Monday, March 10, 2014

Working 9 to 5

DEBORAH CROMBIE: We've been having the same argument in our house for twenty years. (As long as Rick and I have been married, come this May.)

Rick: You're self-employed. You can work whenever you want. Why don't you do the errands during the week when things are busy? I'd never go out shopping on Saturday! You're crazy!

Me: But it just doesn't work that way! I'll never make up the work time on the weekend. We do stuff. My friends are off work and I want to spend time with them, too. And besides, everyone in New York works Monday to Friday, so I can't very well be out gallivanting around during the work week. (Okay, maybe I didn't actually say "gallivanting.")

Rick: (Shaking his head in disgust.) Okay, then. Just don't complain when it takes you two hours and body armor to get through Costco on a Saturday afternoon...

And so it goes. Impasse. And of course, he's right. But I am, too. And I do often get a lot of work done on the weekends. The phone doesn't ring, business emails don't have to be answered, and there's a certain freedom and quiet that I don't often find on a weekday. But that isn't the same as SCHEDULING Saturday or Sunday as a workday!

So, fellow REDS, am I just contrary? (Hank, you are the only one of us that works a full time job AND writes (AND promotes like nobody else!) so we will just assume you're Superwoman here...)   Do you set yourself a 9-5, Monday-Friday week? And if so, do you stick to it?

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN:  Yes, I've had two essentially full time jobs since 2007-ish--and I can tell you it is gradually becoming impossible. One hundred percent. If my employers weren't so enthusiastic and forgiving,  I'm not sure what I would do. But I can tell you this: I work all the time. ALL THE TIME. I can also tell you that although it has been rewarding, in every way imaginable, it is also not sustainable. After 7 years of no vacations and 7 day work weeks I m feeling a lit-tle tired. However--it is worth it.

One more thing--without scheduling and planning it would never happen. I agree, Debs, there's a rhythm to the work and it is helpful to be in it. I also remind myself to remember (!) that this is a GOOD dilemma. Too much to do? Lovely! Lucky! Hurray.

LUCY BURDETTE: Honestly Hank, I don't know how you keep this up. I vote that you take a vacation!

Here it is, Saturday morning, and I'm working. Not well (obviously, because I'm adding to this blog instead of my word count.) I suppose it all depends on where I am in the process. If it's crunch time with deadline barreling toward me, the weekends are no longer sacred. The one time I won't work--because my brain is fried--is in the evenings. And you're right about the publishing business too, Debs--they definitely don't answer emails on the weekend the way we writers do!

RHYS BOWEN: I write 2 books a year, this year 3 books, which means I don't have a lot of breathing time. I have to get that first draft finished in 3 months so I have time to polish and promote. Which means I write every day, weekends included... unless there is something really big like a family birthday. I try to get my work done in the morning so I have some time to work out, relax and shop in the afternoon.

All goes well until I have a month like this one and I'm on the road, trying to get snippets of work done on planes. Not easy. I don't know how Hank does it. I feel like I'm running on a wheel all the time and it must be much worse for her.

SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: I work 9 to 3, but after 3 comes my other job — being mom to a nine-year-old. I make up for this by working pretty much seven days a week, having a daily word count, and taking intensive "off-grid" weeks where I go somewhere quiet and just work pretty much round the clock. However, I just do one book a year, so Hank and Rhys — wowza! But I do use the freelancing thing as a reason to go places at "off-peak times," so Debs, I'm with Rick on that one!

HALLIE EPHRON: I write every day so if it weren't for my husband's work week I'd have no idea what day of the week it is. On weekends he's around to bother me and make me feel guilty if I'm chasing a deadline and don't feel like I can stop and play. But most days I'm fried by afternoon so that's when errands get done.

Two books a year? No way. One every two years is more my speed, and even then I'm crunching at the end.

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Hallie and I are on the same production schedule.....:-)  I'm a M-F worker,  for much the same reason as Susan - weekends are for family and kid time. Of course, since home and office are the same thing, it's not unusual for me to dip into some sort of work on Saturday and Sunday, even if it's just commenting on our blog. Oddly enough, in the summer, I often boost my schedule and work six or seven days a week. Why? Because Ross is home for the school vacation (all author-moms should have a teacher for a spouse!) and can take care of all the stuff that I'm usually responsible for when school is in session. Also,  because I know I'm going to want to take guilt-free days off when we go on our summer weekend trips or our week at the shore.

