How to Earn a Career in Writing – Part 3

Work your butt off.

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A single success is just an open door. It is not a free ride to happy town. Anything worth doing is tons of work… When that door opens, that is when you start working your patoot off. And when your patoot falls off, staple it back on until you work it off again.

– Ben Grelle, internet comedian, writer (Hustle Economy, p. 32)

I have successfully answered to the (loud, terrifying, unwanted) call of my 6 a.m. alarm for nine days in a row.

I do not particularly enjoy emerging from my pillow and blanket haven this early in the day. Currently, it is still dark out when my alarm goes off.

This morning, I was dreaming about impressing a former professor with cupcakes (#cookingforagradescarredmeforlife).

I’m doing squats daily. My butt is very confused and would prefer for me to move as little as possible for the next 72 hours.

I would have gladly returned to my warm and comfy sanctuary. But I didn’t.

People who say you have to wake up early to be successful are wrong. I don’t do it because it’s somehow magically going to get me a job or win me awards or something.

Nope. I do it so I can spend six uninterrupted hours every night watching Netflix.

Netflix is not work. I don’t generally talk about how many hours I spend per week streaming shows, because it makes me sound lazy.

Except I’m not. Because when I wake up at 6 a.m., I spend the first three hours of my day in preparation – making lists, reading, journaling, exercising (squaaaaats), caffeinating – not working. But working my way up to working.

And then, from nine to five, guess what I do? I work.

Sometimes I spend an hour after that on what some would call “passion projects,” but I prefer to call them, “things I’m going to launch at some point but still have no idea what exactly they are so not yet.”

The point is, I spend a solid eight hours working – meeting the reasonable demands of my clients, hunting for small projects to take on, keeping this blog on the radar, slowly (sloooooowly) still trying to finish novels from the past two Novembers.

Work. I work. Hard. And then I give my brain (and butt) a rest. Because, right now, I am very fortunate to be able to do that – leave some space in the schedule for myself.

Here’s the thing about work: no two people work in the exact same way. So what I’ve just told you might be interesting, but it’s probably not the way you prefer to do things. And that’s OK.

You might love sleeping in. Someone who works from home, as I do, has the luxury of doing that. You might be completely fine not starting your work until lunchtime and working late into the evening. There is nothing wrong with that. That is what works for YOU.

So far in this series we’ve talked about working for free and about finishing what you start, whether the work is good or bad. But now we have to talk about the work itself – or the process of working, rather. Because you have a zero percent chance of success as a writer if you do not work to earn what you want.

You have to work the way that works for you – and I mean REALLY works. If you can only find time to do the bulk of your writing on weekends, then the generic non-inclusive advice to take weekends off from working does not apply to you. As long as you are spending that time doing quality work, and you are proud of that work, then keep working like that. It’s no one’s place to say you can’t.

The more you work, the more likely you are to earn one success. And once you earn one success, you have a choice: let it go to your head and get lazy, or use the momentum to kick your work up a notch.

I could probably work more than 40 hours a week if I wanted to. I would make more money and publish more content. But that is not what is going to work for me right now. I spent the past 20 years in school and I deserve a few months of not having to constantly staple my butt back on, thank you very much. But this is not typical for me, and I don’t plan on letting squats alone kick me into shape for long. There will come a point when the work that I am doing now pays off in a very small way (slow and steady), and when that happens, I will have built up enough stamina to take off running again, stapler at the ready. Not now. But soon enough.

People don’t like figuring out for themselves what they need to do to make work work. I’m not completely sure why that is, but reality check: if you’re not working the way that works, you’re not going to want to keep doing it. Going back to last week – giving up happens when you’re not willing to follow through. Hard work ALWAYS pays off. Not always immediately, not always in the exact way you want. But your success is a path unlike anyone else’s. No one has succeeded in the way you will before. The more you work, the more efficiently you organize your work, the further down your own personal path to success you will go.

Here – these are all the resources you’ll need to get better at working. Work your butt off. Or if you’ve just literally worked your butt off, take a short breather, grab your stapler and get back to it. It’s your work. It’s your success you’re going after here. You have to make the conscious decision to go for it, to make the necessary sacrifices, to earn it.


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

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