Friday, 4 January 2008

Coffee Break: And they’re off…

…or not, in my case.

Writing, for most of us, has to be fitted in with other jobs: paid or unpaid occupations. I’m fascinated by how everyone does that, so grab a drink and tell me how you fit writing into your busy lives.

Without a work permit, I’m not allowed to work in Thailand, so I volunteer for organisations, because the idea of just lunching and having coffee makes me want to run to the gin bottle – and, frankly, I’m not very good at drinking either.

There are lots of prospects for conventional volunteering here – orphanages, refugees, support work but I’ve made choices that fit in with my interests: running a book club, webmaster-in-training, writing for a couple of not-for-profits. And of course I’m a Mum to two early teenagers. This strikes me to be about as tough being Mum to the terrible twos but with more attitude! (Sorry to disillusion any of you.) I’m lucky that my life is organised so that I can pretty much choose how to prioritise my day, one or two fixed things, apart. But if I promise something, I really do want to deliver, whether or not I’m being paid.

So here we are at the beginning of our new race, and I have about eight articles owing (two in the next 3 days) which means I just can’t do anything about restarting my novel yet.

I have enormous respect for those of you that work full time (at something else) and then come home and write in the evening or those that get up early to write before anyone else is awake. How do you do it? How do you fit writing in with full time jobs, social lives, family lives and do you have support from your families with something that doesn’t promise much of an income?


Zinnia Cyclamen said...

I don't have children (by choice), which I think is a huge help! I work for myself, so sometimes I'm very busy with paid work and sometimes I'm not. And when I'm not, I concentrate on writing. So progress tends to be lumpy, but overall I am lucky to have quite a lot of time I can use for writing. And Top Bloke is very supportive of me doing that, rather than trying to earn more money, because he knows it makes me happy. We don't have a particularly materialistic lifestyle; that helps too.

JJ said...

But clearly you are up early in the morning! ;-)

liz fenwick said...

I haven't started the 'race' yet either as we are just back to Dubai and my parents are over from the states and my boys are still here. No time for writing and no time for blogging.

However in the ordinary pace of things I try and write five days a week while dd is at school but of course I have to fit in the other stuff during that time. I haven't found my rythym yet here in Dubai - could be because we have been in the villa such a short.......I'll know more in a few weeks :-)


3 children, a fledgling ceramics business, 7 cats, 2 dogs and, sadly, a distinct lack of domestic servants means my writing fits when it can amongst everything else. As a result I am now a dab hand at preparing very fast food that looks as if it has taken hours to prepares and very slow cooked meals that do the work on their own and make me look as if I have been dutifully domestic all the time family have been out in the world for the day! This deception is helped considerably by fact that husband does not cook and has no idea how long things take to make!

House looks constanlty as if it is undergoing renovation due to my slovenly attitude to housework so in truth I think I write on a wing and a prayer!

However I have completed my first draft of my first novel and have sent it off to various agents and publishers and now await, this year I hope, someone who will come back with something more positive than "interesting but not sure if there is the market for this" response !

Rowan Coleman said...

hello people, exciting that you you have completed your novel and sent it off, une pue loufogue, good luck with that and let us know how you get on.

I am quite hardcore about finding time to write if you are serious about writng. I am lucky enough to do it full time now but as I tell all aspirational writers I meet who complain that they don't have enough time to write, if you want to write you find time. I am lucky enough to write full time now but while I was writing my first novel I had two jobs, a nine to five and a bar job! I still wrote whenever I could. If you want to do it, you do.

Lazy Perfectionista said...

My job is pretty time-consuming, but I commute by train so do often write then. To be honest though, I haven't done that for a while as I'm SO shattered after Christmas (we managed to visit people in Sussex, South Wales and Glasgow over the festive period - lots of fun but not so restful). When things have settled down a bit, I'll have my laptop with me more regularly so that I can get on with writing rather than sleeping on the train. That said, I do always have a notebook with me, and it does see a fair bit of scribbling at odd times...

Caroline said...

Happy New Year.

I find time to write, somehow.
Three children, lecturing with the OU, work as an editor, other pieces of work and bubbling projects.

I juggle.

I guess that I'm lucky that my husband writes/researches too, so we can share school runs and house things. There are downsides too.

With my first novel I was working fulltime, doing a fulltime MA and had a 2 year old. People asked me how I managed it and I honestly don't know. I guess I had to, so I did.

