9 to 5Tomorrow, I go back to full-time employment. I got a new job I’m very psyched about. I’m also teaching a writing workshop on Saturdays for eight weeks. So I’ll be busy, and I need to write. I’m a little concerned about getting back in the habit of using my time wisely (no more Real Housewives for me!), but because I wrote my first novel while working full-time I know something important: it’s not really how much time we have, it’s what we do with it. I wasted a lot of time these last few years. Happily. Good on me. It’s my time and I got to spend it napping, reading, daydreaming, watching basketball and goofing around on the Internet. But I won’t have the luxury of goofing off anymore (Jezebel and Gawker be gone!), which is okay.

I’ve been thinking about how to plan my time better and got some good advice from a few writer pals, which I decided to share here. There seem to be at least two schools of thought about how to motivate yourself (with regards to doing anything, including exercise). One relies on getting yourself in the mood and the other says, mood schmood–just do it.

Rise and Write

Lisa Brackmann, author of Rock Paper Tiger, says: “Having done this for a number of years — setting a schedule was the most helpful thing for me. A schedule and a rough goal per session.”

Eisa Ulen Richardson, author of Crystelle Mourning says: “My advice is to get up early and write before you do anything else. No email, no online bill pay, no CNN or NPR. Just rise and write – every morning.”

“I’m a bit anal when it comes to scheduling. My life is color coded.” – Michele Grant, contemporary women’s fiction author

Michele Grant, blogger and author of Pretty Boy Problems, recommends getting organized with your work and your writing:

“I’m fortunate in that I work from home so I can divide my time fairly easily and still stay on top of work, personal and author email. (Assuming of course I give up sleep and social life… I’m joking. Sort of.) The creative process of writing means that sometimes I get a brilliant idea to finish a chapter at two p.m., right when a conference call for work is scheduled. It’s difficult to switch my brain from free-flowing fictional worlds to how I’m going to hire twelve software developers in New Jersey. I keep two separate old school spiral notebooks at the ready. One for my work ideas and one for my writing breakthroughs. I’m a bit anal when it comes to scheduling. My life is color coded. Everything pertaining to writing is in purple and filed on one side of the room, everything pertaining to [my job] is in green and on the other side. And ne’er the twain shall meet…”

Drink the Kool-Aid

On the other side is the school of thought which says psych yourself up to keep motivated. Not necessarily that you need the muse to write, but it’s sure easier to get going when you feel enthusiastic about your work.

Kiini Ibura Salaam, author of Ancient, Ancient and winner of the 2012 James Tiptree Jr. Award for sci-fi and fantasy that explores or expands gender roles, wrote something on her Facebook page about “the Kool-Aid effect” that really struck me and I asked her for permission to quote it here.

“We think about it as discipline, dedication, and effort, but how do we activate that ephemeral thing that has us keep going–not with a slavish dedication, but with willingness and excitement.” – Kiini Ibura Salaam, author of Ancient, Ancient

“As I was telling a friend about what I’ve been doing when I missed my writing days (waking up in the middle of the night, staying home on a Saturday, squeezing it in before work), she said, wow, I need some of the Kool-Aid you’re drinking, and it made me think of the importance of the Kool-Aid effect, which I define as the ability to psyche yourself up enough to be geeked about your project. The talent is one thing, the vision is another, then there’s the craft, and all of that means nothing if you can’t motivate yourself to complete your projects and actualize your visions. We think about it as discipline, dedication, and effort, but how do we activate that ephemeral thing that has us keep going–not with a slavish dedication, but with willingness and excitement.”

More good tips on writing while working are herehere and here 

I think a mixture of butt in chair and Kool-Aid drinking is the ticket for me. I’ve had many days in which if I didn’t make the time to allow the magic to happen it wouldn’t happen, and the magic is more liable to happen if I keep forefront why I’m writing what I’m writing and what I’m hoping to achieve with it.

What about you? If you have tips for writing while working a day job, leave them in the comments.

About Carleen Brice

Carleen Brice writes nonfiction and fiction. Her most recent books are the novels Orange Mint and Honey, which was made into a Lifetime television movie called “Sins of the Mother,” and Children of the Waters. She’s currently at work on a novel called Every Good Wish.