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  • Kathleen Lees

How Your Day Job Can Influence Your Writing



The last two weeks have gone by fast. I went from teaching three classes per week to seven. (One of them starts at 9 a.m. in the morning and the other ends at 9 p.m. at night.)


Monday through Wednesday (I only teach in the morning on Thursday), I have this weird window of time where I come home to sleep, prepare lesson plans, and then drive back to teach my night class. It's thrown off my normal routine, to say the least. (And there's no news regarding when or if the other teacher will come back. Please keep her in your thoughts.)


When I just taught the night class, I'd spend my mornings working on writing, freelance projects, music, and necessities (like cleaning, preparing food, and working out). Now when I come home from my first class, I'm too tired to run to the gym or do the dishes. And I love writing, but I don't exactly feel inspired when I'm low energy and there's not much time. I have to focus on my lesson plans and getting prepared to go back out again to teach.


Oddly, however, I find that having less time, which can sometimes be more stressful, brings out more creativity in me (something I've noticed about myself in the past.) And I also notice how my job influences that creativity (something you may have noticed about yourself as well.)


Most of us working on our creative careers on the sidelines can't "quit our day jobs," as the old saying goes, but that's OK. It might even be a good thing that we don't.


More Free Time Doesn't Always Equal More Productivity

It's always easy to say "if only I had more time." And in some cases, I think it might be true depending on the individual. Between periods of unemployment or part-time work, however, I don't feel like my writing (projects I'm personally working on, freelance assignments I've received, etc.) has changed that much. (Though other areas of my life have needed to be adjusted, which I'll talk about more later.)


"People often assume that writing full-time will be easier. It seems logical, doesn't it? But many writers are no more productive once they've quit their boring and steady paycheck," said writing coach Katie Coffing, Ph.D., who specializes in helping women writers work more efficiently. "Why? Because nature abhors a vacuum. Clear your schedule and you'll find plenty of new things to fill it, most of which won't improve your creative output."


Working Provides Natural Structure to Your Writing Time (And Other Areas of Your Life)

I'll first say that I've had to adjust my personal routine. I usually go to the gym 5-6 times a week. My new schedule doesn't give me enough energy to go during the day, and the YMCA is closed when I get home from the last class I teach. The new goal is to go before work (between 6-7 a.m.).


My husband and I like to eat right when we can. My goal is to cook at least one to two meals during the work-week that last the majority of that time . The new goal is to cook in advance on the weekend with meals that last till Friday.


So you see, there's a lot of planning involved around the time I'm already working.


When it comes to writing, having only small opportunities to write or work on certain projects (that you enjoy) can make it more exciting. You just have to budget the time you have.


Life is Art

Everything we experience influences us. Let your main job, whether you love it or hate it, be one of those experiences. (And these experiencing are probably subconsciously influencing you, anyway.)


“Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind, is written large in his works.”

— Virginia Woolf 

Stress Can Harness Your Creativity

Some of the most famous artists in the world were under an extreme amount of stress. You might argue that real or internal conflict fueled their creativity.


Having a stressful job or schedule isn't exactly the same, but some kind of stress, just the same, might bring out a more creative side. Why? Because time to work on passions is sparse. It's special. It's an escape. And it means more than it used to when you had a lot of time.


For myself personally, I've had more ideas for my short story, and writing it has been easier (because the goals and descriptions are clearer than before). That's not necessarily the case for everyone but it can be.

 

I'm lucky because I really love my job. I feel like I'm genuinely making a difference in a tangible way. (This is not to say that I wasn't with previous positions, but the kind of work I did got lost in the shuffle.)


Regardless, my personal schedule has definitely had to change to fit the demands of my new job's schedule, and that's included time I normally give to my writing. Some things have been a little difficult to work around, but they're not impossible. Other things have actually been oddly beneficial in having a more hectic schedule. Funny how stuff like that works.


Whatever's going on in your life right now, don't abandon your passion. Just adjust your schedule and watch the positive things that come from it.





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