Writers, Join this book giveaway by sharing your tips

This week I was lucky enough to be featured at The Writer’s Place, a spiffy blog by writer Nancy Christie.

Then, today, the interview gets included in Help for Writers.

I enjoyed the entire Writers Place interview, but I was especially charmed by Nancy’s last question in which she asks for my “top three takeaways” (or tips) for balancing creativity with work (based on my book, Writer with a Day Job).

Here are my top 3 tips for balancing writing and life:

1.  Define your own path to writing and writing success. Comparing ourselves with other writers is counterproductive—even deadly.

2.  If you’re a beginner writer, create an overview of your month’s typical schedule and commitments. Circle the items that can either be outsourced or dropped altogether. Only keep those commitments that are truly, honestly as or more important in your life than writing. Even if you don’t use your freed-up time for actual writing, use it for writing-conducive activities such as reading, yoga or just sitting and staring into space.

3.  Learn how to say, “no.” When we do, people are not as miffed or disappointed as we assume that they will be. We fall into these “I should” and “I must” habits because —duh!— we’re not clear with others about what we need in order to nurture our talents as writers.

So you’ve got my three tips. Now, what are yours? Insert below in the Comments section and join my book giveaway. 

If we get 15 responses (each with your hot tips), I will enter all names in a random drawing for a signed copy of my book, WRITER with a DAY JOB. I will mail the book to the winner, so make sure to include a website or blog where I can rez8079-writerdayjob6.jpgach you. Sorry, U.S. addresses only, please.

We need a minimum of 15 responses … so … pick and post your best tips… and spread the word  … 

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About Aine Greaney

I'm an Irish writer living in greater Boston. I've published four books--two novels, a small collection of short stories and a how-to writing book, "Writer with a Day Job" (Writers Digest Books). I've also published lots of short stories, essays and feature articles. My latest project, "What Brought You Here" is a non-fiction narrative about being an expatriate in America. Find me on Twitter @ainegreaney. Or at my author web page, www.ainegreaney.com. As well as creative writing, I am the communications director for a healthcare non-profit. I also lead creative writing workshops at various libraries, schools and arts programs. At my workshops, I've been inspired by lots of wonderful writers--most of whom work a day job!
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19 Responses to Writers, Join this book giveaway by sharing your tips

  1. Lisa Romeo says:

    1. Decide if, in five years time, you want to be able to say you had a perfectly clean house or always served perfectly balanced meals OR do you want to be able to say you wrote/published your book (or articles, poems, etc.). If you can afford it, hire people to help with those other tasks.
    2. Have an appealing, inviting spot to do your creative writing, so that it beckons to you — a different physical location than your other work, away from the desk, maybe on a favorite chair, at a café, in bed, on the patio, etc.
    3. Use productivity and accountability tools to track your creative work, just as you would your other work; count pages or words, or hours spent writing, or number of submissions made – whatever makes sense. Not only will it help you stay organized but it brings a sense of accomplishment (or, when need be, a clear reminder).

    • Aine Greaney says:

      Lisa,
      Welcome. These are great tips. I especially like the first one. I love the idea of outsourcing household tasks, but rarely follow through on that outsourcing, so they remain … well … undone. But like you say, priorities. In any case, the dust bunnies have become my old friends, and it’s rude to get rid of our friends, eh?

  2. Lisa Rizzo says:

    1. Give yourself credit for the writing you do as a part of your day job. Use that job-writing as practice to help you hone your precision. By acknowledging all the writing you do as a writer-with-a-day-job you may find the amount (in time or product – whichever you want to look at) adds up to as much as that of a “full-time” writer.
    2. Don’t beat yourself up if there are days when your day job has sucked you dry and you just can’t muster the energy to write. Getting angry at yourself will just make you even more tired. Instead, give yourself permission to relax and rejuvenate.
    3. Claim the title of writer. Don’t apologize for not being able to devote your life full time to writing. Instead feel proud that you have the energy and creativity to work for a living and for your creative life. Remember that Wallace Stevens spent many years as an insurance executive (a fact that gave me great comfort while I worked as an insurance claims adjuster).

    • Aine Greaney says:

      Hi Lisa,
      Thanks for these great tips. I like the one about “claiming the title.” Sometimes, we link that claiming process to our weekly output, even though a voice inside is telling us that it’s silly to do so.
      Hope you’re well. Headed to AROHO this year?

  3. Paula says:

    Because I’m a fulltime nurse, mom to six young children, and still dare to write, achieving balance is a game in and of itself. Three takeaway tips? I’ll try.

    1. With a lot of competing demands for my time, something will be sacrificed. The trick is deciding what will be sacrificed, to what degree, and for how long. My two favorites to skimp on are sleep and a social life. I keep a minimum standard for sleep, at least. Socially, well, sometimes I do rely on Facebook a great deal to let friends and family know I’m still breathing.

