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by Hedgebrook Guest

I’ve been in the workforce for more than two decades. And I’m still trying to strike the right balance between making enough money to make rent and leaving enough room in my schedule to make art.

I’m certainly not the only one. This week I asked my Facebook posse how much on a scale of 1 to 10 they fret about juggling making money with making time for their writing. The comments quickly rolled in:



“Yes. Lots!”

Residencies and grants are obviously one solution, but for most of us, they’re a temporary bandage on a year-round conflict. Many of the writers I know who regularly create new work do it in one of two ways: They religiously plant their rear in the chair a bit of each day, maybe 30 minutes in the morning before work or 60 minutes in the evening after the rest of their household has gone to bed. Otherwise, they binge-write a few hours each month, perhaps blasting through an essay draft in one weekend or pulling an all-nighter and calling in sick to work the next morning.

But keeping a daily date with your laptop or binging your way through 2,500 words every full moon aren’t the only ways to write on top of a day job. Here are a few other tactics I’ve found helpful over the years, especially when working as an employee:

Ride the bus. Bring your journal or laptop and put them to good use. Yes, it may take a little longer to get to your place of employment, but this is a good thing. More commute time means more time to get those words on the page. As an added bonus, you’ll feel like you accomplished something before you even arrive at the office.

Do lunch. Resist the temptation to eat at your workstation while powering through that financial report due end of day. Grab a pen and paper or a draft of your own work in progress, hit the cafeteria, and spend 10 or 20 minutes reading, revising, or expanding your piece. Breaking for lunch, however briefly, isn’t just good for your creative life. Studies show that stepping away from the desk also boosts your energy and ability to concentrate for the rest of the workday.

Take advantage of found time. Someone you work with is bound to show up late to a meeting this week. Either that, or the printer your company uses will put you on hold for six minutes while they figure out what the heck happened to your rush job. Delays like these are the perfect time to squeeze in a smidge of work on your manuscript. Much more inspiring than mindlessly scrolling through Facebook.

Set writing dates with friends. There’s nothing like some accountability to get your writing mojo working, no matter how tired you are from a long day. I know people who meet with a writing partner one night a week or one afternoon a weekend to force themselves to produce. If you can’t make a weekly commitment, start with a biweekly or monthly one. Some time at the keyboard is better than none.

Work to external deadlines. Without a mandatory hard stop, it can be tough to finish a piece. Contests, readings, and calls for submissions always do the trick for me. You can’t keep noodling a story, essay, or poem if you have to read it in public or send it off to a panel of judges by a certain date. If you have trouble finishing your work, take advantage of the many deadlines that literary journals, small presses, and open mic nights offer.

How about you? What tricks do you use to splice extra writing time into the workweek? Sharing is caring.


About the Author:

Michelle GoodmanMichelle Goodman writes journalism, essays, and books. She’s author of The Anti 9-to-5 Guide and My So-Called Freelance Life, and co-host of Wage Slaves: Tales from the Grind, a Seattle reading series about work. Visit her at michellegoodman.com.





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1 Comment

  • Corry Venema-Weiss
    7:34 PM - 28 January, 2016

    For years I wrote on the bus to and from work in downtown Seattle. Once when I pretty hefty grant a friend of mine quipped that I should just fund a perpetual bus pass since it was such a productive space for me. I heard August Wilson used to do it too.

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