One of the toughest problems a writer faces is how to find the time to work on their own material when they have to keep their day job. It's a vicious circle. You know if you could just finish that novel you're working on, you could make the big books (dreamer :) ) but you can't finish your book because you're too busy trying to make grocery money.
I work for myself. I am an editor and have huge quantities of work sometimes. Other times I have nothing. When I am swamped with work, I don't have the time to sit and write my own material. But the ideas keep coming, and I don't want to lose them. I also don't want to stop making my mortgage while writing a short story that is going to make me nada. I don't want to do a poor job for my clients - I depend upon repeat business and referalls. And I don't want to lose that inspiration. Here are some simple tricks that can help. They've all been listed before, but they really do work.
First of all, you have to start with your own work. Begin the day if you can with your writing. If you're not feeling inspired, rewrite something you wrote previously. You don't need inspiration to get some work done - fix your old stuff. (And yes, get your butt up early if that's what it takes...)
I just recently got an essay accepted (it will be out in April) that I have been marketing for over ten years. This story of a horrendous trip I took to New Orleans when I was 18 was accepted by the journal, Dirty Chai - https://www.dirtychaimag.com/, a new online literary magazine. I sent it out for years and never got a bite. Each time, I rewrote it, tightening the language, reiterating the fine points, highlighting the action. And finally, someone took it.
Keep a diary. This is ONLY for you. You can blog, but block it - don't advertise it. This is where you keep your innermost thoughts and no one else should have access to it. You don't want to be inhibited by the idea that someone else might see it and find out how bad you write, or how angry you were on a given day, or how fluffy and mindless your memories were. (You don't want to know how often I have rhapsodized about a day at the beach, a sunrise or sunset, a full moon... etc. ad infinitum.)
I have recently started keeping a five year diary. This is a little book that has room for five paragraphs on a page, and each page is for a specific year. So for instance, you could write a paragraph on Jan. 1 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018, all on the same page. You can see how your life has changed over the years. One speaker for our writers group, the Writers Alliance (www.writersalliance.org) says she writes every year in a different color ink. Her pages are beautiful! Mine are kinda sloppy, but they get done. You can order these online from Amazon or buy them in any major bookstore. You don't have to be a writer to benefit from this - just force yourself to write that one paragraph a day.
I also keep a blog with a password. Here I put the things that bother me, or things I feel are not appropriate to share but they might someday become a story. I sometimes put myself into a character's head and write from that perspective, and that writing can be brutal. I don't want all my characters to be sweetness and light, but I don't want my family to read something I wrote and think, "Well, that bitch..."
For instance, at one time, I wrote a story, still unpublished, about two women who run into each other in Israel. One is an Israeli soldier and the other is a Pakistani terrorist bomber. Both have suffered significant losses in their lives because of the ongoing battle between their two countries. To write this story (which won honorable mention in a major literary contest - always a bridesmaid...) I researched major terrorist web sites and wrote lots of pages from the perspective of the terrorist and the soldier who could shoot her. I'm sure I'm on the watch list of NSA sites :).
But the point is, all that material I wrote became a five page short story that may someday be published - who knows? What I know about terrorism doesn't need to be read by everybody - the final result, the story, is what's important.
And finally - do I really have to say this - keep a pen and paper handy. Or use your Iphone. Or something. You may think you'll remember that spectacular story idea you just had that is so brilliant it will surely be the next Harry Potter series. And then it's gone. And you're thinking "whaaa????" Write it down.
For this, women have the advantage. Our twenty pound purses can hold multiple methods of keeping notes including tablet computers, phones, notebooks and pens. Men can keep Post-its and a fold up pen in their pockets. Or use their phones. Most have microphones now so you can actually just say the words of your brilliant ideas - you don't even need to write them down! If you're at work, send yourself an e-mail during your break. When I am travelling, I send myself text messages or leave myself messages on my home phone.
I keep multiple communication methods handy - I have a notebook in my purse. I have a notebook beside my bed. I have a notebook in the bathroom (yes, really - baths and showers are great for engendering inspiration! So what if there are some water drops on the pages? These aren't final anyway.)
I am a chronic list maker. After I fill up my little 5 inch by 7 inch notebooks full of lists, I go through them carefully before I throw everything away. Here and there I find little pieces of information that I wrote, and I take those pages out and throw them into a decorative box. One of these days, I'll go through all those pieces of paper and find the gems that will keep me inspired.
- Edit your old stuff
- Keep a diary, blog, or other stream-of-conscious record.
- Start a 5-year journal.
- Always have the equivalent of a paper and pen handy.
So, to show that such methods can work, I point out that you are currently reading the results of my own positive intentions. But alas, now I have to go back to my day job. The affairs of others await!