    2. I lower the threshold of expectation for myself. Maybe the house could stand to be tidier. Maybe I could prepare a more elaborate meal. I could probably stand to attend to my aesthetic appearance a bit so I don’t look encapsulated in 1994. But if I invested time and energy on these things, I wouldn’t feel up to investing in after-hours writing. I suppose this is a corollary of my first tip. Something has to give.

    3. My work life and especially my home life provide infinite fodder for creative work. If I have no time to actually commit words to a page, I always find time to reflect on an encounter, a conversation, a situation. I keep a tiny notebook handy to jot down offbeat observations and things people say. But mostly, I ponder these things almost relentlessly. Then, when I do sit down to write, these things I kept thinking about have a way of popping up just when I need them.

    • Aine Greaney says:

      Paula,
      Thanks for visiting. I love these suggestions and hope that my readers will find inspiration here, too. A full-time nursing job and six children? Wow. I am truly impressed.

  4. Liz says:

    1. Create a sacred space to write in. Even if I just sit in it, it’s mine and eventually writing will happen.
    2. Be kind to myself if I don’t meet my own expectations.
    3. Set achievable goals and reward myself if I meet them.

  5. Tracy Weber says:

    I run a business and a yoga teacher training program in addition to writing. Here are my tips:
    1. Write when you can—meaning when you have both the time and the creative energy to do so. When you don’t, do something that fuels you and builds your relationships instead.
    2. Take time off for first drafts. I can revise an hour at a time but I need to write first drafts in a chunk of days. I take vacation time to do so. If you can’t do that, set aside days for writing.
    3. Make writing part of your life, not separate from it. Meaning I integrate life and work, instead of separating them. Works really well for me.
    4. As others have said, let go of what you can. My house is filthy and I survive on microwave dinners. But I can hire a cleaner. I can’t hire out my writing.
    5. Build a network of writer friends. This community is awesomely supportive. They will help keep you motivated.
    6. Never forget why you write. If it’s for money, give it up. There will always be better, easier, faster ways to make money.
    7. Take time to stay balanced, eat well (says the woman who just admitted to surviving on microwaved food!), and sleep enough. Your productivity will be better when you are a balanced human being.
    8. Write what you love. Then every work day is a day of doing, learning about, or dreaming about what you love!

    Tracy Weber
    Owner/Founder of Whole Life Yoga and Author of the Downward Dog Mystery Series

    Check out my blog at http://www.wholelifeyoga.com/blog/

    I love getting to know students and fans on Facebook! “Friend” me at https://www.facebook.com/tracywe

  6. Cyndi says:

    As one who has experienced the highs and lows of a writing life for more years than I care to remember, with a smattering of small publications and still chasing the elusive “big break,” I still struggle with allowing myself to put writing (or me!) first. My children are grown (although we’re in the midst of wedding planning for the first), my husband is supportive, I’m the only one holding me back. To that end:

    1) Make writing a non-negotiable priority, like eating and sleeping, and in my case, letting the dogs out occasionally. The dust bunnies can wait.

    2) Stop listening to all the “musts” that fill the writing blogosphere: You Must write every day to be a REAL writer. You MUST write what the market wants – style, genre, latest fad. You MUST be active on Twitter and Facebook and G+ and PInterest and blogs and…just WRITE!

    3) Give myself permission to mope when the rejections come. It means I’ve been writing and submitting; pout just long enough to eat a bite of chocolate and send the piece out again.

    Onward!

  7. Valerie Poulin says:

    Great tips. I particularly like the idea of a calendar.

    My three tips may just be a repeat of other writers’ tips because they focus on maintaining production After all, as practicing writers, we are always trying to find ways to keep writing, but rather than relegating our craft to the edges of our lives, we have to incorporate them into our lives.

    1. Find a way to write on your day off. I write every weekend, preferably Saturday mornings. My son is a teen now, so my Saturday mornings are freer than they once were, but when he was younger (and spent early weekend mornings at hockey games), I took my writer’s notebook/journal with me and wrote in the car hour before each game. I journalled, I sketched out ideas, I edited printed pages. I found that I was productive because I had only an hour to do the work, but my creative mind was clearer on weekends than weekday evenings.

    2. Mix it up. I write both fiction and non-fiction, but save the non-fiction for workdays and focus on fiction on weekends. Most of us have several projects on the go, so use the time to work on a poem, to edit an essay, to add lines of dialogue to your screenplay. Do a little, or focus on one, which ever you prefer on that day.

