Time Off as a Writer with a Day Job


I remember reading some time ago an account of someone who took a whole month off from work to complete NaNoWriMo. This person saved up money, and then just told their boss they would be on vacation for a month.

So, they must have gotten their novel done, right?

Actually, I don’t remember if they did or not. What I do know is that it was a struggle. With sixteen waking hours a day (assuming they slept for eight hours a night) they managed to put off writing until either later in the evening, or just say, “Ah, screw it. I have all day tomorrow to write!”

Because let’s face it, that’s a lot of time in which you can schedule writing at any time. You’re not going to write for all of those hours. You have Netflix to pass the time. You’ll get your 1,667 words done for the day at some point, right?

I’ve been off from work (kinda) for a couple of weeks now. That is, the facility is closed for renovations and I can only go in to do actual jobs like painting or scraping or cleaning. Too much hard labor for my soft lifeguard hands. I’d rather just sit on my butt and watch people swim.

In the meantime, I have hours throughout the day when I’m alone and I can write. But do I? If you’re paying attention, you’ll know the answer.

This may just be a me thing, though. I hardly get time alone to catch up on what want to watch, or maybe play a video game I haven’t beaten yet. So my first thought is to run to those activities to kill some time. “But wait!” I tell myself. “Shouldn’t you be writing? Go write some stuff and then you can play that game.”

So I don’t play the game, or watch the show on Netflix, or whatever. Instead, I bumble around on the Internet, checking out what videos I may have missed, catching up on a webcomic… and I never say to myself, “This is just another form of avoidance.” Just because I’m not watching the show or playing the game doesn’t mean that I’m doing something more productive. I just traded free-time activities.

And then I feel bad when alone time is over and I’ve accomplished… what? Nothing? I sometimes can’t even remember what I did in a day, and that’s pretty discouraging. It puts me in a weird place where I just feel like I’m digging a hole for myself. My time to get stuff done ticks away and there I am wasting it.

On the flipside, when I get things done in the morning, I feel better about whatever I do for the rest of the day. I’m the kind of person who can jump out of bed and get right to productivity, but chooses not to because it’s breakfast time and I just want to watch this one episode while I eat a Hot Pocket.

For example, I started working out again recently. Nothing too strenuous, just jogging three days a week. I might add some other workouts to the mix but one thing at a time for now. I can get my run done before noon, and it makes me feel pretty good about myself and whatever other slacking off I do for the rest of the day, because I accomplished my goal for the day.

But why can’t I do the same thing with writing? The running program I’m following is structured, and I’m only accountable to myself, and I can still follow it rather effectively. Why can’t there be some sort of similar plan for writing?

Unfortunately, the only real answer is that there is: It’s called scheduling. I need to write down times for me to do my actual writing. Wait, oops. I already did. And, of course, I haven’t been following it. Sigh.

I think I’m going to go write some fiction now.


About David Shank

David T. Shank is a writer, runner, and musician, in that order. His blog is hopefully an oasis among the vast ocean of negativity that is the Internet. He lives in Cleveland studying how to write good.

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