When Your Day Job ‘Gets In the Way’ Of Your Writing Time

It’s not easy, but it’s possible.

At some point we all have about the same picture in our heads of what being a successful, full-time writer will be like.

For me, this picture for some reason involved sitting at a desk in the middle of a room with floor-to-ceiling glass windows on all three sides, sitting with my laptop and writing for 12 hours straight every day while looking out at the ocean or a forest or whatever I wanted my future outdoor scenery to look like.

This setup is, unfortunately, not realistic for most writers. It turns out most writers still have to (sigh) go to work. In a real or virtual office. With office hours. And meetings.

(Ugh.)

Though it might seem like most writers — especially the “successful” ones — spend all day every day writing and are lucky enough to call it a job, the reality is that many writers, even published authors, still have day jobs. Some of them involve writing. But not always.

It’s so tempting to think that all you have to do is tolerate the tiresome job(s) that pay(s) the bills until you make enough money as a writer to be able to afford to quit. But it doesn’t always work that way.

Because of the way writers are generally paid — not usually on a consistent basis, and not usually as much as you would think — most writers decide to keep their day jobs even after they’ve started to gain recognition for their work. At the very least, many take up freelancing to make ends meet between paychecks.

In fact, many writing experts actually recommend that aspiring creators keep their day jobs even when their careers start taking off.

Why? Because you never know what’s going to happen. You could suddenly lose half your client base in the span of one week (this happened to me in 2017) and therefore a large chunk of your monthly income. Also, health insurance (if you’re in the United States). Factor in, too, inconsistent pay (it’s not always on a regular cycle depending on the job) and there not always being available work (depending on your level of experience, your niche, and how productive you typically are — among other things).

This is all very frustrating. Because as a writer, obviously all you want to do is write. All day every day, if you can. It’s what you’re good at! People are paying you to do it now! So shouldn’t you be able to get paid for what you want to do and stop doing what you don’t want to do just because you need the cash?

The biggest frustration of all — even if your day job does involve some kind of writing — is that working an eight hour day (or more) means you have less time and mental/physical energy to work on your own writing projects. You know, the ones you actually care about that are starting to (or will hopefully soon) bring in the bucks.

What do you do when your day job starts interfering with that time, and your ability to work on those projects? How do you make time? Do you have to give something up? What’s the “right” thing to do?

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In Defense of Writing Nonsense

What you write matters. But sometimes, it’s OK to set your mind free.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to write purposefully.

In my quest to write as many words as possible in 2019 (more on that eventually), I’ve spent a lot of time writing random things I’m not sure will ever turn into anything I could send off for publication.

However, doing this more and more has made me realize how beneficial this can be — not just for my own process and sanity but for other writers’ ambitions as well.

Think of how hard you always try to write something as close to perfect as you can make it. It’s almost never exactly what you want it to be, is it?

Well what if it could be?

What if you could just sit down, open a blank document, and start writing whatever you wanted? What if sentence structure didn’t matter? What if plot devices and grammar and coherent sentences just didn’t matter?

You want to know a secret?

You can write things where none of this matters.

I call it free writing. Some call it stream of consciousness writing. Basically what it means is that you sit down in front of a blank page and just start writing. Not worrying about whether or not it’s good. Not caring if any of it makes any sense at all. Not focusing on all the details. Just writing.

Doing this could change your life. It has certainly changed mine.

Continue reading “In Defense of Writing Nonsense”

12 Things to Do When the Words Just Won’t Come

There are things you can do to get through it.

1. Do something else that stimulates creativity — like playing an instrument or drawing a picture or building something with Lego. Get creative with your creativity. Sometimes it’s easier to dive into writing after you’ve spent some time, you know … not writing.

2. If something is clouding your creativity — like a task you’ve been putting off but keep thinking about — do the thing that’s taking up space in your brain. Free up the space you need to write.

3. Move to a new location — such as migrating from your office to a cozy corner somewhere else. If that’s not possible, switch word processors. That sounds weird, but you’d be surprised the small things that convince our brains we’re doing something new. Same work, different layout.

4. Get a snack. A hungry brain is deprived, not creative.

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Why ‘Soft’ Rejections Hurt So Much

The hurt is real.

My chest tightened when I saw the tweet come across my feed.

“We’ve chosen our newest round of contributors! Check your email — if we didn’t pick you this round, we’ll keep your proposals on file!” [Or something very close to that effect.]

I held my breath. It had been a while since I sent in my proposal, but that was to be expected. There were going to be a lot of people reaching out to those editors sharing their ideas and trying to prove they were worth choosing. There was a chance I could be among the lucky handful who were chosen.

There was also a chance I would be in the much larger group of writers whose proposals would be “kept on file” meaning they would likely never see the light of day again.

I opened my email and finally allowed my breathing to continue on as normal.

There was no email waiting there for me.

Holding on to one final ounce of hope that the message simply hadn’t gotten to me yet — let’s call this stubborn optimism — I continued refreshing my inbox over the next few hours just in case an email finally came in from the editor.

But an email never came.

This was, in all senses of the term, a rejection. I had submitted a proposal hoping it would lead to a writing gig — one I was cautiously hopeful about. My philosophy is that I will usually not submit a proposal for an opportunity I come across unless seeing it excites me. There are exceptions, but no matter how much experience in writing you have, you should always jump at any opportunities that come up that could benefit your career even in the smallest of ways.

You just have to do this knowing you have a pretty high chance of being disappointed.

I don’t like rejections. No one does. But if we never experience them, we start to lose the motivation to keep trying. Every rejection is, in its own way, a chance to revisit your “why.”

That doesn’t mean rejections don’t hurt. Especially the ones where you aren’t even directly contacted about not being chosen to write or publish something.