    3. Write at your day job. Squeeze time out of your workday. Maybe it’s during the commute public transportation, maybe it’s during lunch, or, if you’re lucky, maybe it’s in the first half-hour at your desk before staff and colleagues arrive. (A bonus for those working contract/freelance work with option of non-billable hours). I use my commute to draft new ideas for non-fiction work, to write bits of fiction. But once I sit in at my desk, my brain switches to business mode. And with my logical brain is prepped for the office workday, I can squeeze an edit here, jot down an idea there. I keep a notepad beside me for this purpose. And I always have a piece of work-in-progress with me. Sometimes, I edit a paragraph of two of my own work between edits of my clients’ work. It allows me to break from business documents, and let’s me return to their work with fresh eyes.

  8. Alizah says:

    I love all these insights. Here are mine:
    1) Don’t confuse your job with your career: Because the type of writing that pay the bills and the type of writing that creatively fulfills and sustains me are two separate things, it’s easy to feel like I’m not a “real” writer if I’m not earning money doing what I love. I often remind myself there is no shame in doing something for money in order to do what you love.

    2) Find an ally: Even supportive friends have a difficult time understanding the unique rhythms of a writer’s life. Find a fellow writer – through a writing group, a friend, or simply write to someone you admire – who can relate and help you stay on track when it feels hopeless.

    3) Create your own criteria: So much of what is considered “successful” on the web is determined by the number of comments, likes, or tweets. Remember that some of the best writing out there gets the least attention, and there are countless talented people who don’t get the credit they deserve. Make your own markers of achievement that don’t have to do with responses from others – otherwise you’ll constantly be looking for external approval.

  9. Kizzy says:

    1.Never compare yourself to other writers. Some writers have more time. They may have a spouse who supports them, a large savings account, or financial freedom, that affords them more time to write. A writer with a day job has to find a way to balance work and their dream. Comparing your writing accomplishments to someone who doesn’t have the constraints of a day job is a waste of time.
    2. Don’t censor yourself. Finding time to write is hard enough as it is. Can you imagine how fruitless that writing time will be if you keep hitting backspace on your keyboard, or erasing with your pencil? You have to get the first draft out by any means necessary. Then you can go back and edit.
    3.Believe in yourself. You have to believe that what you are writing– even if it’s only one paragraph per day– matters. You have to know that what your are writing means something and is important. If you don’t have this belief in yourself and your work, you will never complete anything.

    • Aine Greaney says:

      Hi Kizzy,
      And thanks for visiting. I love the “believe in yourself” one. Sometimes easier than others. But really, it’s the fulcrum on which all the rest hinges. This is so much fun checking out everyone’s contributions.
      I expect to enter names and pick a book winner soon.

  10. Diane S. says:

    1. Give yourself permission: to write crap, to get drunk and rant and rave on paper, to be as funny as you think you possibly can be, to be as outrageous as you think you can never be…just give yourself permission to be out there, on paper. (You can let the editor see it later, when you feel like (s)he’s earned it. And the editor is the other side of your personality that wants to tell you what is not working. Shut her/him up for now. It’s time to play. Give yourself permission to play.)
    2. As a writer, you probably find yourself good with words, drawn to words. Instead of taking photographs on a trip, take a moment to reflect and write down what’s happening on those trips you take with your children. Capture the feelings. You can still take photographs. But capturing the life behind the trip, the feelings, the moments. That’s something you can always pass down to your children, and it does help you words flow up from your well-spring of creativity.
    3. Find the right writers group for you. Get out, meet others, go to the NANOWRIMO and other big events with small organized meets and find people who think like you, act like you, understand some of the things that make you different from others. They will make you feel at least that little bit less crazy than you thought you were. Because you’re not alone in the way you think and look at things. Find your genre, find those who are where you are and those who are where you want to be. Reach out, and find them.

  11. During the day I’m a nurse case manager. In the evenings and weekends I take care of a husband, teenager, 3 dogs and 1 cat. I decided 3 years ago to start writing a blog about what parents need to know to help their kids get into college. After a few months, I realized I enjoyed writing and began working on fiction stories.

    If I had to say what are 3 good tips for the writer with a day job they would be:
    1. Find an hour a day to write. I stop by the library on the way home or write in my car at lunch time.
    2. Join a writer’s group to keep you motivated, and on task with your work in progress.
    3. Write down ideas that pop into your head, you never know when it might lead to a good story. I downloaded a app to my smart phone that let’s me write notes. I also carry a digital recorder in my car in case I get stuck in traffic. I can usually get a good scene written that way.

    Happy writing

    • Aine Greaney says:

      Thanks, Lillian. Great ideas from lots of busy writers here. Lillian, can I ask what that App is for taking notes? I’ve been looking for something like that. I badly need it, as the paper notes are starting to get lost … or hidden or …

  12. Pingback: Writers dish on balancing writing with work and family | writerwithadayjob

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