What I'm saying is that life gets in the way and conventional hours go out of the window. I don't have much 'relaxing' time. I have good writing days and bad writing days, depending on other work loads.

My race can't start until next week when everyone is back at school ... oh and I have to finish a novella by then too. Late nights and early mornings I think :)

Happy racing everyone.

SpiralSkies said...

Ah, I knew I was missing something - domestic servants and a social life. Ho hum.

I'm one of the early getter-uppers. No other way for me, I'm too knacked out by the time Emmerdale comes on to do anything else.

I have a brief, forced work hiatus at the mo and am determined to make the most of it. Near starvation might kill me but never mind, eh?

It's true though: we find the time if we want to do it enough.

And well done UPL for finishing the novel - bravo!

Kate said...

I've been writing full-time since July 06 and I know I'm really lucky to have reached that point: prior to that I wrote three novels part-time (after the first, I went four days a week in my job): it was a bone of contention with my bloke, because I spent the weekends and evenings writing.

Now I seem to find lots of other (paid) distractions - so I haven't done anything on the next novel yet, despite 'going back to work' two days ago. I'm teaching Chinese TV execs about programme development for three weeks from next week so I had to rejig the course I delivered for a different set of people last September, which took me longer than I'd hoped. Plus I'm doing all the post-Christmas rubbish and planning for our holiday to Kerala the day after the China teaching finishes: so today I am off to be a pin cushion at the doctor's. Not complaining - really looking forward to a break. But realistically I won't be starting work on the book till mid-Feb - and it's due at the end of May! But in a way I think it will do me some good - I overdid it a bit last year with two completed books in a similar genre and my brain went into mild meltdown just before Christmas!

Oh, and I have just been trying on swimming costumes ordered from Believe it or not, this kind of counts as work...lovely publisher is sending a few writers to a day spa to chat to key buyers about their new books. This sounds WONDERFUL and I am delighted in lots of ways but I really have put on a lot of weight since becoming a full-timer and so am rather horrified at having to sit around in a cossie with people I work with (including my editor). Hence SPECIAL swimsuits which cater for my impractical bust. I wish we could bring back those Victorian ones so I could cover my thighs up too. As it is, I have burned off at least 100 cals wriggling in and out of the costumes.

I am with Rowan on believing that people who really want to write will find the time, even if it means giving up EastEnders - except I always think if you have teeny children then that is a pretty valid reason for not being able to write regularly for a few years.

Kate said...

PS: found a funny link about the whole business today:

Lane said...

Morning everyone and fascinating answers to a great question. Thanks jj.

Hats off to anyone who works full time with small children and is still able to write. When I was teaching and the children were young I could barely summon the energy to eat in the evening, let alone write. Now the children are older things are easier. I don't work full-time but finances? Let's not go there.
I'm an early riser too and find it helps if I've set out roughly in my mind, what I'm going to do writing wise the nxt day. My older daughter who's taking GCSEs this year is very organised with her revising time. To help her not so organised mother she's made me a schedule. Will I stick to it? Probably not, but the support is nice.
I've started the rewrite, if sticking bits of paper on the wall and standing back and going 'hmmm' counts and have also started a children's book just to complicate things.

Good luck UPL with finding an agent and Kate, your work sounds wonderful:-)

Helen said...

Is it Friday already? Good Lord.

I only have the one child but he does like my attention. I'm writing this whilst building a pirate boat from lego and painting a tardis from the 'Shaker Maker' range and..

'scuse me just had to sort him out again. Where was I?

So yes along with others I won't be starting my race properly until next week when he goes back to school. My time to write is during school hours. It is also my time to clean and go to the gym. This year I'm going to do more in the evening too. I can't not go to the gym or go out for an occasional coffee!

I like to do my fiction during the day and non fiction in the evenings.

Cathy said...

Well my children are not small but they are very high maintenance in terms of care needs, medical and other appointments and just general stress!

My very part-time paid work is for my husband so is very flexible, though I do usually leave it too late and then have mad periods of trying to meet deadlines...

Last year I was trying to write, study, work and do voluntary work which took up several days each week in termtime and writing time was suffering. Something had to give so the voluntary work has gone.

I mainly write in school term time and use the holidays for research, reading and other related activities. Oh and I do as little housework as I can get away with!

hesitant scribe said...

I do admire those of you who write and work and have kids/social lives/animals/husbands/wives/etc.

I was working full time with kids and hubby and all that, and the writing was difficult to fit in - although being part of a PhD helped I guess, as I have a supervisor going, "OMG Where is it?! Have you written anything?"

