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A Day in the Life: My Feature with Serena Synn

This is a blog post I wrote for Serena Synn as part of my blog tour for The Enthronement. I thought you all might enjoy it here if you missed her on her blog.

A Day in the Life of Charity Mae.

How I Balance Full-Time Day Job and Running my Author Business

Thank you for having me on the blog today. I have noticed I am different from many of my fellow aspiring authors, and what makes me and what I do different is the difference between being published by twenty or just daydreaming for a lot of my writer friends. There are three things that is different about me than my fellow writers that helped me publish my first book while in college, publish a full series while working full-time and being a full-time student. And today, I want to share those three things as tips to help you do the same.

Tip 1: Organization!

This is a big difference between me and my aspiring writer peers. One of my friends was able to work on this and it got her from writer to author in the last year. This makes a world of difference.

You need to schedule your days. Even if you throw most of it out the window the day of, you need to plan ahead. Doing so has made a world of difference. It keeps your accountable to yourself. If you want someone else to help you need to feel free to share your plans with at trusted friend, but write it down!

There are lots of ways to keep organized but these tools are what works for me. This hopefully will give you ideas on how you can make it work for you.

Day Planner

Personally, I like writing it all down in my paper planner. I get them from I buy them in bulk to save money. I order enough for the following year in about November to make sure I have them on hand.

To make it fun, I make unique covers for them and paste them on to keep with the theme of the 9-week period they cover. I know some people like to use apps, but for me, that little day planner and putting it all in pencil and taking time to plan each week gets my mind in gear. There is just something about writing it all down on paper that helps me. The personalized covers help too. I have The Enthronement cover on my planner right now.

How to Use: Every Sunday, I fill out my planner for the week. I write down all full schedule: day job, appointments, meetings, etc. Then I write in bubbles of time I will use to work on a type of project, for example from 3:30pm-6pm I’ll write down “Write blogs/scripts”. So in that time, depending on where my energy is I’ll work on scripts for videos or blogs or a mix of both.

The second thing I do is put one thing I goal to do. I will write down four buckets: writing, marketing, reading, fun. And then write down one thing I want to do to help with that thing. For writing, I might put down “write one chapter of my next WIP”. Marketing will be making social media posts or writing blogs. Read will be making sure to have time to read a book. (Writers are readers and we need to read to keep our writing sharp.) The last bucket is fun. This is all about self-care. Doing something fun recharges your emotional batteries. I never write down what I’ll do for fun. I just put it down as a to-do and for me that will remind me to take at least 5 minutes to do something fun. It’s not a luxury. It’s a need. I need to do, Take the time! It makes a world of difference! But more on that later.

Last thing I do when filling the planner is make a list of all the little things I have to do: e-mail Sarah back, redeem that gift card before it expires, pay car registration, all those things you will forget if you don’t write them down to try to get them done throughout the day. The goal is by next Sunday to have them all checked off, but if not it’s okay we just put them on next weeks. I rarely have that blank the next Sunday, though I have managed to check them all off at the end of the week before.

Wall Calendar and White Board

The next tool I use is a wall calendar and white board. The wall calendar has marked all my deadlines, appointments, and all of that where I can see it often, giving me constant reminders. The white board is where I write down all the deadlines for keeping a book on track for my goal release date. I put them on the wall planner too, but that helps me see how far I’ve come in a project or how far I have to go. It makes it easier for me to make sure I get things to my editors and the like on time with wiggle room to hit my goals. Even when I fall behind, keeping it all in view keeps me accountable to myself.

I don’t think I’d be as successful at getting my works out in the world the way I do without them. I have so many friends who want to publish but juts don’t get it done. And 9/10 the difference between me and them comes down to these tools and actually doing the work to tick things off the list.

BONUS: Twice a year, I’ll reread a lot of the entrepreneur and writing books that inspire me and then write down my yearly or bi-annual goals and put them on the white board too. I do this at the new year and during Shark Week during the summer. I know it sounds odd, but it is something I now look forward to.

Tip 2: Self-Care

I think this one surprises people the most, but I’m 100% serious. If you are not well or happy, you will not be nearly as productive even if you spend all your time working on your projects. I find when I am happy and healthy then my creative time is not only ten-times more fun but doubly productive, if not triple or more! Do not ignore this. 10 minutes of self-care a day can equal triple the amount of work done during work time.

What that self-care looks like for you can vary, but here are some examples from me, some of which I mentioned in keeping organized as I have to make the time for it if I’m going to get this done.

  • Something fun every day. Watch a silly video, watch a movie, play a video game, just something that’s fun. No other point! It’s just for fun (being spontaneous helps too). Even when writing or working is fun for you (I am SOOO guilty of this) DON’T USE THAT! It must be pointless other than enjoyment to really work to recharge those emotional batteries.

  • Work out. Even if it’s just a 5-minute stretch or a 5-minute walk around the block. This is critical! It will make a world of difference I promise. In fact, I don’t like to think of it as working out. I like to think of it as movement. Get up and move at least 5 minutes a day. I will spend an hour a day on this if I can afford the time because I know from my experience and can promise it will help with your overall creativity and productivity.

  • Spa time. Now this doesn’t have to be going to a spa. For me this is taking time at least once a week to take an extra nice shower or bath and do all the little things we ignore sometimes if we don’t keep on it. For some people this is a duh whereas others may not. But I take time every Sunday to use a face mask, take that long shower, use that weekly body scrub or something like that. When you’re physically clean, healthy, and feel good in your body, your creativity and productivity will skyrocket.

