • Pingback: Want to be Happier? 5 Links to Help You Achieve it No Matter What Write on Wendy()

  • Fantastic article, thank you. When I was working full-time, my writing habit was to write during my two hour bus ride to work, then to write again on my lunch break. I was too fried mentally to write on the bus ride home, but I could read, so I read books on writing craft. And you’re so write–the day job absolutely can motivate a person to write. That job was the reason I started writing fiction: I knew it was going to drive me nuts if I didn’t also have a creative outlet.

  • mohammad umair

    I believe these will have maximum impact only when there is motivation and “never give up” attitude within the writer.

    What do you think Bryan?

  • Rick Mannshardt

    Great article. I just recently discovered you Bryan (an hour ago) and already I’m hooked. You’re the fresh jolt of lightning I’ve been needing for a long time. I now realize I’ve been sacrificing my writing for many other things. It’s time to reverse that! It’s good to be in your light.

  • Well, about half of my writing is done on a train while commutting to work.

  • Cristian Giannella

    really interesting and useful. that’s how i work and it’s good knowing to be on the right path 🙂 commitment is very important, even when a lot of people around you won’t understand it. “you should go out more instead of being stuck to that PC that much!”, yeah, sure. like the novel writes itself. PS: i have a thing for coffee too, never without.

  • Pingback: So you want to be a writer, huh? | engl352()

  • Ana

    Thank you for this great article, I was thought it was impossible to write like this and hold down a full-time job, a bit exhausting too, but as you say, it is doable. Thank you for showing me a different approach!

  • Daniel

    Great article! Thank you for the inspiration. In on the last sentence you wrote, “No go, be awesome and write!” I think the “no” is supposed to be “now”.

  • Ashley

    I work retail so my schedule is different everyday. I drive to work it’s 15 minutes away. So, what are your suggestions on how to keep a schedule?


    You have made me look back to the last 7 years of my life in which my writing flame died. I gave up writing when my children were born 40+ years ago. I began again in the early part of the new millennium. I was dedicated. I wrote 2-6 hours every day after my job as a mail carrier. Catastrophes and life events ripped me from my routine, which was more like my fantasy. It wasn’t work, my writing sparked a new fire in my life. These last 7 years have been tragic as well as blissful. I desperately want and need to find my routine again. As I’m writing this I made a choice. I am taking a cruise in 3 weeks. I had already decided to finish a book (already 100K words) on the ship. Now I realize I need to schedule that time. I am hereby committing myself to at least 2 hours in the morning of sea days and 2 hours in the evening on the port days. I have read this advice from so many authors, it’s time to expunge the doldrums and revive my creative life. Thanks for the nudge.

  • Ashok kumar

    I agree everything about writing. If you are a family man living with your wife and having two kids, how do you allocate time or spending with them apart from writing?

  • bernadette

    As usual and always, your essays are inspiring and heartening. I have carved out moment to write every day and have done so throughout my life. I even go the to the next level at times: I want to be a short fiction writer. I seem to get a glimmer of an idea; I can start ‘something’: move a character around, seemingly set up some sort of conflict even, get a setting. I guess I’m ‘pantsing’. It can go like this for an hour, two, more. And then it peters out.
    Would anyone know the name of a good book on what next step I need to take from here? These writings that I’m doing are Lacking. I read other ‘good’ short stories and feel I’m just not getting There. Is this normal, a part of writer development?

  • Hey Bryan!Thanks for the awesome tips and super relatable post. I recently joined the 9 to 5 workforce myself and started my own blog too, so your article really speaks to me.

    I’ve started to see how difficult it can be to write consistently and maintain motivation when you don’t have a writing plan in place, so I will definitely be implementing your advice on sticking a daily writing ritual somewhere in my routine!

    Don’t know if it’s already out there somewhere, but I’d love to see a post where you also go through your process of organizing your 500 minimum words everyday and how you eventually piece them together to come up with a brand, new post. 🙂

  • Arka

    Thanks for the tips Bryan! I’m a full-time Mechanical Engineer. I’m currently working on my very first novel. As for me, I tend to have weekly goals rather than daily when it comes to word-count. I can manage to have around 3000 to 4000 words a week, depending on my other schedule. It works for me since there are certain weeks when I finish 4000 words by Thursday, so I can technically take the Friday “off”. I use that Friday to read over what I wrote the whole week, edit, or do some other “fun stuff” like cover designing or at least planning. This relaxing day re-energizes me to continue writing from the Saturday after and get another 4000 words done for that week, and so on.
    Weekly or daily, having a goal is the key here. I have a little over 30,000 words written so far, and I still have quite a bit to go. Yes, it can get a little frustrating to see the progress being rather slow, but as you said, you just have to make it a habit and keep going.
    Thanks again for this great article!

  • Eric Maombi

    thank you for you exmple it’s so beautiful many people will like you speech thanks i’m glade to read your’s speech

  • Karan Klassen
  • Shae Lamond

    This is such helpful information for budding writers like myself who find it hard to balance freelance jobs with my personal creative writing. I especially like the part about creating regular rituals. One of mine is to use a prompt from similiesmiles.com and get my creative juices flowing from there!