Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a writer full-time? Everyone’s schedules are different, but I thought I would take the time to show you mine. If you’re thinking about attempting to go full-time as a freelancer or fiction writer (or whatever you call your form of making-money-writing-stuff), this might give you an idea of what you might face on a daily basis.
For those of you new here – and there are a lot of you, I see – a little about what I do: I blog in my “spare” time; at this moment I do so because I love it and don’t receive any income from it, and that’s OK for the time being. I am primarily a graduate student and, as of last month, officially a full-time freelance writer and editor. I’m also writing a YA novel and several other personal writing projects.
I wanted to give you some insight into what a typical day looks like for me. This is by no means the schedule for every full-time writer, but it’s how I manage to make things work, at least for now. Blogging every day, working 40+ hours per week – it’s a lot, but it’s what’s led me to what I consider success, at least compared to two years ago. If you’re considering making this a reality for you, I hope it will give you a window to glance into. So here’s how it goes …
6:00 – 7:30 AM – Brain stimulation
Wake up, coffee, devotions, journaling, reading and working on my novel. I cannot start my day without stimulating my brain in some way. An hour and a half of slowly waking up and screen-free reading and writing, followed by a very short amount of typing. I don’t like the fact that I don’t get to spend an hour or more on my novel every day, but for now, it is what it is. After that, regardless of how tired I am, I am fully awake and prepared to run through the rest of the day’s to-do list.
7:30 – 9:00 AM – Exercise
But before I can start checking work-related things off my list, I need to physically run, or do some kind of cross-training on days I don’t go out. It’s a mental stimulation thing as much as it is a physical stress-reliever. Plus it makes me feel good, and it makes up for the entire day of sitting I’m about to have, at least a little bit. If I don’t get it done in the morning, it’s not going to happen.
9:00 – 11:00 AM – Client #1
Working with an overseas client, usually writing, sometimes a little editorial planning and/or marketing strategy. I do exactly what you’re not supposed to do – eat breakfast at my desk at some point during that time. It’s not ideal, but it works for me, and when it comes down to it that’s really all that matters.
11:00 AM – 12 PM – Novelty Revisions
Blogging. This is when I break from work to draft one post per day for you, respond to your comments and do what I can to plan for the next day. Again, I would love to be able to spend more than an hour per day doing this, but at the moment it’s just not feasible. For that one hour though, I focus only on writing the highest-quality posts I can. Formatting, images and some SEO, too. I don’t have an assistant, so it’s all on me. It’s worth it.
12:00 – 2:00 PM – Client #2
Writing for a different client, usually articles, sometimes fitness program reviews. I try to space out the writing because even I can’t write for four hours straight unless it’s my own personal project no one else will see. Lunch happens sometime in there, again usually at my desk – not ideal, but for now, it works.
2:00 – 4:00 PM – Clients, clients, clients
Editing for several different clients. If I have a productive morning, I almost always have a productive afternoon. Editing is probably my favorite task of the day, so I like putting it into this slot because I sometimes hit a wall around 3:00. If I can crash through that wall doing something I enjoy, it usually doesn’t slow me down much.
4:00 – 5:00 PM – Research-heavy drafts
Writing for one of two clients, usually alternating every other day, one article at a time. These are research-heavy articles that sometimes take longer, but I’ve dumped enough caffeine into my system by this point that I’m just ready to power through and call it a day.
5:00 – 7:00 PM – Adulting
The day’s not over yet, though. This is when I spend my time doing a handful of different things depending on the day. Usually I will end up studying or working on a project depending on the day of the week. Sometimes it’s when I spend some time putting together invoices if it’s the very beginning or end of the month. All my small tasks – answering emails, etc. – also go here. They don’t usually require too much brain power, which is why I don’t do them first thing in the morning.
7:00 PM – 12 AM – Meg time
Sometimes during this time I read. Usually I’ll watch a show, catch up on everything I missed on social media or get lost in my YouTube subscription box for hours at a time. That’s what I choose to do with my evenings, and it works. I need that time to unwind and let my brain catch up. Video editing and dinner go in there too – videos only when I’ve had the energy at some point over the previous weekend to make one (rarely, these days, which I’m again not happy about, but…). Only fun things are allowed in this time slot.
Why midnight? Because that’s when I told the Bedtime feature on my iPhone when I want to go to sleep, and I always do. I get my six hours, I get up when the alarm goes off, and I do it all over again the next day.
Honestly, probably the most important thing about this schedule is the 7:00 PM – 12:00 AM slot. YOU NEED YOU TIME. If you neglect that, you’re going to burn out. You’re going to fall flat on your face, within the first few weeks, and it’s going to hurt. You time is ESSENTIAL. You NEED to relax. Every single day.
Do I always stick to this schedule? Of course not – I’m not perfect. Some days 5:00 hits and I’ve about had it with everything. Some days I blog early and work out before lunch. Every once in awhile I’ll go out to lunch. That’s one great thing about working flexible hours: for the most part, as long as you get your work done, you choose when you work.
I’m not complaining when I say this – I give up a lot to do what I do. As much as I would love to volunteer, take extra classes and workshops, see friends more often … until I finish school (18 days), set up an income stream for this blog (in progress – and it’s NOT banner ads) and finish my novel (?), things are a little crazy. It’s worth the sacrifice. Not just in terms of income, but in terms of experience, and getting to do what I genuinely, for the most part, enjoy. (I don’t think anyone really enjoys putting together invoices, but work is work is work.)
As I mentioned, there are plenty of things I would like to change. But one thing you will learn, writing full-time, is that you are not a superperson. Until you can try different things and figure out what works and what doesn’t, it’s going to feel like you’re working, and working, and nothing else. You’re going to spend a lot of time sitting in a chair, communicating only through typing. It does get lonely, especially if you work from home as I do. But if it’s really what you want to do, or if it’s currently the only way you can make money (it happens), the benefits outweigh the inconveniences.
Do not follow my exact schedule – because it might not work for you. Most people cannot function on six hours of sleep. Most people cannot work long hours. This is just an example. If you’re going to create a writing schedule, however writing fits into your day, create one that meets your needs and works the best for you. There is no “right” or “wrong” way. There is only “your” way.
If you’re thinking about making writing your full-time job, feel free to drop any questions/insights of your own in the comments below. And if you’re already a full-time writer and want to share your schedule – I’d love to see how you make daily writing work for you!
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.