Writing Around the Nine to Five

Robert McGinty
Category: Writing

I don’t want to put anyone off, but writing is hard work. Sometimes it’s the vocation of a masochist. Not for me the return home after a long day in the office and helping myself from that half bottle of wine in the fridge, or that hot bath, or watching that television programme.

No, I am a writer and my day is not over because there are stories to be told.

So how does anyone fit a writing schedule around life and a full-time job? As the song goes, working nine to five is enough to drive you crazy, but most writers find that salary pretty helpful. As a nine-to-fiver and a veteran of two novels (or, at least, two novel-length conglomerations of words), here is how I make the most of my limited time.

Start a Routine
A routine is essential for developing a serious writing habit. I chose a regular time for writing that suited me and stuck to it. Sitting down at the same time each day helped my writing become second nature to me.

A routine is essential for developing a serious writing habit

I write as soon as I arrive home from work. I might write for only half an hour, or as long as two hours - but I know that if I do not begin at my usual time I will write nothing at all.

Sometimes I don’t feel creative, but that’s when the routine carries me. I am often surprised by how quickly and productively the work goes, after an unpromising beginning.

Be sensible and don’t overwork. I find it important to take time out to recharge myself and enjoy friends and family – after all, that half bottle of wine in the fridge isn’t going to drink itself.

Take a Notebook to Work
Most of my waking life is spent in an office, and solutions to plot problems often arrive while I am busy and not consciously thinking about writing. For that reason, I go to work armed with a notebook so I don’t waste precious time later trying to recall my great idea of the afternoon.

Just be sure to record your thoughts clearly: I sometimes discover cryptic notes to myself such as ‘dreams of horses’ and have no idea what they mean. They were surely brilliant notions at the time, but now I’ll never know.

Work Through the Doldrums
I picture beginning a novel as embarking on a voyage across uncharted oceans; eventually I will drift into the doldrums, when nothing is happening in my brain or on the page.

I have learned not to panic and to trust my routine: the regular habit of writing eventually brings me through these patches.

Writing is an amazing experience of self-discovery, and good fun (honestly!), but a novel is a long commitment and I’ve got to structure my time carefully. The eventual rewards are immense: when I hold my completed manuscript in my hands, I know that every single sacrifice has been worth making.

Robert McGinty

Robert McGinty grew up in Fife and studied English Literature and History in Edinburgh and Information Studies in Aberdeen. He now lives in Edinburgh with his wife and ten-month-old son. He works full time and writes in the evenings whenever the baby is asleep.

His first novel, Hell Money, was shortlisted for the 2005 Wow Factor, a competition run by Waterstones and Faber for debut children’s novelists.

He is currently working on his second Young Adult novel, The Dead Men of Pendragon House, an adventure based on an updated version of the Arthurian legends of Thomas Malory.