How to turn your annoying day job into a creative jackpot

Jul 24, 2022

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post about how to make time for your writing even with a day job. And last week I wrote about how you don’t need endless amounts of time to be a professional writer (read: you can totally rock your writing career if the day job is still a thing). 

Today, I want to talk more about how you can harness the power of that day job to feed your creativity, whether that job is time-sucking, frustrating, and relentless OR whether you actually really love it. And if you do love it – kudos to you. Seriously. That makes life so much easier. 

I’ve been in the former camp many times—jobs where I just don’t fit well, or where I struggled with the environment. And I had to learn how to flip the script, otherwise I was spending 40-50 hours a week being completely miserable.

So here’s how I turned those moments of madness into creative jackpots:

Make your least favorite coworkers/bosses into villains—or victims. This is everything if you write crime and mystery fiction. I can’t tell you how many bosses, colleagues, consultants and other random work characters I’ve killed off or imprisoned in my books. It became a game of sorts for my friends—they’d dissect every dead person to see if they could tell on whom he or she was based. This is my favorite strategy for frustrated day jobbers—it gets out SO much frustration. 

Go on the hunt for cool/unique/fun names to use in your writing. This was especially fun when I used to work in an office. I would literally walk around the floors that had a lot of cubicles and find names to use in my books. You can mix and match or you can flat out steal a really good full name. It’s a little harder being remote, but Zoom meetings always have names…and there’s always the Outlook directory. I’ve been known to use that a few times when I needed a last name in a pinch. The murdered veterinarian in my first Pawsitively Organic Mystery was named after a person I never met who worked in the call center of an insurance company I worked at.

Mine everyone for character traits. Come on—you know that gal in operations with the unreasonable love of policies has some traits that would be awesome in one of your characters. And that horrible guy who walks around all day doing nothing and pretending he’s the most important person in the building—a veritable goldmine of hateable traits to give your characters more depth.

Stealing snippets of stories. Again, very effective for in-person jobs. Grab a cup of coffee and hang out in a high traffic area and just listen to the conversations. Even a line or two of overheard dialogue can prompt a whole new story. I wrote a whole story once based on a conversation I heard where one person told the other one that “almost the whole airplane knew they were sleeping together and they thought they hid it so well.” But even if you’re not in person, the small talk at the start of Zoom meetings can be really informative too. The things people say never fail to amaze me.  

Bonus idea: Tell people you’re a writer, and I’ll bet you your annual salary that you’ll get a hundred ideas of things to write about thrown at you. Most of them will be crap, but chances are there will be a nugget or two you can leverage – and your coworker will be over the moon to be mentioned in your acknowledgements!

I hope this gives you a new perspective on work (yes, even if you love your job). Which one will you try first? Head over to IG and let me know!

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