I'd like to try that off-grid week thing, Susan. I've gone to friends houses once or twice to get away from it all and have found that to be very productive.

DEBS: I never said I didn't work on weekends, only that I didn't like to take time off M-F and schedule a weekend day as a work day. As it turned out, I've worked on and off all weekend--as happens most weekends. There is, somehow, a little sense of play to it, as if you are sneaking in a treat. Or so I tell myself...

And I, too, love the off-grid thing. Even between my upcoming trips to Tucson and Monterey (Tucson Festival of Books and Left Coast Crime) I've given myself three days in Monterey just to write. Really. I am SO looking forward to it.  And London is a huge "off-grid" time for me. I've finished two books there--a fabulous experience. The only schedule I keep in London is Saturdays at Portobello Market!

My conclusions from this impromptu survey? Rhys, I have my knickers in a twist, to say the least, over all my upcoming trips, and trying to figure out how to meet all my commitments AND write. I don't know how you do what you do. And I'm going to drink a toast to you when I see you in Scottsdale... and Tucson... and Monterey... Maybe you can give me a Rhys-stamina booster??? 

And Hank, where were you in that last post I saw on Facebook? Palm Springs? Can I even ask?

And the final consensus? Writers are dull, dull, dull. If you want a good time girl--or guy--look somewhere else. We pretty much work all the time--although some of us are obviously more efficient than others...

So how about you, readers? If you are mistress or master of your own time, do you work a five-day week? Or if you only wish you had the option (assuming you realize it's not the cakewalk we would all like to imagine) would you set the weekly clock??

P.S.: And Hank really needs to take a vacation!!!!


  1. I vote for a vacation for Hank, too!

    Our family “free time” has never been weekends because one or the other of us has always had a job that generally required working on weekends, so we’re used to schedules that don’t fit the usual Monday through Friday, nine to five sort of workday . . . . If it needs to get done, it becomes a priority whether it’s a weekend or not and we’re good with it . . . .

  2. **Teachers are constantly working also. We come home from school, start planning for the next day. This happens each night. Many of us also have "part time" jobs to supplement the teacher pay. This usually involves teaching night school courses (or taking them if needed). On the weekends we have papers to correct(like your word count) and more planning. **Summers off?? No, because we do more part-time work then also. Factor in family commitments, day care if you have small children, teachers too are working all the time. We understand your "schedules".

  3. Put me in the work all the time column, and Deborah, you and I must have the same husband. A lot of my weekend "free time" events are writing related, so that's working too. I do errands on the weekend because I have a hard time concentrating when other people are around, and there is sound. Not noise, sound. I can work in a coffee shop or some public place with no problem, but at home, I need silence. My husband can work on his laptop with the TV going, and people talking, and a marching band in the next room. Drives me crazy.

    Sorry, what was the question?

  4. We need to talk again about "Write First," that crazy idea someone had about working on our fiction before anything else. It's almost baseball season, which means baseball box scores will compete with Amazon sales numbers for my first morning go-to. I need a re-education fast.

  5. I think that was Jan Brogan with the Write First idea. But I need my hour of internet before I start work in the morning, or I would be too distracted wondering what's up in the blog and facebook world!

    Now that I have ditched the day job, I also work every day, but I'm also in the toast-by-late-afternoon camp, so I'll head out for errands or make appointments after 3. On weekends I'm more likely to do the work of blog posts and interviews rather than writing, although sometimes a Saturday morning hour-long sprint can be very productive when I'm writing a first draft.

    Hank - retire from the day job already! No good to be tired all the time.

  6. I really don't know how you ladies to it. Your schedules are just so intense. But I think when it's your "calling," there really are no other options but to get it all done.

    I work a standard 9-5 job, thankfully, one that I enjoy for the most part. But then, I also have to find time to read. While to most of us, this doesn't seem like a chore, when you know you have to write at least a review a week, there are times when you have to push yourself all the same.

    Then there are the other people in our lives who want to spend time with us, watch tv, go to dinner, etc.

    The writing aspect of the blog comes to me fairly naturally, so while I do have to keep to a schedule and make myself sit down at those times and write for the blog, it usually doesn't feel like work, unless I have a difficult time talking about a particular book. These are also the times that I use to write my interview questions, research new books coming out and request ARCs, etc. All that behind the scenes stuff that most people don't realize bloggers go through.