I call these types of indirect declines “soft rejections.” And they almost hurt more than those “thank you for your submission” email templates we’ve all read so many times throughout our careers. Possibly even more than not hearing anything at all.

Continue reading “Why ‘Soft’ Rejections Hurt So Much”

How to Keep Writing Toward Your Goal Even If You Know You Won’t Reach It

You don’t have to give up yet!

At the beginning of 2019, I set a really big writing goal. I mean BIG.

And the strangest part about it is that the closer I get to reaching it — the closer the end of the year and my deadline draw near — the more I start to worry I won’t actually make it.

I’ve had a lot of bad writing days lately. It’s just how things are in my world right now. And there have been a few days just in the past week where I have seriously considered just giving up.

I’ve wondered to myself: Is this even still worth it? Is it worth the time? The energy? The stress? Should I stop? Would the world really end if I just quit?

But I haven’t quit yet. Little by little, I keep moving forward. I keep writing. I keep inching toward my writing goal, because the more I think about it, the more I realize I’m not ready to quit. Not yet.

Have a writing goal you’re trying to work toward, knowing you might not actually achieve it? Here’s how you can continue to write anyway, no matter how many doubts you might hold along the way.

Continue reading “How to Keep Writing Toward Your Goal Even If You Know You Won’t Reach It”

Every Writer Has Their ‘Why’

Do you know yours?

In 2009, I read a book that changed my life.

I know that when people say something “changed their life” they don’t always mean it, or maybe they do but it’s nothing more than an empty revelation. But this book really did change everything for me. Because it was the first book that ever made me cry.

John Green’s Looking for Alaska is the only book I have read more than twice. I recently read it a third time, and then sat down to watch the new Hulu series that brings the story to life on the small screen.

I was reminded, once again — and likely not for the last time — that I have a purpose in this world. And that purpose is to, among many other things, write stories that make people feel.

Perhaps, I often think, my book could be the first book that makes someone cry like Alaska did for me.

(There are plenty of other reasons why I love this book, though I won’t get into them now — but its emotional impact certainly stands out.)

For me, this reason — this “why” — is what keeps me going when I don’t feel like writing is worth it anymore. Having a purpose for my work changed the way I approach writing even way back then. And it continues to fuel me even in the moments I’m not sure I’m doing any of this right.

Do you know your “why”? Your purpose for telling the stories on your heart?

It’s time to find it. Or remember it, if you’ve lost it.

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What Would It Take to Write Everything You Ever Wanted to Write?

What would it take?

I stand in the shower with my eyes closed letting the hot water hit me. It always clears my head. It always forces me to spend time alone with my thoughts, to confront them and acknowledge their existence.

From these moments almost always comes an idea, if not several. We don’t call them “shower thoughts” for nothing. When there is nowhere else to turn, we face our ideas head-on. Almost as if we are giving them permission to approach, and all the chances in the world to show us what they are capable of.

Ideas are the most thrilling when you don’t go looking for them. I don’t stand in the shower expecting an idea to appear — there are plenty of much more important reasons for maintaining adequate hygiene. But I won’t lie and say I’m not pleasantly surprised when I do encounter an idea I can’t refuse.

There is only one problem with this phenomenon — literally forcing yourself into a box in which you have no choice but to allow new ideas to flow into your head for at least 10 to 15 minutes at a time.

At some point, it starts to feel as though there are too many ideas, and not enough time to give each and every one of them the attention they deserve.

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How to Make Time For Writing Outside Your Day Job: A Quick Guide

It’s not easy. But it IS possible.

I am no stranger to the many obstacles writers with day jobs face on the regular.

At the moment, I am living with four other people and a one-year-old husky (who still acts like a puppy and I love her very much anyway). There are moments I have to lock myself in the bathroom just to get away from the distractions and the noise long enough to write a blog post or an article or a few paragraphs of the first draft of a book.

This is after I have spent all day doing work that does not allow much spare time for writing on the side. Add on to that the fact that I am mostly editing and writing headlines, which uses up a lot of brain power, and it’s easy to understand why there are nights I don’t even want to look at my work. I just want to go to bed.

It’s possible to make time for writing when you work all day and have a family and other things going on that need your attention.

It’s not easy. But it’s possible. I’m writing this post right now even though there’s a barking dog and an obnoxious movie and hammering going on in the background.

I’m making time. You can, too. Here are my suggestions for how.

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Don’t Let Your Confidence Issues Stop You From Writing

Don’t do it!

When you sit down to write and the words don’t come out the way you want them to — or they don’t come out at all — do you know why?

Sometimes you’re just tired or stressed or overwhelmed and aren’t in the right headspace for writing. That’s completely understandable. But other times there are things going on inside your head that aren’t as easy to recognize — therefore making them that much harder to work through.

Of all the barriers that writers face when trying to do work and achieve their goals, issues with confidence, fear, and self-doubt are some of the most common.

While it’s important and helpful to acknowledge that you are having a hard time writing because you lack confidence, it’s even more important not to let yourself use this as an excuse for not getting your work done.

We do this a lot without realizing it — letting a problem become an excuse instead of seeking out a solution that allows us to keep writing. But there are already so many things in your everyday life that are going to try blocking your productivity — many of them completely out of your control. Don’t let the barriers you CAN do something about continue standing in your way.

Can a writer who isn’t confident become more confident? How — and why does it matter?

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14 Things No One Ever Tells You About Having a Blog

We don’t talk about these things enough.

1. Starting is hard. Continuing is harder.

2. Just because “everybody’s doing it” doesn’t mean you can’t stand out.

3. It’s actually sometimes better to blog about things for a very specific “niche” audience when you’re first starting out.

4. You don’t technically have to have everything all planned out before you dive in. You can just start.

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