I read two great posts about writing this week. The first is by Robert Jackson Bennett and is called Some advice to aspiring writers who wish to make a living off of writing. Basically, his advice amounts to the fact that writing is hard and you’ll probably need a day job to support yourself for a while, if not for your entire career. Here’s one of my favorite parts of the post:
I moved from job to job based on whether or not it paid a dollar an hour more. There were a lot of call centers. I wasn’t on the fast track to big career success by a long shot.
Then I got lucky. I met the right person, who helped me get a decent job that made me actually think and work. If I had not known that person, I would not have gotten that job.
To my surprise, I found it stimulating. I found it meaningful. And I did well at it. A good job, I found, made me feel better and write better. It’s like exercise – the more your blood’s moving, the better everything works.
But as I did this and settled down into the career path before me, I started wondering what else I could have been. What else I could have done.
This is one reason why I think it’s unwise to begin your young life with writing as the sole goal for your career. It is smart to diversify, for a number of reasons.
As I said above, it’s nice to have a job or a focus or some kind of life goal that you can invest yourself in besides writing. It’s energizing, educational, gives you value, and helps you keep perspective. Staying around other people and working with them is probably good for you, and good for your writing. It can be volunteer work or family or gardening, perhaps, but it helps if it’s a job – because writing, on its own, will almost certainly not be able to comfortably sustain you. Certainly not if you also have a spouse and a child or two.
And this is one reason why it really is very helpful to have marketable skills. Because someone who has always been Just a Writer will likely have very few of these.
Reading that made me feel better. Sometimes I worry that I’m not Living Up To My Potential or whatever as writer because I have to go to work during the week so I can, you know, actually have money to live off of. And that’s okay. I’m just going to keep writing fiction. Hopefully I’ll sell something to someone at some point. 🙂
The other post I read tackles writing from a slightly different angle. It’s on Rachel Aaron’s blog and deals with “paying yourself first.” Rachel is a full-time writer and supports her family with her writing, if I remember correctly—so no more day job for her! In her post, she talks about making writing a priority in your life:
People, this is HARD. In fact, I would say getting the discipline to write every day–even when you’re not inspired, even when the writing sucks and you hate it–is the single hardest part of being a writer. It’s certainly where the most people screw up and fall out. They start writing just fine, but then things get busy, and the daily writing gets put off and off until it stops all together. We know we should be writing, but we aren’t, because stuff/life/time.
To be clear: there’s no shame in that. If writing was easy, everyone would have a book. At the same time, though, you will never finish a book if you’re not putting in the time to write. So if your goal/dream/New Year’s Resolution is to finally finish that book, or even just write more in general, my advice to you is to treat your time like you’d treat your money and pay yourself first. Simply put, this means you make your writing time your priority every single day. Before you do anything else.
She goes on to say that when she was working at her day job, she used to get up two hours early on workdays so she could write before work. I guess this means I ought to start getting up earlier to write. (Sigh. I’m so not a morning person.)
I must say, though, there is something liberating about getting my writing done before work. Sometimes, when I leave work at the height of rush hour and get home and have to make dinner, the last thing I feel like doing is writing. But if I write in the morning, I don’t have to worry that I won’t get a chance to write later in the day. This is definitely something I will have consider implementing this year.
Oh, and both of those posts are excellent, so go read them in their entirety if you’re at all interested in writing.