    But I feel fulfilled by my work on the blog, so I can't let that go. If I could go part-time on the day job, I certainly would. That will happen eventually, but for now, I just keep plugging along.

  7. I'm in the write 7 days a week camp, too, usually with raw writing in the morning and revising in early afternoon. And my brain is mush by four. I take two breaks. Drive to post office and come home and eat lunch in late morning and exercise at mid-afternoon. A dull and routine life, but the writing and writing connected tasks do get done on time. And somehow I still love my "job." I solve the problem of losing writing time because of signings and other promotional stuff (other than my favorite conferences) by not doing them.

  8. See, I think Hank is possibly insane (said with love!). Or superhuman.

    I have a day job also (I work 6-3), and I think the biggest challenge of balancing that and book writing is that I manage a dozen people, so I'm dealing with personalities and emotion and *doing* all day. Which means I simply can't do the work-all-the-time thing. I have to have time for refilling the well and simply staring at a wall, not thinking about anything or anyone at all (my husband is very understanding). Of course, my husband is also very self-sufficient, and we don't have kids. So more time gained there.

    My publisher would like me to produce a book a year. So far I've only managed one about every year and a half. Of course, I also manage to volunteer for (probably) too much (e.g., Bouchercon 2014, a local literary organization, editing an anthology) ... but that's also part of what we have to do, right?

    How much volunteering for events or organizations to you all do? (Obviously, Hank has some of us beat there, too.) I'm trying to balance getting my name out there and staying sane (perhaps not successfully).

  9. I work a traditional work week as an accountant. During my off time, I'm watching TV and writing reviews. And I try to fit trips to the store in there, too.

  10. Hank, we need you to take a vacation, honey. Please don't burn out!

    I got tons more done when my kids were here and I had to be there for them than I do now, when I have seemingly endless blocks of time. Something about needing things to bump up against, I guess.

    In fact, I should be writing right this minute, since my deadline is TODAY.

    See ya later.

  11. My wife is self-employed, runs a modest business. She doesn't work when SHE wants, though. She works when her CLIENTS want. In my experience most self-employed have their business hats on 24/7 and work harder than anyone.

    Every picture of Hank I see, and last fall in person at Deadly Ink, I have to say she seems like she's having the time of her life. Don't stop 'til you've had enough!

  12. I have great respect for writers who try to juggle writing with a day job. I have friends who get up at 5 every morning to squeeze in some writing and still manage to finish a book a year.
    At least I can stop and make a cup of coffee or wander around when I feel like it.
    But after a week with a different city every day, I'm feeling as if I need a spa day, not3 panels and 4 signings at the Tucson Festival of books.

  13. I think we just need to come clean about Hank.

    The truth is, Hank is a robot. The Hanktronic 2000, to be exact - a highly sophisticated artificial intelligence encased in a titanium-framed body. Along with working more than humanly possible, Hank can also crush cars with her bare hands. Ask her to show you sometime. It's really cool.

    P.S. Don't tell Jonathan. He doesn't know.

  14. I think you're onto something there, Julia!

    Too funny.

  15. That's my problem, Julia! I'm only the Tammybot 1400. Clearly I need an upgrade....

  16. The Hanktronic 2000 also has impeccable fashion sense. As if the robot needed more positive attributes.

  17. Timely question, as I take a Monday morning break and look at all those "details," as I call the errands and phone calls and thises and thats on my list. How can I ever do them? Triage.

    Turns out, now that I'm doing something I absolutely love, I'm quite the little work-aholic! Mr. Right and I took a weekend vacay across the valley -- ski, read, eat great food -- and it was lovely! And all the little notes I came home with for the WIP? Off to incorporate them right now!

    (And Hank, yes. I get out of breath even thining of all you do!)

  18. Julia, you've given away Hank's secret!!! And you only have to feed her almonds and celery!

  19. Julia, so funny! The Hanktronic 2000 indeed. Hank, if you're waiting until you've become a huge success at writing to quit your day job, well, guess what? You have been there for a long time! You obviously must love all you do, and since you do it all so well, it makes sense to keep doing it. But, please take a vacation. Even as I say that, I can't imagine Hank just sitting and doing nothing.

    Actually, I don't see how any of you authors do as much as you do and still find time to write the great books you write. I would think that a writing schedule is mandatory in order to meet publishers' deadlines. Rhys, three books this year? You might just be a robot, too.

