Writing Full Time: Living the Dream, or Not

Last week, I was interviewed by podcaster, mystery novelist, and artist, Joanna Vander Vlugt. Joanna’s podcast, JVCArtStudio From the Dressing Room. We discussed all sorts of things about writing and the writing life. Please check it out  at: https://anchor.fm/jcvartstudio/episodes/Mystery-Author–Debra-Purdy-Kong-e16s9ns

Now, I need to thank blogger Jacqui Murray for today’s post. We were discussing a topic on her blog, which gave me the idea for this one. Thank you Jacqui!

I know many writers dream of writing full time. It was mine, too. I was lucky to have that opportunity for three years when I left the world of retail and took time to decide what to do next. By the time I ventured into security work, I was more than ready to return to part-time work, and not just for the steady paycheck. You see, I never intended to write full time permanently.

The truth is, some of my best ideas for short stories, essays, novellas, and novels, came from real-life experiences. In the podcast, Joanna and I discussed Casey Holland mystery #4, The Deep End, because it was the book that most draws on my experience. When I was a criminology student, I volunteered at a youth detention center and kept notes for a paper I’d be writing for a course. Let me tell you, those notes came in handy when I started that book two decades later.

I’ve found plenty of inspiration and motivation by simply going out in the world. Whether through employment, fitness centers, volunteering, socializing, hobbies, writing events, or riding public transit, there are endless opportunities to pick up snippets of great dialogue, create a character, or define a setting.

During those three years, it turned out that I wasn’t that much more productive than I had been when working part-time jobs. I’d learn to become efficient with time management. If I only had forty-five minutes to write, then I got down to it. If I had a whole morning, I’d browse the net and answer emails before opening up the WIP. The point is, you don’t have to be a full-time writer to be a productive writer.

Even if you’re writing world-building fantasy and science fiction novels, your stories still need conflict, relationship, and dialogue, and ideas for your plots can certainly come from real life.

If you’ve already put decades into the workforce and have done plenty of volunteering, hopefully you have notebooks full of ideas, bits of dialogue and setting notes. Still, there’s nothing like a change of scenery to help you get a fresh perspective on your work, to see or touch or smell something new. And wouldn’t it be great if the best of those moments were woven into your manuscript?

If you find you’re at your best writing full time, then go for it, but take those breaks, try something new, a new exercise regime, a new recipe, a new place to visit in your own locale. You might be amazed at what’ll it do for your writing.

So, How’s Retirement Going?

Before I start this week’s topic, I want to add extra information I received regarding Access Copyright, which I mentioned in last week’s blog. An author kindly provided a link which indicates that if you are self-published you can apply to Access Copyright as a Creator Affiliate. I’ve provided the link with more information HERE. As my colleague pointed out, it’s not that easy to find the info on their website. But if you’re interested in registering with the program, you can fill out their form HERE.

So, I’ve been retired from my day job a little over nine months now and if you were to ask me how I find it, my answer is that it’s great, except I’m still working full time. It’s just that those hours are spent on editing and the many tasks that go with being a published author.

I’ve been keeping track of I’ve the hours spent on writing, editing, and promotional stuff each week, and was a little surprised to see that I’ve been averaging a 37 hour week from the get-go. Hmm. Am I okay with this? Yeah. It still gives me more downtime than I had this time last year. Did I set out to create a 35-40 hour week? No, not really. It happened because I’m enjoying what I’m doing and I’ve spent a fair bit of time implementing some of the new things I’ve learned in workshops over the past six months.

I start each day, thinking about what I need to get done, what I would like to get done, then head downstairs to my office, and work on what I can get done. I often ask myself how much can I accomplish each day without pushing too hard?

Another reason for the all the computer time is that winter’s kept me from gardening and going for long walks. No matter how bundled up I am, I wind up with runny noses and a cough in damp, rainy weather. Secondly, I’m focused on completing the next round of edits to send my current WIPs to beta readers. Third, I’ll be babysitting Ellie starting in August, which will definitely cut down writing time. We’re also planning to downsize our house (a chore in itself since we’ve lived here over 30 years) and move in 2023, which will likely throw productivity way off course.

I still keep a routine because it helps with productivity and creating more downtime, but I also need some flexibility. Life still involves appointments and unexpected situations. I have no idea what my writing life will be like a year from now. All I know is that I’m enjoying the moment while looking forward to the future. And maybe that’s enough.

On a Personal Note…

This week, my focus shifts from writing and promotion to share two great pieces of news. I had to wait until my daughter informed her employer, but I’m now thrilled to tell you that I’m going to be a grandma in late July!

My firstborn is having a baby and needless to say, I’m thrilled. In about a month’s time, she’ll have an ultrasound to make sure everything’s okay, but she’s still undecided about whether to reveal the gender, so we’ll see. Once the baby arrives, I’ll be helping her and my son-in-law for those first few weeks. Although both of them are competent, meticulous planners, they have no idea how an infant can blow apart a schedule. When my daughter’s maternity leave ends, I’ll be babysitting part-time. This is a welcome lifestyle-change, and it also leads me to my second piece of news.

8888110788_fb214ca74e[1]I’m retiring from my day job at Simon Fraser University on May 29. As some of you know, I’ve already talked about retiring, but now there’s a real date. I’ve given official notice and the countdown has begun. Because I’m overwhelmed with promotion stuff for the new book and want to complete more projects, I’m taking as many paid vacation days as I can between now and May 29th.

As writers know, retirement from a day job has little to do with living a retired life. It’s about changing time management strategies and priorities, and making time for those things I’ve let lapse.

My daughter is nearly an hour’s drive away, which is why their new home has a guest bedroom and bathroom, so I’m buying a new laptop to replace my sluggish, ten-year-old beast. By the summer of 2021, I’ll be splitting my time between their house and ours, which hubby says he’s fine with. He’s a pretty independent guy who’s more than capable of cooking his own meals. Not so great with laundry and vacuuming, but we’ll work it out.