But er... now I am off work. I haven't written anything for a while other than stuff on the blog about the shock of cancer diagnosis, but am intending to write lots while having chemo. I'll have to be determined but then I am a kind of determined person I suppose.

So hopefully, 2008 will be the year I finish the first draft!


Lucy Diamond said...

Hello all! Ooh, it is nice to be back with the novel racers for a Friday chinwag.
I have three young kids but share the working week with my partner - ie he works three days and I work two, plus I've now got two extra mornings while my youngest goes to playgroup. I find I am VERY focussed on those two days and cram in a lot of writing then. I spend the rest of the week thinking about what to write!

I'm not going to be able to do anything on my current novel for a week or so as I write lots of children's books too under various pseudonyms and have some grim deadlines next week but am looking forward to going back to the novel soon. A break from the w-i-p every now and then is a good thing, I think!
Have a good weekend one and all. And best of luck UPL with the ms!

ChrisH said...

Hi and a belated Happy New Year from me... I'm starting the race hopping as I'm still tied up with rewrite. Does anyone else find that rewriting means just when you think the end is in sight the light at the end of the tunnel fades away again? Gawd - how long have I been saying I'm nearly there!

Tom and I took the plunge and escaped to the country eighteen months ago - packed in our previous lives and decided to live the dream and are both keeping everything crossed that we don't have to work for someone else ever again. What I did bargain on was everyone else escaping to the country with me - for the first year we had non-stop visitors and although it's tailed off a bit I'm constantly amazed by the long lost rellies who suddenly resume contact... nothing to do with living on the beautiful west coast of Wales then. Despite all this I got published (non-fiction) and wrote a novel in 2007. Now aiming to get published in fiction in 2008.

ChrisH said...

Oops - that should be didn't bargain on! (must engage brain sometimes).

Leatherdykeuk said...

I started novel 7 on 1st Jan but only 5K so far. Still pining for exercise but recently broken ankle still too stiff and painful to do any walking, let alone jitsu.

Sarah*G* said...

I have 2 kiddies (girl almost 3 and boy 4 1/2) and work part time. I tend to write in evening once husband home and he takes over the kids. The wonderful invention that is a laptop and wirless broadband helps too. of course the wirless broadband can also be a hinderance. I am aiming to have book done and ready to get prepared to go out in mail to agents etc by end March. *BANG*
that was me falling off my chair laughing at what I just said...
finished before end March.... yeah right!

CTaylor said...

I don't have any children and I work full time. I'm TERRIBLE in the mornings (a habitual snooze button pusher) so there's no way I could get up early to write. Instead I tend to write quite late at night - normally between about 10pm and 2am (what time I finish writing depends on whether or not I have to travel up to London the next day or if I'm working from home). I also try and do a fair amount at the weekends.

I wrote novel #1 fairly quickly (just under 4 months) and the one thing that suffered as a result was my social life. I hardly went out! With novel #2 I'm going to redress the balance a little. I'm aiming to write it in six months so hopefully I won't lose the few friends I have left!

I've got LOADS of respect for all of you with families that still manage to get your novels written. Although I work full time I'm spoilt for time in comparison!

p.s. Liz, if you read this, we've had another request for a novel racer joiner. Did you receive an email from Mel? Have we got any spaces left? Mel, if you're reading this - sorry I haven't replied yet. Will do v. soon.

NoviceNovelist said...

Happy New Year racers! I'm just back from my 6 week hiatus in Oz and I've missed you all. This is a great topic for the start of the year. I work full time and do a couple of part time teaching jobs and a bit of freelance writing. I have now hit the point where all I want to do is write and teach and ditch the day job!! All I know is that if I don't write I go crazy. My husband is fab and my two step children are older teenagers now so the domestic side is easier. I have found that with writing my first novel which is now finished Yeah - that I just make the time - I have to or I would be a grumpy witch to live with it. Not cooking or cleaning much seems to help!!!! Writing in small snatches of time has made a big diff to my output.

K.Imaginelli said...

Great topic, JJ. I'm a lit professor on the tenure track with no kiddies (yet). When I wrote Novel #2, I usually wrote in the evenings, weekends and holidays. I made a big push to finish it over summer break and finally wrote THE END in November.

