Time is almost never on our side, especially for those of us with particularly demanding, non-telecommuting day jobs. Amid such a circumstance, it becomes the onus of the fiction writer to cultivate habits for stealing as much of it as necessary throughout the workday. We do this to ensure our fiction projects receive their due diligence. With the right approach, one should be able to find more than enough opportunities to seize throughout the day to ensure that any daily grind can become part of the creative process.
It requires what one could call a bifurcation of the self—simultaneously becoming two different people, as if there were two of you showing up to work every day. One going about the day's business, the other relentlessly protecting and activating a fertile imagination. When the one of you is working, the other is dreaming of deeper insights into characters and plot. When the one of you is on break, the other is researching or scribbling down useful scraps and fragments to be later incorporated in a larger work on your own time. It's essentially the maintaining and strengthening of a receptive and free mind, properly attuned to quickly recognizing, then recording, moments of inspiration.
It's also akin to putting your life into your work, or really: putting your work into your life. Let me explain. It's a bit like when you're dressing for work in the morning, you're also slipping into the minds of all your characters. You're on alert all day to stop yourself, survey your environment, your situation, and ask: What character am I? and How would my character regard this scene, this setting? It's a bit like doing research as a method actor, keeping a character's mentality with you at all times to continue to learn as much about it as you can.
Whether facing extended inert hours in a cubicle farm in front of a desktop PC, or the circuitous shuffling back and forth between gauntlets of hours-long, soporific meetings, there are more than enough tools at your disposal to capture these useful, golden moments as they come to you. In our modern era, there are a myriad of covert tools for capturing useful or impactful turns of phrase. Smartphones have note-taking apps and are immediately concealable. When one is scribbling in a notebook, it really looks like you're taking care of important business. And then there's always emailing yourself what you manage to get down into a Word file throughout the day.
Other than theft, of course, there is the necessity of religiously sticking to routines for all that time you don't need to steal from outside of 9-to-5. You still need to find a way of daily getting down at least 1,000 words on the page, whether before or after work, that's up to you to figure out. Weekends are typically best spent reading or editing, so it's advised you put some thought into how to best deal with the morning and evening weekday hours. If one goes the morning route, learn to get up early and squash the effete, mewling inner-voice of doubt as soon as you dig in to write for a half-hour, hour or hopefully more. You need to be especially efficient in the morning hours or you risk being chronically late to work. If one goes the evening route, be prepared for lethargy. Coffee always helps, but not with sleep. Neither way is easy, but either way is more than possible if one is truly committed.
So with the right frame of mind, your typical workday might progress a bit like this:
Daybreak. Still asleep. The room fills with light. Wake. Out of bed. Shower. Cereal. Instant coffee with milk. News and the rest of the world on a laptop. On good days, up to an hour writing new draft zero material or copy-editing Frankenstein first drafts. Always another deadline on the horizon. Always trying to dig a little deeper into character, scene, setting, plot narrative architecture. Argh, running out of time! Save. Save everything. Back it up then brush your teeth. Mouthwash. Give and get a kiss goodbye. Bike to work. Corporate morning hours. Always planning someone else's profits. Coffee break. Sarcastic conversations. Panopticon responsibility. During lulls, reimagine the world as fiction. How could this be a part of what I'm writing? Lunch. More fuel. An hour or so to eat then sequestered away. Reading or further editing. More coffee. More conversations. Stolen moments and stray thoughts throughout the remainder of the day. All of it scribbled down. Saved. Another afternoon over. Bike home. Dinner. An evening to read. Relax. Survey the sunset. Reflect. Eventually sleep. Dream. Repeat. Every day, it changes