Do quit your day job

Two years ago was my first full-time day as a writer.

I was terrified.

The only reason I had been able to quit was I had a biggish chunk of advance, and I knew I would never get an opportunity like that again. I also had a husband who had regular paychecks and could put us on his health plan. Did we have eight months of emergency savings, the way Susie Orman advocates for even people who still have day jobs? No. No way.

But still I jumped. And then tried to figure out how to make it work.

“The world was without form and void,” as the Bible says. How would I structure my days? Would I be able to meet my deadline? I needed to write most of a book in a month. Would I go broke? Would I end up napping, watching TV, overeating?

I did meet my deadline. And we haven't gone broke, although it is tough to budget when you get paid only a couple of times a year. I don't nap, I don't watch TV, and hm, I'm not going to say too much about overeating.

Here’s what helped me:
-Getting the bulk of my writing done in the morning.
-If working on more than one project, doing the hardest one first.
-Learning to never ever buy food from the tempting displays located by the cash registers at Winco. Chocolate covered almonds? Big cans of cashews? You will eat them mindlessly in front of your computer.
-Listening to for background music. I also get CDs from the library now.
-Setting goals: for words or hours.
-Exercising. My gym started offering free classes so I take Butts & Guts, kung fu, and weight lifting. I now have a killer vertical punch. Possibly literally.
-Occasionally going to the library or other place where there are fewer distractions.

In two years, I’ve learned that I can make seemingly impossible deadlines. I had two books come out in 2009, and two more will come out this year and another two in 2011.

If you work at home, what are your tips for making it work?

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Make a plan and stick to it (but leave empty spaces in the plan so you can catch up when you don't).
I also work in the mornings and keep really boring food in the house. I try to do interruptible things after my kids come home from school: email, social networking, exercise, cleaning (oh, wait I rarely do that).

I also meet other writing friends for coffee once a week. Sometimes we critique, but mostly we just enjoy talking with real live humans.
I don't know if it's sad or not, but the folk at my gym are now like coworkers, complete with gossip.
I write full time December-February and do landscaping the rest of the year. I find that I can either write or take care of all the other essentials of life, so I have to alternate between the two. I try to make it so that I take one day a week to deal with all the miscellaneous stuff, and I don't take weekends off, though when something special comes up I will make time for it. Sometimes against my will.

I don't have too much trouble focusing and meeting deadlines. My only real vice as far as that's concerned is checking my email or the blogs I subscribe to when I get stuck. But I don't let myself indulge too much before coming back to the story. I'd like to break that habit all together.

I've learned that I'm not good at doing my rough draft on the computer. I can get the words out faster and easier if I take a walk and bring along my digital recorder. This allows me to "write" the kind of stuff most people will get from Nanowrimo, but that my perfectionist streak will not allow to happen on the computer screen. I transcribe the notes after my walk then revise them the next morning before I do anything else, even check my email. I also write from an outline, which make the getting-started part of a project take longer, but helps avoid writer's block and endless revisions down the road.
Much like you -- word goals.

Also, I am an extrovert, and I found it was very important to be able to have an outlet for me with other people. I started volunteering. Now I have a dog and I take her for a walk with a few other dog walkers every day. I talk on Skype to my writing colleagues -- like water cooler conversations in an office.

Those have been the most important things for me.
I also try to get out of the house several times a week to walk to the post office (or the library, if I'm ambitious - it's 40 minutes one way).
Getting out and about is very important. I usually have "writing dates" with fellow writers at our houses or coffees shops at least once a week as well. For me it's not so much changing where I'm at physicially, but interacting with other people. I am energized that way, and feel drained when days go by without me talking to anyone.
That's where the gym comes in for me. And it's such an interesting cross-section of folks. At my day job, people were more similar. In my kung fu class, there's a courier, a high school student, an employment law attorney, a single mom, a vet, and a management consultant.
I'm in the same boat, but I do the easiest project first.I just put in a speed bag near my desk for when I get punchy.Work mid mornings to mid afternoons but only one book at year because it was getting too insane...but have 2 done and 2 more in the works!
Need to build up to it...its like stretching. Go too hard at first and I might pull a brain muscle...
Impressive publication list, April! 6 books in three years, you go!

Me, I write in snatches. A toddler and a baby in the house . . .
Good for you. I love plans that work, and yours obviously has. Congratulations.