  • Get enough sleep. I am awful at this one. I have chronic insomnia I have to take medication for. I’ve tried getting off it so many times only to fail. Because of this, I hate sleep. It’s not fun for me. But I use alarms to remind me when to start winding down my writing time to get to bed or else I promise my work will be subpar, have to be redone, and I won’t enjoy doing it nearly as much.

Tip 3 Enjoy The Work

I wish I had more tips on how to od this one, but I think this is the biggest difference between me and a lot of my aspiring author friends. I love writing the first draft. (I know. I know. I’m some freak of nature, but it’s true.) In fact, the later in the process the draft, the less I seem to enjoy it. And I’ve tried to help other people enjoy this as well ,but I’ll be honest, I think it just comes down to what you like, but here a are a few things I do to help myself enjoy the process when I lose that fire that I hope will help you.

Have a writing routine: When it’s time to write start your ritual whatever it might be. For me, I start with a little prayer (this also can be a mantra or meditation of some kind if you don’t like the idea of prayer or odes to the muse). Then I will put on my music and put on my scents. I use an air freshener or essential oil diffuser. Then I read a bit of what I last wrote to get my head into the scene then I just start writing. If I lose momentum, I’ll change songs or watch a clip of a movie or show that is similar to the scene I’m working on to get the juices going.

Environment: I mentioned how I play music and put a certain scent into the air via diffuser or air fresheners. This helps your brain know it’s time to work, and can help you get into the writing mode when used consistently. I also notice I cannot write in the same space I do my day job, so I have to shake it up by either using a different location or using only two screens instead of three like I do for my day job if I really want to work at my desk. Though one day I want to have enough space to have the writing space and working space be different desks entirely.

A Day in the Life

If you’re totally lost on how to use these tips, you’re not alone. Though its different for everyone here is how I use these tips in my day-to-day life.

I wake up around 6:30am every weekday. That gives me time to really wake up and start my day. I get dressed, get my water bottle filled, (I’m a hydration nut. I need to have a water bottle with water to pick at all day), clean up my space before I start my day job at 7:30am. I work from home currently which as an author is a huge advantage as it cuts out commute times. Because I work in a call center position, it also can give me some quiet time between phone calls to read or work on other projects which can be a huge time saver when the call center is quiet. But it’s not quiet very often, so this time is mostly devoted to the grind that pays for my investment into my author career.

I take my lunch at 11:30 and this my “me time”, and by that, I mean self-care. Normally, this means getting in a good workout or if I’m too tired for that I’ll go for a walk. If even that seems too overwhelming, I’ll relax and watch a mindless video or something until the lunch period is over. This time is critical to use well as it recharges my body and mind to be ready for creative time.

When I get off from the day job is when the real fun starts. That window between 3:30 and dinner is when I get all the marketing, branding, or non-writing projects done. I try vary it up from day to day to help me keep creative energy flowing. I organize it roughly like this:

Monday: record videos/write blogs/scripts

Tuesday: edit videos/blogs/scripts

Wednesday: Manuscript editing

Thursday: Draft Writing Day

Friday: social media

Though when I need to record an audiobook. That comes first as that takes up so much time. So, I will take as long as I have to do record one audiobook chapter a day and edit it afterwards.

These will vary. Somedays I may not even get to doing those on their days or move them around but having a set time to mange them all makes it easier. I believe in a schedule, but I also believe in throwing it all out the window when needed. For example, I had to help my brother get from the train station to the bus station one day, and so I didn’t work on any video recording on Monday. Instead, I moved it to Tuesday, and did editing either the following day or recorded less so I’d have time to edit after. I think any entrepreneur (author or otherwise) really needs to learn this skill to be able to keep their creative juices from running dry and make sure you get it all done without being overwhelmed.

As a part of handling self-care my weekend varies widely. It starts for me Friday after work. I try to do something fun and get me out of my workspace like going to a dance, watching a movie and ordering pizza, hang out with friends, something like that.

Second thing I do is, rule of thumb, I let myself sleep in as with my sleep disorder sleeping in really helps reset my batteries. On weekends when I don’t, I can tell. The following week I’m more sluggish and unhappy.

Saturday is my fun day. I do the fun things I want to do, play video games, go swimming, see a movie, go for a hike, or whatever it might be. Honestly though, most of the time I just want to write my next draft so that’s normally what I do. Just make sure to get all the fun things done (and of course that one spontaneous one fun thing a day.) Though I’m not perfect at this. I often have to spend Saturday morning doing some chores around the house like cleaning the kitchen or my work space, things like that.

Sunday is self-care 100%. I sleep in, take a relaxing bath, or shower and do all the little self-care things, like use a face mask, use my foot bath, my neck massager, or any fun spa/self-care things I would like to do. I am a religious person, so I go to my church and attend a two-hour meeting and spend time with my friends there. Then I go for a nice walk if the weather is nice (I post the pictures on Instagram more than I should), have a nice dinner and either watch movies or play games to just reset my brain and have fun to recharge my emotional batteries before starting all over again on Monday.

Putting It All Together

I know that seems like a lot, but I promise those changes make a world of difference! Doing these things has allowed me to publish my high school series, publish The Enthronement only a year later, be published by 21 and have written what will most likely be 6 books before I’m 30.

It works. I promise. It isn’t easy to do these things when they aren’t natural for you, so just work on one at a time, and in time it will make a world of difference. As one of my favorite marketing coaches says “1% a day will be 100% improvement in just over three months”


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