I think my biggest struggle is all the unstructured time when I SHOULD be doing stuff like prepping my courses or working on my research/writing for school. Basically I haven't quite figured out how to manage myself. Since I need to read and write consistently for both the research/teaching job and the novel, I sometimes want to avoid the laptop or notebook all together. If I could get myself to stick to a schedule, I'd probably feel much better. ;)

sheepish said...

Hi everyone and a Happy New Year from me too. Since stopping lambing last year when we put the farm on the market I have had a lot more time for writing and other things but don't seem to have made full use of the extra time. Continually having to tidy the house [my least favourite pastime] and show people round has eaten into my spare time. And I have already mentionned my Olympic standard Procrastination. I am hoping that the impetus of a new Race and a new year will be the kick start I need. Although we may have a buyer for the farm who wants to complete by the end of Feb, if that happens then I won't get much writing done til we have moved. But if we do move in Feb then it will be a real boost for my morale which has suffered from the uncertainty in recent months.
Whatever happens I am determined to get my wip finished, I am not prepared to mention a timescale as it seems to have a reverse psychology effect on me!!!!
So this all means that I will need lots of kicks up bum to keep me focussed.
Thanks in advance and have a good weekend.

B.E. Sanderson said...

Happy New Year everyone, and thanks for a great topic, JJ.

When I first started writing, I was unmarried with a pre-teen daughter in public school and a full-time job. Shortly after I started, I got married and everything changed. Now I don't have the job, but I homeschool my now teen daughter. I squeeze in what I can when I can. If she's deep in the middle of reading for school, I can get some editing or querying or other less intensive work done. I learned the hard way I can't concentrate hard enough to write new words while she's doing school. One question from her will derail a whole scene. So I write at night. For 2008, I promised myself to do writerly things for at least an hour every day - whether I feel like it or not. I started doing that back in the Fall and it seems to work for me.

Like several others said (and my husband told me when we were still dating), if you really want to write, you'll find the time. And so I did.

Oh, and in answer to your last question: My family is very supportive of me. My husband provides emotional and financial support for this writing gig, and my daughter is quickly becoming the best beta reader a woman could want. =oD

Kate.Kingsley said...

Evenings for me ~ I work full time (and up until last year I was doing a second degree part time too). I have tried on countless occassions to get up early to write, and I can safely the say that the number of occassions on which I acheived that is less than five. I'm with Cally on the snooze button, unfortunately!

So currently it's evenings only ~ and not even that sometimes as I'm newly pregnant and was totally unprepared for the sheer exhaustion of the first trimester ~ i've gone from being a midnight oil burner to beig someone who's asleep in the armchair by 9pm.

But impending baby #1 has given me a focus I lacked before ~ I will push out this manuscript before I puch out the wee one, I swear!

Kate.Kingsley said...

Err, "push" out the wee one ~ my fingers are all wrong today!

CC Devine said...

Congratulations Kate. I have a colleague who, like you, was shocked by how wiped out she was during the first trimester. It gets better though!

I find that I'm very all or nothing. I can go a week or two without writing anything although I'll still be thinking about it. Other times I'm declining all social invitations at weekends or rushing home from work to crack on with the novel.

On the plus side I'm single and childless so no demands there and I don't watch any T.V. at all (except Strictly when it was on). I work during my lunchbreak (when I can take one) or stay at the office late to write. Plus I sometimes read through notes on my journey to work. I suppose if you want to do it enough you have to sacrifice something else, be that time with the family, housework or other. Always a tough call.

Flowerpot said...

I don't have children and have a sort of semi retired husband - as in he works when there is work. We let 2 flats so that brings in some money and hte rest is down to his bits and my writing bits. I'm finishing a journalism course to help my sales and writing a blog and writing next novel (previous one out tring to find an agent with no luck so far). I write in the daytime with dogwalking and dashes to meet friends sometimes. By the evening I'm usually done for and am also rehearsing for a musical so evenings tend to be going out/socialisation/relaxation times.

Helen Shearer said...

Hello, all and happy new year!

I am single, no kids, no boyfriend, nothing tying me down at all so you'd think that I'd have plenty of time to finish the effing novel from hell. I have plenty of time to write but for the past three weeks I just can't seem to find the motivation. I'm hoping it's just the post-Christmas lull. I agree that when you really want to write you can find the time. I have gone to the office on two hours sleep on many occasions because the writing the night before was effortless and I didn't want to stop. As for the people with young children, I was a nanny for nine years and found that I could find plenty of writing time if I took the children to playgroups. They're great. Kids find someone to play with usually in the first five minutes and then you can scribble away for a good hour or two.

