How to write a comic book when you’ve got a full-time job

So you want to write a comic book, but that pesky alarm clock keeps going off insisting you spend eight consecutive hours doing something else for someone else all day long.

I feel you. What kind of superhuman can work a full-time job (plus commute), clean the house, take care of kids, run errands, cook, spend time with friends and family… and somehow find time to write 4-6 issues of a comic book series?

Well, what if I told you superpowers don’t come into it…

That there are secret pockets of time hidden throughout the day…

Keanu Reeves whoa

It’s true! With the proper motivation and discipline, anyone can write a comic book at the same time as bringing in a regular salary.

(I say “anyone” because this is how I wrote Milky and I am an idiot person who just called a locksmith out because I thought both locks on my front door were suddenly buggered. Turns out I’d just got the keys mixed up. True story).

It’s not easy to write a comic book and deal with everything else life throws at you, but it’s probably a lot simpler than you think.

Here’s a few tips that worked for me…

Make use of dead time to write

Writing a comic book on public transport is a dangerous game when you’ve got a sweaty commuter’s armpit threatening to swallow your face whole.

Crowded sybway

But even if you only have a free thumb to get your ideas down with, there’s a ton of smartphone apps that’ll make that commute a lot more productive.

I like to lay out my comic book scripts on Trello first – it’s an awesome tool I think a lot of comic book writers would get a kick out of.

You can use Trello to lay out each page and panel on digital index cards, which can be moved around and edited easily before you’re ready to commit it to a comic book script.

It’s also perfect for when you need to hold on for dear life with your other hand while the bus driver is doing his best impression of Sandra Bullock in Speed.

Join a writing group

If you find it difficult to make time for writing comics and have a social life – joining a writing group is a good way to kill two Supermans with one Kryptonite.

It doesn’t have to be a group specifically for comic book writers if there isn’t one in your town. The idea is to surround yourself with like-minded people who understand your ambition and can offer you help and advice with your project.

And if you have a cheeky little glass of wine together when you’ve hit your word counts, what’s the harm?

Use your lunch break to write comics

Assuming you get an hour for lunch, you’ve actually already got a decent chunk of time for writing a comic book built right into your work day.

All you need is a place to set up a laptop and some kind of pre-prepared food you can eat while you work (hooray for sandwiches!)

Maybe there’s a quiet little restaurant close to your workplace where you won’t be disturbed. Or if you work in an office, perhaps you can book a meeting room if you feel like a bit of a muppet writing at your desk.

Kermit typing

WARNING: Colleagues you usually eat with might accuse you of being an unsociable misery guts if you skip every lunch break to write your comic book.

But if you just tell them how important it is to you, they’ll understand. You can always grab a quick coffee together later in the afternoon or maybe set Friday lunchtimes aside for hanging out.

Set a specific time to write and stick to it

If you’re anything like me, a good portion of a weekday evening kind of disappears into YouTube, Netflix or some other productivity black hole.

Netflix binge

Reclaim that time to write comic books!

Taking 30-45 minutes as soon as I get home to chill out a bit before I start writing works for me.

Then I’ll work for a couple of hours before kicking back for the rest of the evening.

BEWARE: It’s just as important to be disciplined about stopping as it is starting.

Otherwise your brain will frazzle, you’ll make zero comics and you might murder a person…

Write comics like it’s your job at the weekend

When your Monday to Friday is chockablock with stuff that gets in the way of your comic book dreams, the best time to get words down on the page is going to be the weekend.

I love a lie-in as much as the next person.

But if the first thing I do is write comics, it’s much easier to get up and out of bed on a Saturday.

Shaun of the Dead

I’m not militant about it, because you do need to take your foot off the gas a bit after a long week.

But as long as you set your alarm for eight hours after you went to bed (assuming you got your head down at a reasonable hour) you should have a decent five hour block to write before lunch.

IMPORTANT: Make sure you also take time to relax, spend time with loved ones and just go for a walk at the weekend.

When your brain isn’t focused on writing, it has a tendency to come up with decent ideas for comic books all by itself!

Get up early in the week to write

I felt a great disturbance in the Force – as if millions of aspiring comic book writers with full-time jobs suddenly cried out in terror and realised they need to wake up at crazy o’clock to get this thing done.

But if you’re going easy on yourself about the exact time you rise on weekend mornings, you can afford to be a bit stricter Monday to Friday.

This tip is especially useful if you don’t get much satisfaction from your day job.

Because if you get straight on with writing your comic book before you go to work, you’ve already achieved something meaningful before everyone else has had their cornflakes.

Getting up early to write comics probably takes more discipline than any other tip on this list.

But if you love writing, it’s way easier than getting up to go to the gym, for example.

Speaking of which…

Get up and go to the gym

For real

What? Another thing I need to find time for on top of writing comics?

This is probably the most counter-intuitive piece of advice in this article. But don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!

The energy you get from being in shape really helps you write more comic book scripts: it puts you in a better mood, your mind feels clearer, you’ll be more motivated and it’s a good way to introduce more discipline into your life.

You don’t have to go every morning, but two or three times a week should give you enough pep to power through your day job and have enough energy left over for your funny book writing in the evening.

Automate and streamline time-sucking jobs

If you’re serious about writing a comic book, you’ll need to drastically reduce the amount of time you spend doing life admin.

I live in a very small flat. Like, crazy small…

Small house

But it certainly has its benefits. Between my girlfriend and I, we can clean it from top to bottom in about 40 minutes, sometimes less.

Get this done first thing on Saturday morning and you have a nice, clean space to write your comic book in until lunchtime.

You can also take advantage of free food shopping deliveries to cut out unnecessary trips to the supermarket. You usually have to spend over a certain amount – so we buy stuff in bulk and store it wherever we can in our tiny flat (it’s like Tetris, but with low-cost toiletries).

Auto-labelling emails and writing templates so it’s easier to reply will also save you a bunch of time.

There’s actually a ton of ways you can automate your life to make more time to write comic books.

So there you go. Even if only some of that works for you, you’ll find at least a few hours a week to dedicate to writing your comic book. The important thing is to stick at it!

If you want to see what I came up with after implementing some of these time-savers and energy boosters, Milky: The Complete Collection is now funding on Kickstarter.

…or sign up for the Milky new issue alert and get the complete first chapter free!

And let us know in the comments if you have any more tips to squeeze a bit more comic book writing time out of the week.

Good luck!

Featured image by Victoria Heath on Unsplash.

8 thoughts on “How to write a comic book when you’ve got a full-time job

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