Friday, August 05, 2011

Taking Time Away from the Day Job to Write

I was reading Alexis Grant's article in The Chicago Tribune this week about How to Negotiate a Sabbatical and  wondered how many people try to take time off for their writing. I hear many complains from readers and writers connected to FundsforWriters, and one is most definitely, "I hate my job. I was meant to write. How can I afford to quit. . . ?"

Maybe quitting isn't the right choice.

I put this post up on a Friday on purpose. Those of you sitting in the day job today are counting the seconds until you hit the door and go home. It's eating at you. You probably aren't focused on your work for thinking about weekend activities, or complete lack of in order to relax.

So what are your options to grab time to write . . . away from the job?

1. Quit.
Yes, quitting is always an option. But I counsel people that they have to leave one job FOR something else already carefully laid out. Another job? Freelance work already lined up? Part-time work in lieu of full-time? You never quit and THEN wonder what you'll do. It's like writing a book, publishing it, and THEN wondering how to promote it. Too late at that point. You're sure to face a difficult time.

2. Negotiate work hours.
Altering your work hours can mean one of several options.
  • Ask to work part-time instead of full-time. Getting off work two hours earlier each day might be the time you need to write that novel.
  • Ask to work part of the time at home. Some employers let you take projects home, or make calls from home. The time you don't spend commuting can be utilized on your writing project.
  • Ask for a different work schedule. You might need those 40 hours each week, but maybe four ten-hour days would give you that three-day weekend and a bigger chunk of writing time.
3. Ask for time off.
Time away from the day job can clear your head. When you back away from the minutiae and drama that abounds in offices and businesses, you often see through the crap and recognize your professional worth with a less jaundiced eye. While you'd rather not work for that boss anymore, or sit next to that loud mouth on the phone, or work alongside the lazy bum who spends more time shirking his duties than working them, the fact is that you need the income and benefits. Writing is the dream, but it might not be the bread-winning profession you think it is.
  • Take a one-week or two-week vacation for your writing, while your family is busy at school and work.
  • Take a day off each week for several weeks to give your writing a better kickstart.
  • Take an  hour off each day for several weeks and see if you know how to insert it into your writing.
  • Then there's Alexis' suggestion to request a sabbatical. Ask for months off. If you have the vacation time, fine. If not, take it without compensation. 
Regardless your choice, you must understand the following:
  • You have to be an excellent employee for your boss to listen to any of the above and maintain a clean record.
  • You need health insurance. Some would argue with me, but I preach otherwise. It's necessary.
  • You have to be able to show your employer that your idea is sound for both yourself and the company. At least demonstrate how you've carefully thought out your proposal.
  • You need a writing plan to best utilize the time off you've worked so hard to barter for.
  • You need specific projects and goals in place. Whether quitting or taking time off, you leave FOR something, not IN SPITE OF something. 


Sioux Roslawski said...

As usual, Hope, your advice is well-grounded in reality.

It all comes down to this: If you really want to do it, you'll make time for it. You'll get up early and do it, or you'll stay up late doing it, or you'll do it during your lunch break.

The author of the award-winning "THe Watsons Go to Birmingham, 1963" wrote it while working on an automobile assembly-line. He and his work partner each put on a door--he put on the driver's side door and his partner put on the passenger's side (or vice versa). They figured, if they EACH worked extra fast, and they EACH put on both doors, each of them would get a half-hour break every hour. (The fact that this was not noticed by the supervisors or was allowed is not important.) He started writing that book and made time for it because it mattered to him.

Christine said...

Such timely advice for me. Try what I did...break a leg!

Not really, but I did break my foot. After a couple of days of moaning and groaning bout how terrible my situation was (right foot=foot boot=no driving and no working for a couple of weeks) I realied I'd been given an opportunity to treat writing like a full-time job.

A couple of months before the break, I decided to pursue my love of writing rather than going for an advanced degree in my day job. I'd been working on it, but couldn't find enough time.

I learned so much in those two week. I couldn't have done it without the time off.

Long story short, I do recommend some time off, at least to launch your part time writing. Just try not to make it a "boot" camp like I did.

Christine R.
where you'll find my "boot" story

Arlee Bird said...

In today's employment climate one should be very careful about one's job. Unless you've got a lot of money put aside or an independent flow of income and benefits from a spouse or some similar situation, it's probably not a good idea to potentially jeopardize a good job situation. Decent jobs just aren't as easy to get as they used to be.

Tossing It Out

Alexis Grant said...

Thanks for the mention! My way of getting away to write is saving most of my vacation time -- two weeks -- for a writer's colony this September. Can't wait!

Kristen Stieffel said...

Asking for time off totally works, if you have the track record. There have been several times I've turned in requests for a day or two of vacation time, and in the blank marked "reason" put "novel writing." My supervisors are very supportive, because they understand that when I'm able to devote time to my passion I come back to the office refreshed.