    I am either fortunate or not so fortunate that I don't have to schedule time much anymore. I think a schedule keeps you more productive. I do have my habits, which include first online activity of the day (or last if I'm up late) is reading and commenting on this blog. Then, I do book reviews if I have any to do that day. Although my schedule is loose, my reading (and there's lots of that) often centers around reading and reviewing any ARCs, as I feel a real responsibility to accomplish that in a timely manner. Then, if there are any book events, I'm attending, such as the Virginia Festival of the Book next week, I am busy reading authors for that and reviewing. And, I fit in other books as I can, too. I do have my blog, too, and I would like to develop a better schedule and consistency with that. I should be inspired by all of your schedules here. With my book page on FB, I check in there daily, commenting on posts that others have added, adding material, and answering membership requests. I really do need to get more scheduled though.

    Of course, the beauty of no schedule is that I can pick up and go see my grandkids whenever they are available and do friend activities pretty much when I want to. As a former teacher, when your life is definitely not your own, it is a sweet deal to focus on family, friends, and reading.

  20. I have always admired anyone who has the discipline to work from home or be self-employed. I am afraid I would set schedules and deadlines, then just get sidetracked. I needed the M-F, 8 to 5 routine of a job. I did have a part time job and full time job for 14 years, and actually loved the part time work since it was at a bookstore. I am now retired and only work part time. Much better, and one thing I love is that I can run errands during the week.

  21. LOL Kathy Emerson--that's a very clever technique!

    Julia, I think it's almonds and wine, rather than almonds and celery...

    Rhys--spa day--I'm in!

    About the volunteering--I do a lot of that too. Library, church, Crimebake, sisters in does get to be like a second job!

  22. Martinis, too. Don't forget the martinis.

  23. Yes, vacation for Hank.

    I also have (for the time being) a 9-5 job. I cart my MacBook to work every day, and write my 1-1.5k words during my lunch break. If I'm lucky, I get some time in the evenings. Saturdays are, well, a total writing loss. That's usually when I'm doing family things. I generally get a few hours on Sunday. I guess it all works. I wish I had more writing time, but, you take what you can get.

    As an aside, I work from home on Fridays. My husband always assumes that this means I can pay bills, run errands, and do chores. Um, sweetie, that's not the kind of work they're paying me to do. =)

  24. I'm in the give-Hank-a-vacation group. Never saw anyone work so hard and always look so lovely and act so sweet while doing it.

    It's pretty much work all the time here, as well. I don't get as much done on weekends because I try to spend time with my husband then. And now that my youngest is back home with us for a while, I just get up early on weekends to write so I can have the whole day and evening for family.

    My big trick to learn is how to work while at conferences or on book tour the way Rhys and Hank do. I'm not very good at that yet and can see that I need to get much better. Perhaps you two could do a post on how you manage to write your books while on the road, Rhys and Hank.

  25. My most productive time is the early morning, but if I check my e-mails or Facebook, I can get lost in them and never get back to work. When I am working on a book, I usually do so from the moment I wake up until the dog and my bladder force me away from the computer. But it does take a certain discipline-- fraught with guilt-- to stay away from "incoming."

  26. Maybe Hank has cloned herself? There's on Hank at the TV station, one Hank writing at a desk, one Hank on tour, etc.?

  27. When I was in school and working four part-time jobs, I was afraid I would fail my courses. At the end of the first term I was surprised to learn that I had done better than ever and better than my classmates who did not work. That was my biggest and most worthwhile lesson I learned in school. Ever.

    I was in school full-time until I was 52. I am sure that the scheduling and rhythm that Hank speaks of is what made that possible for me. My jobs were very enjoyable, and they were multipurpose. I made sure of that. They added to my educational plan. They would help me move forward. They were either fun or very interesting. Unless they were valuable in other ways they had to cut my expenses or support my physical life. I never turned down a job, because it didn't pay. They all pay in some way.

  28. Whatever you JRW ladies are doing, it's working! But I do agree that Hank deserves a vacation.

    I find that I do my best work at ANYTHING if I have a deadline. Working under pressure seems to bring out the best in me.

  29. Aaww...I know it's funny, but I just got home from work...and so lovely to see you all--and all these kind words! So--relay, reassuring.

    (And I am going to tell JOnathan that that's the reason I need all the shoes! There are THREE of us!YAY!)

    Truly--I am so grateful..and love you all.

