Positive Writer

This blog is about overcoming doubt and creating work that matters!

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)

1525284kk

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.

Sacrifice

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.

No 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.

Did you like this article?

Get future articles delivered directly to your inbox and you’ll also receive an extremely popular eBook included with signing up, all for free. More free stuff to come for subscribers only, so don’t miss out. Enter your email address:

  • 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.

      • http://www.positivewriter.com/ Bryan Hutchinson

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

    • http://www.positivewriter.com/ Bryan Hutchinson

      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!

    • http://www.positivewriter.com/ Bryan Hutchinson

      Thanks, Melissa. I hope I answered it below.

  • 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! 

    • http://www.positivewriter.com/ Bryan Hutchinson

      Slower doesn’t have to be a bad thing!

  • 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!

    • http://www.positivewriter.com/ Bryan Hutchinson

      Start where it’s best for you, Andria. But start. :)

  • http://www.gregorywoodard.com/ Gregory Woodard

    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.
    Greg

    • http://www.positivewriter.com/ Bryan Hutchinson

      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.

    • http://www.positivewriter.com/ Bryan Hutchinson

      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…

  • http://www.rawstorylife.com/ Lorna Faith

    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!

    • http://www.positivewriter.com/ Bryan Hutchinson

      Thanks, Lorna! Time to shed the excuses and get to writing.

  • Nan Sampson

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

    • http://www.positivewriter.com/ Bryan Hutchinson

      Thanks, Nan!

  • Bryan Davis

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

    • http://www.positivewriter.com/ Bryan Hutchinson

      Thanks, Bryan with a Y!

  • http://www.annepeterson.com/ Anne Peterson

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

    • http://www.positivewriter.com/ Bryan Hutchinson

      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/

    • http://www.positivewriter.com/ Bryan Hutchinson

      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!

  • http://www.naomitsvirko.com/blog Naomi Tsvirko

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

    • http://www.positivewriter.com/ Bryan Hutchinson

      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.

    • http://www.positivewriter.com/ Bryan Hutchinson

      And twins to boot! Congratulations. Keep writing, Charlotte!

  • http://thomallen.com Thom Allen

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

    • http://www.positivewriter.com/ Bryan Hutchinson

      Thanks, Thom!

  • 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.

    • http://www.positivewriter.com/ Bryan Hutchinson

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

  • http://www.aterriblehusband.com/about/ A Terrible Husband

    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.

    • http://www.positivewriter.com/ Bryan Hutchinson

      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.

  • http://www.themeaningofme.com/ Lisa @ The Meaning of Me

    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!

    • http://www.positivewriter.com/ Bryan Hutchinson

      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.
    Mohamed

    • http://www.positivewriter.com/ Bryan Hutchinson

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

  • http://www.jonstallings.com/ Jon Stallings

    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

    • http://www.positivewriter.com/ Bryan Hutchinson

      I think all of us writers have very thick skulls!

  • http://www.reclaimingyourfuture.com Reclaiming Your Future

    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?!

    • http://www.positivewriter.com/ Bryan Hutchinson

      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.

  • http://www.finallywriting.com/ Jackie

    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