Columns > Published on February 1st, 2017

5 Tips for Turning Your Day Job into a Secret Writing Office

People like to approach me and complain about how they’d love to be a writer, if only they had more free time. They claim that if their day jobs aren’t getting in the way, then it’s their friends and family. I say that complaint is bullshit. If you’re a writer, you can find time to write, otherwise, you know, maybe you shouldn’t be a writer. This article is not about alienating your friends and family so you have enough time to write (stay tuned for that article someday in the future). It’s about finding time to write while working a day job. Not after you’ve clocked out and gone home. I mean while you’re still on the clock. I write all my books while working a night shift at a hotel. I’m the goddamn expert when it comes to getting paid for writing when you’re supposed to be doing other things.

Every workplace will come with a unique set of pros and cons when setting up a secret writing office. It’s important to remind yourself that a writing office does not need to be stationary. In fact, offices work best when they’re constantly on the move, always shifting into new creations.

This article cannot possibly come close to tackling every type of job that exists. It won’t even make a dent. But it will assume at least one of the following obstacles are present: cameras, asshole managers, and/or nosy customers. If none of these apply to you, then there’s a good chance you’ve already set up a writing office at your day job, and this article is meaningless.

But if you’re hungry for ideas, consider...

05. Frequent Bathroom Breaks

Some people get really uncomfortable when you talk to them about pooping. If someone ever gives you trouble about being late somewhere, they’re guaranteed to shut their mouth if you claim to have been suffering from a severe case of diarrhea. I say time-limited writers use this magic trick to their advantage. Where is an employee the safest during their shift? Inside a bathroom stall. If the business is on the up-and-up, there shouldn’t be any surveillance cameras spying on you. And, ideally, managers will probably not follow you inside and strike up an interrogation. Also, if there happens to be a customer in the bathroom as you’re hiding in a stall, there’s no way for them to know you’re an employee. It’s a safe zone that allows you to bust out a notepad or cell phone and write in ten-to-fifteen minute bursts. I don’t recommend exceeding fifteen minutes in any given session, as a manager might check to make sure you haven’t died, but I do recommend taking at least one bathroom break every hour. Make sure you frequently groan and hold your stomach. Shout, “Watch out, I gotta poop!” and flee toward the door if you have to. Even if you don’t have to, you should still do it and report back in the comments so I can laugh. And if you do end up pooping as you knock out a couple hundred words, the more power to you. Not only are you a now a paid writer, but you’re also a paid butthole, which is perhaps the best kind of butthole.

04. Dictation

Maybe you are uncomfortable with elaborate poop lies. That’s okay. They aren’t meant for everybody. As difficult as it is to believe, there are other ways to get some decent writing work done without ever stepping foot in a bathroom. Odds are, you probably own a smartphone. Unless you work at a place where you physically have to lock your phone up at the beginning of your shift—and even then, you probably still keep it in your pocket on the down-low—you can use your phone to secretly record writing throughout the entire day. Most phones come with a voice-to-text feature, and if yours doesn’t, I’m sure you can download an app designed for this very purpose. Enable the app either at the beginning of your shift or save it until inspiration strikes, and speak the sentences aloud while your phone documents what you say while hidden safely inside your pocket. Dictation is especially useful when cameras are in the vicinity or you have a job where both hands are constantly busy, like a delivery driver or a porn star. However, there are some negative aspects of using voice-to-text to write. For one thing, it will not just pick up your voice, but everybody else who is talking nearby. Also, passing customers may notice you talking to yourself and become concerned that you’re an undiagnosed schizophrenic. Trust me, you do not want to have the schizophrenia talk with your boss. It does not end well. Not for you. Not for your boss. And definitely not for the voices in your head that are always trying to convince you to murder your neighbor.

03. Don’t Underestimate the Powers of a Clipboard

It has been scientifically proven that holding a clipboard makes you seem seventy-percent more important than you probably are. Walk into any establishment with a clipboard and a pen and people will just start giving you free shit. The same holds true for employees with clipboards. Nobody will mess with the person focused on a mysterious sheet of paper attached to a clipboard. Surely this person is in charge of many things, and is very busy with an important task. Use a clipboard and nobody will interrupt you. Hell, you might even earn a raise.

02. Email Yourself

This only works for jobs where you’re able to operate a computer, but what I recommend is logging on to either your personal email or your work’s email and opening up a new message box to jot down your writing. After you’re finished, simply email the writing to yourself, then copy/paste it into a word document once you get home. If for some reason you have to close the tab while writing due to a nosy boss, the writing won’t even be lost due to the email server autosaving drafts. Google Docs is also nifty for this reason, but in my experience most work computers can’t seem to process the Google Drive software necessary for utilizing Docs. Or maybe I'm just stupid and can't figure it out on the desktop at my hotel.

01. Use Your Body

When all else fails, roll up your sleeves and take a pen to your flesh. We were given bodies for a reason, and that reason is to write all over them. Our bodies are the original paper. Every second we aren’t scribbling short stories and poems on them is another second they’ve gone to waste. Sure, maybe your managers will notice this odd behavior, but will they terminate you? Probably not. Think of it this way. If you were a manager, would you want to be the one who tells the crazy person who’s writing all over their body that they’re fired? The crazier and scarier you behave, the longer you’ll keep your job, and the more writing you’ll accomplish.

You can thank me by signing over all future royalty checks to my name.

About the author

Max Booth III is the CEO of Ghoulish Books, the host of the GHOULISH and Dog Ears podcasts, the co-founder of the Ghoulish Book Festival, and the author of several spooky books, including Abnormal Statistics, Maggots Screaming!, Touch the Night, and others. He wrote both the novella and film versions of We Need to Do Something, which was released by IFC Midnight in 2021 and can currently be streamed on Hulu. He was raised in Northwest Indiana and now lives in San Antonio.

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