Writing and Working Full-Time by Mia Page

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Mia Page - Credit Nicole Marisco

Mia Page

Mia Page, author of Bookishly Ever After, on the many challenges of writing while working full-time . . .

For many of us, the dream as a writer is to give up the day job and spend all our working time pen in hand, or laptop on desk. But the reality for most of us is that we need to keep working full-time while penning our novels. This is particularly true at the beginning of our careers, while we’re writing and then querying or self-publishing our first novels, and before the advances or royalties start rolling in – and in truth, at first, those may well be pocket money rather than anything we can live on. Vanishingly few are the authors who ever strike it truly rich, while those who can live solely off their writing are also rarer than we’d all like. In 2022, the Society of Authors reported that the median income is just £7,000.

All of which is to say, working in other fields is an essential reality for most writers. That’s not necessarily all bad. The stereotype of the writer as introvert may be largely true, but there are extroverts in the profession too, and we certainly need the energy that being around others brings us. All of us benefit from leaving the house and interacting with others – if only to give us ideas and inspiration for our stories: the writing fuel of overhearing dialogue or witnessing intriguing body language or observing details in nature or other people. And when it comes to marketing our novels and inviting others to our events, it’s useful to have networks of people in our lives beyond the writer community, too.

But writing while working full-time – especially if that work involves a commute – also has plenty of challenges. For the last year and a half, as I’ve been working on Bookishly Ever After, I’ve had a dream job doing marketing for an indie publisher. I have loved it, but it has also been hard, and at times, exhausting and stressful, to do both at once. And while I love books – when not writing them or marketing them, I can often be found reading them or discussing them in real life or on social media – I’m really grateful I had other things in my life, too.

Bookishly Ever After by Mia PageWhile working on my first draft, I was lucky to live in a flat that had a piano. I played as a child, grew up with a pianist father, and had been itching to start again anyway, so this felt like a real gift. After getting home from work most days, I’d eat dinner, then play for half an hour to an hour, and then, if I had the energy, I’d work on the book. Playing was a deeper kind of rest than staring at my phone or even paging through a novel. It filled me up after a day at work; it drew a line under that part of my world, and prompted my body and my brain to remember the creative, artistic parts of myself, making it more likely that I’d be able to write well.

I’ve also always taken Sundays off work, for faith-based reasons. I’ve found that helped keep me mentally healthy – whether during GCSE revision at school, or escaping the pressure cooker of exam terms at university to go to church. While it may not be realistic for everyone, I’d encourage those who can to take a day off every week from both work and writing. Yes, writing your book may take longer that way, but I’d argue that avoiding burnout and looking after yourself are more important – and that they will lead to your writing a better book, too.

That only left me with evenings and Saturdays for the book, and that wasn’t easy. While I’d often gladly used Saturday for writing in the past, something about the obligation of a deadline – and the relentlessness of the work – made it quite hard for me. But everybody’s circumstances are different. If I was the kind of person who could do any kind of work, let alone good work, early in the morning, a great time would have been at 7 am, before the day had kicked in and the exhausting commute through London had wiped me out – leaving my evenings free to do the socialising or swimming I couldn’t do so easily at the weekends.

If I’d had a more flexible job, that would have helped a lot, too. I would have benefitted greatly from more working from home, which would have freed up both time and energy on either end of the day. Another thing that would have helped would have been flexibility with my hours, perhaps working ten days’ worth of hours in nine days to free up a day a fortnight, or being allowed to take unpaid leave or buy extra holiday: as it is, all but four of my days off last year were for Bookishly Ever After. By December, I was, predictably, a mess. If you’re thinking about how to incorporate writing into a working life, it is worth considering whether your job will allow any of this, and if not, whether you could move to one that does. It’s also worth thinking about what kind of job suits you best: does a challenge energise you, or would it be better for you to do a job where you can more or less coast, leaving the best part of your mind free for when you sit down to write?

I’m also lucky in some ways, in that I only have myself to care for: I am not responsible for any kids or for ageing parents. If you are, it’s worth considering some frank conversations with your spouse or partner if you have one, as well as your wider support network of friends and family, and seeing what regular arrangements can be put in place. Could your co-parent do bath and bedtime, so that you can write in the evening? Could you trade off with another parent, so that you take turns looking after each other’s kids to free up Saturday afternoons?

The writing life is not easy, and the challenges of balancing it with other responsibilities are just one element of that. If you are struggling, particularly if you have deadline, it’s worth a frank conversation with your editor to see if those deadlines can be moved, perhaps even publication delayed. Building a career as a writer is more akin to a marathon than a sprint, and it’s important that you pace yourself. It will help the quality of your work, after all, as well as your mental health and your relationships. And the bottom line is that you are more important than your book.

(c) Mia Page

Author Photograph (c) Nicole Marisco

About Bookishly Ever After by Mia Page

Bookishly Ever After by Mia PageTwo rival bookstore owners. One chance for a happily ever after…

Bookshop owner Lexi Austen’s problems are stacking up. Her dating life is a mess and Sam Dickens – devastatingly handsome, arrogant, and fiercely competitive rival bookshop owner – is hellbent on stealing all of her customers.

Frustrated, Lexi turns to her shelves for answers. And what have the classics taught her? That when lovers start as enemies, there’s no distraction quite like love…

Lexi plots to charm Sam: she invites him to a ball (well, a party), drags him to a dance class (does it matter if it’s not a quadrille?) and swoons into his arms while taking a turn in the park (note: next time, make sure he isn’t holding a hot drink).

As their rivalry reaches scorching levels, it’s not just Lexi’s beloved bookshop at stake, but her heart too…

A charming, bookish enemies-to-lover romance, perfect for fans of Emily Henry’s Book Lovers and Sally Thorne’s The Hating Game.

Bookishly Ever After by Mia Page is published by Avon, out now. Order your copy online here.

About the author

Mia Page is a pseudonym for Claire Handscombe, a British writer. She is the author of Unscripted, a novel about a young woman with a celebrity crush and a determined plan and Girl, Unstrung, a YA novel about a teen violist, and the editor of Walk With Us: How The West Wing Changed Our Lives. Recently back in London after three years as a bookseller at East City Bookshop in DC, she also writes the If You Love That, Read This newsletter, and hosts the Brit Lit Podcast.

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