Tuesday, March 19, 2019

3 Good Reasons Not to Quit Your Night Job

By Maggie Wells, @MaggieWells1

Part of The Writer’s Life Series

JH: Finding time to write is an issue nearly every writer faces, no matter where they are in their writing journey. Maggie Wells visits the lecture hall today to share some thoughts on managing a writing life, and tips to balance work, life, and writing.

Maggie Wells is a deep-down dirty girl with a weakness for hot heroes and happy endings. By day she is buried in spreadsheets, but at night she pens tales of people tangling up the sheets. The product of a charming rogue and a shameless flirt, this mild-mannered married lady has a naughty streak a mile wide.

Fueled by supertankers of Diet Coke, Maggie juggles fictional romance and the real deal by keeping her slow-talking Southern gentleman constantly amused and their two grown children mildly embarrassed. The author of over forty published works, she believes in love without limits.

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Take it away Maggie…

For most of us, writing is our night job. Or our five a.m. job. Possibly even the thing we do when we have a few extra minutes on our lunch hour. But most of us wish we could spend the majority of our waking hours doing what fills us up inside.

Fact: Most creatives do not make their living solely from their art. That doesn’t make them any less of an artist, or an author in this case. I’ve written and published 40 works, all while working a full-time job. If you can dream that book, you can do it. But first, we need to get over the misconception that we are not ‘real authors’ if we can’t spend all day writing.

There are many, many reasons people cannot spend the majority of their time writing. I find that most fall into three categories: Economic, Life, and Creative.


The economic reasons are the most obvious. Money flows like molasses in January in the publishing industry. We need my paycheck in order to make our monthly obligations. But more than that, my employer-based health insurance covers both me and my self-employed husband. And once the bills have been paid, there’s always a list of Things To be Done. You know the list. The tires on the car are bald, the roof leaks when it rains hard, little Johnny needs braces, and so on…

(Here's more on the reality of treating your writing like a job)


Life reasons are more capricious. Some of us are full-time caregivers to the very young or very old. Not only are those hours as spoken for as those spent at a desk, they are often more unpredictable. Illness, injury, grief, or even great joy...all of these can play havoc with a daily word count. Some people deal with chronic conditions that make it hard to predict their expected level of productivity. And what about when a pipe breaks and you spend all day cleaning up as you wait for the plumber? Or the unplanned hours spent in waiting rooms? Life is messy and complicated, and it rarely adheres to a schedule.

(Here's more on juggling multiple tasks)


Are you one of those people who can write anytime, anywhere? Lucky you! I’m okay with a pair of decent headphones, but I’m in a better frame of mind to write in the mornings. Unfortunately, I work during the day. When I get home at night, I have to deal with all the economic and life things waiting for me before I can escape into fiction.

Here’s the other thing I’ve discovered: my creativity is finite. I have about 2-3 good hours of writing in a day. Sure, I can push for more on occasion, but I will never be able to sit down and do nothing but put words on a page for eight hours a day. How did I learn this lesson? I got laid off from the day job. Which led to one last discovery—I can’t write when I am worried about economic or life issues. I created fewer words in four months of unemployment than I did in any of the previous months. Thankfully, I’m back to work and back to writing now.

(Here's more on balancing writing and working) 

So, how do you manage it all?

Goals are key. Strategic, achievable goals are the lifeblood of any writer’s career. If you aren’t under an editor’s deadline, allow your critique partner to assign one, or write it in big, bold red letters on a calendar. No matter what, make sure that goal is realistic and achievable. Don’t self-sabotage by setting your sights too high. Be kind, but firm, with yourself.

Find a variety of methods that work for you, and change them up as needed. For many years, I wrote in sprints with my critique partner every night, but after a while that wasn’t as productive for me anymore, so I changed things up. I’ve written my last four books via dictation on my commute to work and back.

When I am having a hard time starting, I go for a change of scenery. Literally. I move my desk closer to—or away from—the window, depending on my level of distractibility. Recently, I abandoned my office for the living room recliner where I wrote my first few books. No two books are alike. Your method of approach likely won’t be the same from one to another.

Sometimes, you just have to trick yourself into starting. When I am having a hard time getting the flow going, I write out giant info dumps or stream of consciousness rambling longhand.

Gang up on yourself. One of my favorite things to do is combine the business of writing with the pleasure of pastries. In other words, I meet up with a few other time-crunched writer friends at the Panera.

Oh, and I set my computer to open my work in progress upon start-up. I find it’s much harder to procrastinate when my characters are glaring at me, demanding to have their say.

Learn to take small bites.

Word count goals work, but don’t shoot for the sky. Most of us can find an hour in our day, so set a goal you can realistically achieve even if you have less than an hour to work. What would that be? 100? 500? 1k? Remember, anything more than 0 counts as a win.

Does the blank page paralyze you? It does me. That’s why I’ve learned never to walk away from my WIP at the end of a chapter or scene. By leaving myself some leftovers, I have something to build on when I come back.

Three things. When you are finished writing for the day, scribble three things that should happen next on a sticky note and carry it with you. This will help keep you in the scene even when you are not in the chair.

(Here's more on balance vs. burn out)

A few last thoughts…

Stop peeking at other people’s papers. It doesn’t matter how fast or often other people can write. They can’t write your book.

Lastly, take care of yourself. Even if it doesn’t feel like you get enough time to write, I can guarantee you are thinking about writing every chance you get. That means you are working two full-time jobs.

Cut yourself some slack. Take the time you need to step away from work, step away from writing, and just be. Walk the dog, watch a movie, or take ten minutes to meditate. You can’t tap an empty keg. In my humble opinion, the best thing an author can do is to find a way to work the writing around their life—not make it their life.

By living fuller lives, we’re able to tell richer stories.

About Double Play: A Love Games novel

She knows what she wants, and how to get it

Avery Preston knows her mind. The Women’s Studies and Literature professor is the latest in a long line of feminist firebrands determined to break the mold at Wolcott University. When her biological clock tells her it’s time to bust a move, Avery does what she does best—she takes care of business all by herself. Or, so she thinks…

Dominic Mann is happy with his life just as it is

The widowed baseball coach is content and sees no point in changing his lineup this late in the game. Still, a man would have to be dead not to notice a live wire like Avery Preston. But a one night stand was all either of them wanted.

There’s only one complication

The clinic where Avery was inseminated has been hacked. Now, she not only knows who the father is, but she knows the father. In the biblical sense. Avery shows up on Dom’s doorstep with a bun in the oven, a bellyful of ethical righteousness, and the absolute conviction that she doesn’t need him, and soon, the two of them are caught in a rundown between their hearts and their heads.

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  1. Well, apart from the Diet Coke (poison), I find the author and her books enticing . . . did I just say that?

  2. Oh, forgot. Don't you forget that for every bottle of Diet Coke consumed, you need to drink two bottles of pure water to remove the toxins and regain homeostasis. Poor adrenals . . .

  3. This is exactly what I needed to read today! Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom, Maggie!

  4. Thanks, Julie! I'm glad it helped!