By Amy Clipston
People often ask me, “How do you work a full-time job and write books?” I resist the urge to roll my eyes, and instead I sweetly reply, “I just make it work.”
Unlike many authors, I work a full-time for a local government, in addition to writing four books per year for HarperCollins Christian Publishing.
While other authors may write for 14 hours straight on a Monday, I pop out of bed 5:30 a.m. and rush to a job located 20 miles from my home. Since my husband has battled chronic kidney disease and endured two kidney transplants, my family depends on the health insurance and steady pay my job provides.
Balancing two jobs has forced me to be disciplined when I am on deadline. Only once in my writing career have I asked for a deadline extension. My remaining books have been submitted to my editor either on time or early.
In order to meet my deadlines, I follow these rules:
1. Keep a calendar
I carry an old-fashioned day planner with a list of my upcoming deadlines taped in the back. Aside from the dates my books are due to my editor, I also set my own deadlines, building in time to polish the book and send it to my agent for comments. For example, the next book in my Amish Heirloom series is due to my editor April 1. This means I have set a deadline to send the book to my agent by February 1 in order to give her time to read it and provide her comments to me before I submit it to my editor.
2. Stay organized
Most authors fall into one of two categories: Pantsers (seat-of-the pants writers) or Plotters. I am most definitely a plotter. When I write a novel, I begin with a synopsis, and after my editor approves it, I turn the synopsis into a detailed outline arranged by chapter and scene. While writing, I use the outline as a road map to prevent the dreaded writer’s block. The outline will change and grow while I am writing, but it keeps me on track.
3. Write whenever possible!
Some nights I write until midnight. I work on weekends while my sons are playing videogames. I’ve been known to bring my laptop to Urgent Care and the Emergency Room when I’ve had to accompany a family member. It may seem trivial if you only have fifteen minutes, but even short amounts of writing time will add to your word count.
4. Ask for help
Contrary to the rumors, I’m not Super-Woman, and I can’t do it all on my own. I couldn’t balance this demanding schedule without my mother, who lives with my family and me. She keeps our household running so I can balance writing and working.
5. Find time to rest
When I need a break, I enjoy watching movies with my mother and sons, and I relish listening to audio books in my car while I commute to and from work. The downtime helps me relax and also recharge my inspiration.
6. Celebrate successful
When I finish a draft of a book, I reward myself with doing something fun with my family. The journey through the first draft is mentally and physically exhausting, so I give myself time to relax and enjoy what I have accomplished.
Although working two jobs isn’t ideal and sometimes it’s no fun at all, I enjoy my reward when I hold a new book in my hands.
Amy Clipston is the award-winning and bestselling author of more than a dozen novels. She holds a degree in communication from Virginia Wesleyan College and works full-time for the City of Charlotte. Amy lives in North Carolina with her husband, two sons, and three spoiled rotten cats. Her current book, The Forgotten Recipe, is the first in her new Amish Heirloom series. Visit Amy on her website.