Writing Hacks: Finding more time to write when you have a day job

So I suppose this isn’t so much a “how to improve your craft” post as it is a “how to improve your productivity/find more time to write” post.

We’re all busy people. Most of us are adults with family, school, and work obligations outside of writing. For some of you, writing might be your full time job. But there are some of us who still have full time jobs outside of writing (like me), either by choice or because our writing isn’t making enough money to fully support us yet.

No matter where you are in your writing journey or what your goals are, you probably strive to find more time to write. Here are some of the things I’ve experimented with to help carve out more time or produce more words for daily goals.

Carry around a journal

I don’t use a conventional purse, I use a mini-backpack. And I take it everywhere. I also make sure I’m never without a small notebook and a pen. While sitting in doctors’ offices or during my breaks at work, I’ll scribble down ideas for new scenes, work through problematic plot points, or just write new words. I then transfer those new words to my computer when I get home or before I go to work. It’s old-fashioned, but having a pen and paper handy is a tried and true way of producing more words. I tend to do my best “thinking” on paper. And if I already have a rough outline, I tend to write scenes faster. A win win situation.

Download the Word app

I love technology. (I work in the IT field by day.) Though I primarily use Scrivener as my main writing program, I always make sure to transfer my notes and what I’ve written so far into a Word document, which I then upload to OneDrive or “the cloud.” Then, again when I’m on lunch, stuck at a stop light, or on break, I can whip out my smart phone, pull up the Word app, and reread or edit what I wrote on my laptop. It’s also amazing what errors you catch when you read the same words in a new format!

Use dictation

Intrigued by the idea of producing more words a day by dictating (we speak more quickly than we can type), I bought and installed Dragon on my laptop. It works great. You do have to train it, meaning it learns which words are spelled certain ways, etc. While I do have to do a bit of editing on what I’ve dictated afterward, I do find it an easy to use format. And it gives my wrists and hands a nice break after a long day of work. As far as productivity goes, I do find I produce slightly more words daily than when I type, editing and all considered. It’s not for everyone, but worth mentioning.

Use a tablet with a keyboard or a Chromebook

I have a small Chromebook I take back and forth to work that I use only for writing. It’s lighter than my normal “at home” laptop, and if something happens to it, I’m not out much money. A caveat to tablets and Chromebooks: You will most likely need to be online to make the most of them, writing-wise. If your workplace (or coffee shop or whatever) has guest wifi, you can certainly hook up to it, though I don’t recommend this because it might not be encrypted. Personally, I turned my smart phone into a secure wifi hotspot and connect to it. Then I’ll log into Word online (the cloud is so useful!) and type during my lunch break. I’ve managed to get in an extra 500-750 words daily doing this.

Key takeaways

Remember, no matter how small the number of words written, it all adds up! Those 250 words a day add up to two extra novels a year. (If you consider a novel 40k. Some consider 50k a novel, but hey, that’s still a novel and a half!)

Technology has advanced a lot over the years. There are a lot of useful apps to help make our lives more productive and easier. A quick Google search for “apps for writers” may reveal your next favorite tool.

Squeeze in extra writing time of a morning before work or after work. My shift starts before the sun is up, and I already get up pretty early as is. Not being much of an early bird, I find I do my best writing after I’m home for the day with nothing left on my plate. I tend to do my best creative thinking when I’m a bit sleepy and relaxed.

The key is finding what works best for you. What are some of the things you’ve done to increase your daily word counts?

K.D. Jones Profile


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