Guest Post – Writing While Parenting

Charles Hiebner has worked as a pig farmer, a long-haul truck driver, and a warehouse manager for a roofing supply company.  The two of us met in grad school where we took a few writing classes together and shared a cubicle wall as interns at the university press.  His writing projects have included a page-turning crime novel and a thesis about ecoconsciousness and colonial identity on the Great Plains—both at the same time. His next project is to set up a blog to share his work with the world…maybe sometime before his youngest leaves for college.

 

I’m a writer with a day job, one that I actually enjoy a great deal. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to earn my bread with writing, but until that time I have bills to pay. There are other parts of my life that pull me away from the writing desk, like being married. Luckily, my spouse has a day job as well, and writes, and is very patient, encouraging, and understanding of time that I request to write. So, what’s keeping me from cranking out novel after novel?

Well, there are these kids… Continue reading »

Confession: I Haven’t Worked on My Novel in 3 Months

I’m absolutely ashamed to admit this, but it’s true.

According to my Daily Schedule Log, I last put in actual writing time on my new novel on June 1st, the day I finished editing the final chapter of Draft Three.  Since I’m drafting this entry on Labor Day to schedule for next week, that means my No-Novel period’s run just over three months, and that’s a long time.

To my credit, it’s definitely been a busy three months since I started my new Office Day Job.  This is partly because I’ve actually been working more hours and was dealing with a nasty commute for the first few weeks, but also because of the general life upheaval that came with the new job throwing off my old writing schedule.  Having to deal with a lot of new surroundings, routines, and habits made it harder for me Continue reading »

Why I’m Not Interested in Early Retirement

In what little spare time I have I follow a few money and finance blogs, which has helped me develop my philosophy about how smart financial decisions can help creative people get where they need to go.  I’ve found a lot of the advice from these blogs to be solidly helpful (make a budget, track your net worth, pay off debt, etc.), but there’s one thing financial bloggers are always talking about that I couldn’t be less interested in: retiring early.

Now just so we’re all on the same page, retiring in the technical sense of the word isn’t about having your hair turn white or moving into an old folks’ home.  On the contrary, Continue reading »

Bonus Essay: Painting’s Just My Day Job

A few months back I painted a bedroom as a present/favor to my old housemates, which brought back a lot of memories from my old Day Job as a housepainter.  I like painting because it keeps me ridiculously focused while leaving my mind free to wander, and it provides a good amount of exercise without being too labor intensive.  In a lot of ways it’s the ideal Day Job, and if I could find a decent painting position, I’d probably scoop it right up.

This essay I wrote for Four Ties Literary Review sums up my feelings about the relationship between work and writing pretty well, and explains why painting puts me in the ideal frame of mind to do both.  The essay’s part of Four Ties’ issue about work in general, so I totally encourage you to check out the other pieces too.

Also, for those interested, I talk a little bit about the novel I’m working on, plus I reveal the identity of my old Secret Work-From-Home Day Job and talk more about how it affected me—since that kind of honesty’s important.

Anyway, I’ll stop rambling so you can check out the real essay, which you should right now.

Make Your Creative Work Sound Like You

When I was in first grade I played tee-ball, and because I sucked at running and every other kind of physical activity I always had to play outfield—the worst possible position for a first-grader with a limited attention span.  The experience directly contributed to my lifelong aversion to organized sports, but that’s not the point of this story.

I’ll never forget one practice where I had to make a really long outfield throw.  For whatever reason, this throw felt a lot more important than other throws Continue reading »

Why I Use a Different Pen When I’m at My Day Job

Those who know me best know that I’ve been using the same blue medium-sized Bic pens since high school, even though Bic redesigned this particular model six or so years ago.  (When I saw that the originals were getting harder to find I bought eight boxes of them from a reseller in South Korea and I’ve been using them ever since.  Don’t ask me what I’m going to do when I run out, because I’m honest to God not sure.)

From a practical standpoint, I prefer writing in blue because it forms a clearer contrast against black printed text, especially when I’m revising a draft by hand.  I also like that the cap on these pens comes off without sticking and that Continue reading »

Why Setting Your Own Deadlines is So Damned Hard

I think a lot about deadlines, and how they force us to prioritize how we structure our time.

For example, after I moved into my new place the good folks over at Comcast saw fit to send me a bill with a July 27th due date:

 

Also, six pages? Really?

 

There was nothing wrong with this per se, aside from Comcast sending it a week after the July 2nd billing date so neatly printed in the corner, which means that by the time the bill got to me and I finally opened it, I had about a week and a half left before it was due.  Simple, right?
Continue reading »

Update: Anti-Email Checking Challenge!

So back in March I wrote about how checking my e-mail too often was getting in the way of my productivity, both by sucking WAY too much time away from other things and by causing a loss of focus that pulled me away from where I was, kind of like Shelly Duvall does to Jack Nicholson in this scene from The Shining.

Losing my focus led to EVEN MORE time lost because losing my focus made my mind cloudier, which not only made it more difficult to work, but also made that same amount of work take longer.  (There’s some other stuff in the post too, but that’s the basic gist.)
Continue reading »

“I Put in My Headphones and I’m Gone” – One Man’s Perspective on the Day Job Life

A few weeks ago I met a guy who worked in a large corporate office.  I don’t remember his name, and I’ve changed a few biographical details here to protect his anonymity, but I’m writing about him today because he was able to describe his job in one of the most perceptive ways I’d ever heard.

This guy—Mel, I’ll call him—had been working for the same company for ten or so years, and looked to be in his early fifties.  Before that he’d worked in restaurants, owned a business, managed a ski lodge, and even been a private investigator.  Now, though, he had a family, and lived Continue reading »

Why I Left My Work-From-Home Day Job

For those of you who missed last’s week’s Life Update, I totally got a new Day Job to replace my old Secret Work-From-Home one, so what follows will make way more sense if you check that out first.  (TLDR Version: My new job’s in an office doing a writing/editing-type activity, the conditions make it ideal for keeping up with my novel, this blog, and other creative projects, and to lessen my commute I moved to a new apartment a mere 3.6 miles from the new job.)

Now that we’re all on the same page, some of you might be wondering Continue reading »

Planning Creative Time = Greater Efficiency

Thinking about how you’re going to spend your creative time before you start working has felt so obvious to me for such a long time that I never even thought to write about it.  That all changed when I was emailing with a programmer friend of mine who’s got a lot on his plate life-wise, and he wanted to share a new method he’s been trying to make better use of his time:

I’m thinking it might be better to work in 30 minute chunks on code projects because that might be all I can handle right now. It doesn’t seem like enough time to really do anything but it works a lot better if I Continue reading »