  30. Aw, Hank, you know how much we all love you, too! A shame there aren't really three of you. The more Hanks the better.

    For that matter, we could clone the Reds. The more Jungle Reds the better!

  31. 7 years Hank !!!!!!!
    You need to take a VACATION !!

    As a wanna be writer since I was a little kid, but absolutely no creativity in the writing department, I take my hat off to all of you !!!

    I make up for in reading the books others have the creativity to write :-)

    You all produce amazing work, professional books that are fun and interesting to read.

    I've had the pleasure of being online friends with Debs for.......hmmmmm can't remember how long now !!

  32. Also had the pleasure of finally meeting Debs in person in Fla 2 years ago.

    We were in Fla taking care of MIL who had cancer and I saw Debs was doing a talk about 1-1/2hrs away so we were able to make that, then DH and I had the pleasure of taking Debs to lunch and visiting for a few hours which was awesome !!

    Her talk on her books was great and I was impressed, my non-reading DH actually paid attention and asked me about something Debs said in her talk.....wonders will never cease, I expected to be nudging him awake as he snored sitting there :)

    Sept 2013 found me heading home to upstate NY to visit my BFF from school......She lives in Idaho, both our hubbies promised if Cher and Paul were able to make his nieces wedding in upstate NY that Cher & I would get an entire day to visit (been 35 yrs), work was slow for DH so we headed to NY

    A few days before leaving Debs posted she was going to Bouchercon in NY - found out it was in Albany......OMG I could not believe it, told Donny - I HAD to go, we were about 1/2hr from there over w/e before heading to Adirondacks

    So I'm reading the brochure and another online friend/writer, Elly Griffiths, was actually doing a book signing, coming from England

  33. SO 2 of my fave writers in the same spot on a weekend I was going to be close to Albany......could not believe my luck

    What a treat - DH dropped me off (found a place to park and napped - no way he was wandering around a writers convention)

    So much fun, I did some shopping, then headed over to where Elly was signing so I'd be there when she was done.

    Sitting at the same table as Elly, was HANK !!

    SO nice to meet Hank and get my book that I just bought signed, thank you Hank!!

    After Elly's last guest at table for a bit, I walked up and said "Hi Elly, I'm Mar from Tennessee, she jumped up and came around for a big hug.......she was shocked to see me there

    I had emailed her I'd be there, she hadn't received email, so was a surprise....some more people came to her table so I said I"d be back and went to look for Debs

    Found Debs and had a nice visit with her, then took her over so she could meet Elly.

    then Elly and I went outside and visited until she had to meet her publisher.

    I was only there a few hours, we had plans later that day so I did not get to attend any sessions :(

    But, getting to say hello to Hank and get my book signed, then spending some time with Debs and Elly was so worth it

    To those non-writers here, if you ever get a chance to go to Bouchercon, you won't reget taking the time

    Or if you are someplace where one of your fave authors is doing a talk or book signing.....GO, you won't regret it.

    I think most author's love to hear from their readers

    If I am ever anywhere and any of the JRW's are going to be there, I will be attending !!

    So a mini vacation to see my BFF, ended up with seeing Debs, meeting Hank and Elly......what fun

    and Cher & I did get an entire day to visit, omg it was awesome but went by way too fast

    I also got to see a few friends from school, been more years than I care to count

    Spent 3 days/2 nights with sbrother & sil

    All in all a fantastic vacation with the bonus of Bouchercon

    As for a schedule, my best jobs were when I worked in hospitals, work every other w/e so a day off during the week each week.

    Was so nice to run errands when most people were working, I rarely went to store, mall anywhere on my w/e off.....

    For those of you who mainly work M-F, take a morning off suring the week ocasionally and do your errands, less people, traffic and less stress :)

    I tend to think, I'd have issues meeting deadlines writing a book !

    Keep writing ladies, I know I am not the only one who admirers all of your hard work

    I not only give you so much credit for writing great books, but you keep this blog going with such interesting topics

    THANKS !!!


    P.S. - if you have not read Elly Griffith's books, check them out.

    Her 2 main character is a forensic archaeologist and a DCI - great books

    Just checked my Tablet and Elly's new book was downloaded an hour ago, Yeah !!!!
    hardcover is in the mail !

    sorry for the rambling on, guess there is a reason I don't write - I'd have 1000 pages to tell a 400 page story ;)

  34. Hank, we love you sooo much!!! You should have all the shoes you want and the vacation!