Technical writer by day, creative writer by night
Lisa Katzenberger is a picture book author, an active member of SCBWI, and works as a technical writer to fund her writing conference habit. When she’s not writing, she’s in mom-mode with her boy-girl twins and husband in their hundred year-old Victorian house. Her new book, National Regular Average Ordinary Day, will be released in Summer 2020 from Penguin Workshop.
Could you describe what you do when you’re not writing?
I work part-time as a freelance technical writer for a software company. I write help articles describing how to use the software products.
Do you have a writing schedule? If yes, could you describe how it goes?
Kind of. I try to get up early, about 5 or 6 a.m. a few mornings a week and do my picture book writing before my kids wake up. Then I get them off to school and focus on my day job (I work from home).
Once the kids are home from school, I can sneak in a little more writing. This happens while they are in gymnastics class, or playing together in the basement, or watching a show. Even getting in a few extra minutes makes a difference.
It has taken me several years to get to this balance – it certainly did not happen overnight.
Then I usually get some writing time on weekend mornings if we don’t have an early soccer or TBall game. I’ve followed this routine for about a year, since I’ve had a more steady technical writing job.
Do you have a target of how many words or pages you write in a day?
No, I don’t have goals on words or pages. I just try to spend time in front of the keyboard most days, writing something.
Where do you usually write?
I write at my dining room table, which is usually full of homework assignments, abandoned water bottles, books, crumbs from breakfast I haven’t cleaned up. But, our dining room is surrounded by big bay windows and it makes me feel like I’m not stuck inside.
Do you like to write alone or with a writing group?
I write alone. When I get together with my writing friends I end up talking too much!
Ideally, what time of the day is the best time for you to write?
Morning is the best time for sure. I absolutely cannot write at night. Once I start dinner, I know that my writing is done for the day.
Do you get inspiration from your day job? Why or why not?
I would never consider technical writing to be inspirational, but it definitely affects my writing style. It has helped me learn to self-edit, and spot extra words or clunky phrasing.
If you had the option, would you choose to quit your day job and write full time?
Yes! Although I know myself well enough to know that I would need another creative pursuit to stay focused. I am not good at doing one thing for an extended amount of time (which is one reason I only work part-time) so I would need a hobby or task to break up the day.
What do you do if you fail to follow your writing schedule or don’t get to write as often as you’d like? Does it affect your day/s?
It doesn’t affect my day, but I do feel an itch to write if I haven’t had time for a bit.
Between your day job and writing, how do you fit in time with your family/partner/social circle, etc.?
This is something I’ve worked at for a long time and I’ve just recently found the right balance. When my kids (8-year-old twins) were born, I took care of them full-time. It wasn’t until they attended preschool that I had time again to write.
When they went to kindergarten full-time, it made my schedule much more open. I made a choice to drag myself out of bed early so I could write and then when they are home from school, be in Mom mode. I do write on the weekends, but not a ton, as I try to save that for family time or date nights with my husband.
Through SCBWI, I have found a great circle of writers in my area who I can meet for coffee or lunch when I need someone to talk to about the creative life. It has taken me several years to get to this balance – it certainly did not happen overnight.
How long does it typically take you to finish writing a book?
I write picture books and even though it is only 500 words, it can take a long time. And it really varies! I have some stories I’ve been working on for two to three years. One book I wrote in just about three months. I really never know!
Do you have any other advice on keeping up with writing while juggling a day job?
Oh gosh, I’m no expert. But I guess I’d say try a few different things. If aren’t finding the time to write, mix it up. Is there something you can eliminate from your life that will give you just a smidge more time? Can you sneak in ten minutes somewhere? Just keep trying and don’t give up!