I was recently corresponding with someone who asked how I managed to get the initial draft of my novel done while also working full time. I felt that my response might prove useful to some of you on the verge of diving into your own projects! I've done some slight reformatting for content. Enjoy!
The way to accomplish anything while maintaining the nine-to-five grind is to sacrifice in other areas at home and stay the course day-to-day. If I boil it down to the core, that's all the advice I have.
Frankly, it's like losing weight. You sacrifice foods you love and dedicate yourself to 20 minutes to an hour of intensive training, 5 days a week, 6 if possible. Over time, the efforts compound, and you find your rhythms. You look forward to that part of the day, and you take advantage of it. When you're not on a clock, the 20 minutes turns into 2 hours because you enjoy yourself, and you see real results over the long term.
Because I am not always good at seeing distant goals, however, I also developed rewards for myself. 1 minute of writing = 1 penny for my Lego fund, which means if i want to buy that $20 Lord of the Rings Lego Shelob set, I gotta put in 2,000 minutes of writing. It's not the primary motivator, but it is an extra something to give some incentive.
In the first 6 months of developing my writing habits, I also did accountability, wherein every two weeks, I wrote two guys and told them what I accomplished and provided them a time-log. Knowing I had to this helped me on days when I would have preferred not to bother.
In the end, it comes down to your ability to be disciplined with time and energies. I've talked to a number of guys who have "a novel in them", but they won't give up their video games or DVR. Those novels have gone unwritten as a result.
Can't be that simple, right? Well, no. And yes. It's not that simple because good writing takes time, and it can be taxing on your faculties over the long term wherein you're not seeing your Pullitzer or your name on the bestseller list. But it is that simple in terms of accomplishing the work itself. Sure, you will only get from your writing and marketing what you are willing to give to it. That is true and clear, but first thing first is getting the words onto paper, and well, I am living proof that the above-referenced methodology works.