A. Writer said...

Hello all! A bit late getting here.

I write at the weekends and sometimes in the evenings but that's rare as I'm often too tired.

I haven't got any children and I work part time in a supermarket (30hrs). So realistically I should have time to do more writing but I seem to struggle fitting it in.

My job isn't exactly taxing but the workplace does cause me much stress so at the end of the day writing is the last thing I want to do. I don't want my tension to come out into my writing. I need to be in the right frame of mind to write.

There's no way I could get up early to write (big applause to Jen!) Like Cally, the snooze button is my best friend in the mornings.

My hat goes off to everyone who manages to have full time jobs, families to look after, other stuff to deal with AND write. You are all amazing!

I haven't started the race yet as I've had a pretty poor start to the year but hopefully this weekend I'll get going, that's the plan anyway.

P.S. I'm already getting my post ready for my time to host the Coffee Break! I'm so eager! :)

Debs said...

Hello everyone happy new year to you all. I work part-time (couldn't cope being there for longer than I already have to be) and type in the evenings (not a morning person at all) and weekends. I try and stop writing at 9pm during the week but write whenever I can escape to the shed during the weekends.

My two teenagers spend part of their time with their father and dh works at various hours so I do have quite bit of time to myself - love it too! Timing is a little trickier during school holidays as four step-sons come to stay and I try and be sociable and join the rest of the family.

I look after a portfolio of clients and find that writing is so refreshing after concentrating on other people's needs all day at work. I shouldn't complain as it would be worse if I worked there full time.

Graeme K Talboys said...

I write full time and still have trouble finding time to do the writing. Things got derailed over the 'holiday', but I'm back to a strict 'door closed' policy (when the study door is closed I'm writing and not to be disturbed). Which is just as well these days as the spare cat seems to want to come in here and pee on my chair and my books.

But I used to do it when I was teaching. Which meant not leaving school until I had done the day's marking and preparation. Then I would go home, eat, and write until about two in the morning. Being a drama teacher, beard, long hair, and scruffy clothes were obligatory. I usually slept most of Sunday to catch up.

Moving into museums made life easier as there was not so much preparation and no marking. I even got a huge grant to do my first book so I could pay someone to do my teaching while I swanned off to the Uni library to do research. My wife knew what she was getting before she married me. And she still married me.

We are, neither of us, materially acquisitive (unless you count books) - which is just as well. I would love to teach Creative Writing at Uni. Teaching others and writing novels counting as research. How cool is that. Last time I applied I realised I had more in print than the head of department. I didn't get an interview. Can't think why.

KeVin K. said...

Of course I completely forgot Friday this week.

Finding time is much more difficult for me now than it was. In the first place, my doctor is quite adamant about my four-hours-sleep-three-pots-of-coffee lifestyle. Particularly since I'm also over weight and do no form of exercise whatsoever. Apparently if I keep this up I'll be dead by the time I'm my age. I'm not taking him too seriously, but my wife -- who is a cardiac nurse -- is. So I've effectively lost three hours of my day to sleep and exercise.

My day job is an eight-to-five affair. As case manager for a mental health agency which must answer to Medicaid and a couple of oversight agencies with different criteria, I spend much of my day reading and writing reports. I also do home visits, consult with therapists, supervise direct-care staff in the field, and -- darn it, I forgot what else Ido.

Most of my spare time, however, is given over to writing. Except for the time devoted to our current home renovation projects.

With my previous job, which involved much more home visits and field supervisions but almost no report writing, and my less-sleep-no-exercise daily schedule (and no home renovations) I routinely produced 1600 words a day. Now I'm lucky to get in 400. And to hit my novel-by-the-end-of-March goal, I need to be doing 1000.

I usually write in the predawn hours and often get in another hour or two during the evening.

Fiona said...

Oh Kevin - thank you. I thought I was going to be the only one who forgot. I so look forward to it too.

Teenagers. OMG. I have two - 19 and 13. The nineteen year old is type one diabetic which makes him even more moody.

My work is part time but I seem to play catch up all the time. I write when I can be family are scathing about a 'hobby' which doesn't bring any dosh in. So guilt rules most of the time.

wordtryst said...

I'm a late-night writer, but now that I have a day job once again the writing is suffering. Not sure what the outcome will be once this period of adjustment is over but I'm sure of one thing: writing has to take top priority. If anything has to go it'll be the job.

Who needs groceries?