The Art of Balancing Writing and a Full Time Job

By Mike Befeler

When I started writing in 2001, I made a decision that fiction writing was something I wanted to retire into. I began writing and training myself so I could eventually retire from the computer industry where I had worked for years. I had learned that you can take any course for free at the University of Colorado with the instructor’s permission if you’re fifty-five or older. Coming to writing later in life and living in Boulder, I availed myself of this opportunity. We wrote short stories in the courses and critiqued each other, my first exposure to critique groups. Then I decided to try my hand at novel length material. At this time I was still working full time so I devised a way to write on a regular basis while paying the bills through my day job.

I had read the book, The Artist Way, by Julia Cameron. I highly recommend it since it provides excellent exercises to improve creativity. One of her techniques is called Morning Pages. Every morning first thing, sit down and write three handwritten pages. They can be anything—your journal or whatever pops into your head. It’s a means of getting the creative juices flowing for the day.

Since I didn’t have a lot of time to spend beyond my job and family responsibilities, I decided to adapt the Morning Pages concept for my own use. Here’s the approach I took: First thing every morning, I’d review where I left of in my novel manuscript the day before. Then I’d write three handwritten pages to continue the story before heading off to my job. After work, I’d enter those three pages into the computer, doing an editing pass along the way. This typically produced two typed pages.

If you do the math, in a hundred fifty days, I had the rough draft for a three hundred page novel. I wrote the initial draft of my first three published novel (Retirement Homes Are Murder, Living with Your Kids Is Murder and Senior Moments Are Murder) using this approach.

In August, 2007, I was able to retire from the computer industry into my full time writing career. Since I now don’t have to dash out of the house in the mornings (unless I’m giving a breakfast presentation), I write directly on the computer. But for those years of balancing writing and a full time job, my adapted Morning Pages technique served me well.

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mike_befelerMike Befeler has five published books in his Paul Jacobson Geezer-lit Mystery Series, the most recent being Cruising in Your Eighties Is Murder and Care Homes Are Murder. He also has two published paranormal mysteries, The V V Agency and The Back Wing. Mike is president of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of Mystery Writers of America.

Learn more about Mike and his books at his website and blog. He can also be found on Facebook.

4 thoughts on “The Art of Balancing Writing and a Full Time Job

  1. Julie Luek

    I LOVE when writers share these stories; it encourages me so much. I decided to pursue this dream in my late 40s. Now as I turn 49, I wonder if I started too late to really make this work. I start to panic, but then I meet people like you and Pat who encourage me that it’s never to late to find and follow a dream. Thank you!

    Reply
  2. Mike Befeler

    Julie,

    It’s
    never too late to start nor to keep writing. Herman Wouk published his latest
    novel, The Lawgiver, in 2012 at the age of 97.

    Mike Befeler

    Reply
  3. W. J. Howard

    Setting a routine is so key. For me it’s walk the dogs, make a second cup of coffee, then write my 3+ pages . . . every day. You’d think the routine would get boring, but it’s like running. If I miss a day I get cranky.

    Reply

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