Steps to consider when writing a novel with a day job
From Kafka, the insurance clerk to Lewis Carroll, the mathematics teacher, writers have tried to balance the call of the muse with the call of the dollar for generations. I too wrote my first two novels while working full-time with P&G and BCG and a major part of my third novel, THE SEEKER, while working as a CMO for a start-up. It’s a constant struggle but a few things have helped me make it work:
1. Write something that’s going to change the world (at-least in your opinion!).
Per my best estimate, a novel worthy of an international publishing deal will take a year of full-time writing or eighteen months of part-time writing. The only way to stay motivated as you plug away night after night, weekend after weekend, is to believe that you want every person in every corner of the earth to read your book because you’ve something important to say. So, pause a minute before you begin your novel. Are you writing for fame or money? Bad idea. There are far, far easier ways to get those. Are you writing because you’re going to shed a unique light on the messy, glorious human condition? Can you not help but write because your heart is overflowing with a story that will complete an incomplete world? Now you’re ready to begin.
2. Adopt a “peak performance” diet.
I can’t emphasize this enough. My productivity has doubled since I quit caffeine and sugar a couple of years ago and massively increased my green juice and salad consumption. In addition to my five-days-a-week exercise habit, a heavily plant-based diet gives me a steady, clean energy through the day without ups and down, sugar highs and caffeine crashes allowing me to write two to three solid hours after work each night.
3. Skip office dinners and happy hours.
Fifteen years after B-school, I’ve observed that folks who’ve risen to the top of their fields are ones who are exceptional at what they do. Polite chit-chat at office dinners and happy hours is grossly over-rated. If you are a Yogi in the workplace, selflessly working towards the company’s best interests without craving credit or personal glory, you’ll do well enough. The time saved in such activities can be better directed towards your art.
4. Have a clear weekend routine.
If you have children or a bustling family life, carving out time to write on the weekend can be especially challenging. That’s where routine helps. Validated by research, a strong sense of routine is one of the biggest enablers to creativity. For Kerry and I this means:
-Sat: Full day off to spend with friends and take the baby out to walks, events etc.
-Sun: We take care of the baby in two hour shifts in the morning. In the evening, we hire a babysitter for four hours from 3-7 p.m.
We’re very consistent with the above. The predictability helps us be both present with family yet get a major chunk of writing done without having to be constantly torn between them.
5. Get used to making independent choices.
No matter your best efforts, balancing art and a corporate career will always be a struggle. Over time, I’ve learnt that I have to make choices that are independent of the herd to pull it off. Some of these like quitting my job every few years to travel for a year or not wasting time and money on a big Indian wedding have been uncomfortable for someone who comes from a conservative Indian family. But they’ve turned out to be the best decisions for my art and my soul. I wish you the very best as you make your own choices in pursuit of your art and leave you with Sartre’s wonderful words, “Those with the temerity to shun convention and make free choices in the search for self are authentic, those who conform to the roles dictated by society and recoil at their unfettered freedom are practicing bad faith.”
And if decide to start writing today, don’t forget to sign up for my full video course on How to get a Top 5 publishing deal.
I cover everything from idea to outline to writing structures and also share Top 50 literary agent contacts in the material. This is the first time I’ve offered a video course and the response has been delightful. Signing up is free!