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Top Ten Things Not To Do When Trying to Sneak Time to Write at Work (A Special List for Writers Whose Best Hours for Writing are Between 9 and 5).

Here is the 46th installment of Ten Top Lists of What Not to Do by Marie Ann Bailey of 1WriteWay at and John W. Howell of Fiction Favorites at These lists are simu-published on our blogs each Monday. We hope you enjoy.

Special apologies in advance to all those bosses out there who have employees who want to write.


10. When trying to sneak time to write at work, do not think that putting a black curtain across the entry to your cubicle will keep your boss and co-workers at bay.  At best, your boss will just think you are being anti-social and enroll you in a workplace team building course.  At worst, your boss will hear you typing for once, suspect you of engaging in a double-cross with a competitor, and have company security pay a visit to your cube after hours.

9. When trying to sneak time to write at work, do not think arranging to work after 5 pm will allow you to play catch-up on the work you should have been doing earlier.  At best, you will find out your boss likes to cruise the cubicles and chat after 5 pm, making it difficult for you to concentrate and finish up.  At worst, your boss decides to spend the late evening with you in your cubicle, telling you such hair-raising stories about the psychopathic upper management which (although good fodder for your writing) frightens you into giving up trying to sneak time to write at work just so you can spend less time there and more with the psychologist.

8. When trying to sneak time to write at work, do not steal your cubicle mate’s sign that says, “Do Not Enter: Breastfeeding in Progress.” At best, you are of the right age and gender to have such a sign on your door, but unless you have a baby, your boss may decide to move you to a low-wall cubicle in the bull pen.  At worst, you are not of the right age or gender and your boss, who is renowned for not having a sense of humor, decides to transfer you to the unemployment office.

7. When trying to sneak time to write at work, do not think that you can simply delete your erotic novel after saving your draft to a thumb drive.  At best, you gain a small and unknown-to-you bevy of readers in the IT department who eagerly retrieve every installment of your book after you think you have deleted it.  At worst, an installment of your novel is secretly emailed to your boss as evidence of your abusing work time and work equipment.  Of course, your boss will wait until after you have finished the novel before firing you.

6. When trying to sneak time to write at work, do not choose to write during a period of competing deadlines and high activity.  At best, you might be able to save and close your Word document safely every time your boss bursts into your office with yet another due-yesterday project.  At worst, you become so frazzled by the constant interruptions you inadvertently send your boss a synopsis of your romantic novel when you were supposed to send an Environmental Impact Report on a proposed shopping mall development and now the boss looks at you differently.

5. When trying to sneak time to write at work, do not think that getting to work early (and away from the chaos of your own household) will help you.  At best, your colleagues who are already there will soon tire of your constant refusal to hang out with them in the break room until the work day officially starts.  At worst, your boss is one of those who also shows up early and decides to take advantage of your presence by sending you more work earlier every day.

4. When trying to sneak time to write at work, do not think you can gracefully shift from typing like a fiend on your personal laptop to entering data on your work computer whenever someone walks by your office or cubicle.  At best, you learn how to position your personal laptop by your work computer so it is out-of-sight and you appear as if you are working.  At worst, you eventually develop such a bad case of carpal tunnel syndrome that you have to go on medical leave and abstain from writing altogether.

3. When trying to sneak time to write at work, do not think simply hiding under your desk with your laptop will be enough to keep your boss from knowing what you are doing.  At best, there is already so much keyboarding going on at your workplace that no one even notices the tap-tap-tapping of your laptop as you pound out another short story.  At worst, you become so engrossed in your writing,  you don’t realize that your tapping is the only sound in the workplace until you stop and peek out from under your desk to see your boss standing in the entry way, resignation letter ready for your signature in hand.

2. When trying to sneak time to write at work, do not think that you can get away with writing another scene in your comedic screenplay during a staff meeting by making it seem as if you are simply taking notes.  At best, another staff is actually delegated to take notes and so your boss just thinks you are being diligent and doesn’t ask you to share.  At worst, since you are writing a comedy,  you have to frequently stifle laughter which eventually gets the attention of your boss who takes your stifled laughter personally and decides to fire you via an email with the subject:  Death of a Salesman.

1. When trying to sneak time to write at work, do not think you can (for long) get away with claiming to have stomach problems and then trying to write on your tablet in the restroom.  At best, you will become adept at balancing your tablet on your knees, but the words you type might not be worth the loss of feeling in your bum from sitting on the toilet for too long. At worst, you will learn more about your colleagues’ bathroom habits than any sane person should know, making you really afraid to touch the doorknob on your way out.

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Marie A Bailey

Writer, blogger, knitter, cat lover, and introvert.

18 replies

  1. My biggest advice? Don’t write anything on a network. The network administrator is likely backing it all up and reviewing it periodically, and it’s one of the best ways for them to catch you.


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