This is the second post of a short series I’ve decided to do periodically over the next couple of months called “Writing & ______.” In the series, I’ll be taking a look at issues that I face as a writer or stereotypes or assumptions that people make about writers.
A lot of people assume that I write from home full-time. I’m not sure why they have that assumption and maybe in an alternate universe there’s a me who makes boatloads of dollars off of her writing. But, that’s not this reality.
The truth is, I work full-time and write for fun on the side with the slim hope that maybe someday I’ll be as good as one of those fancy New York Times best-selling authors and some publishing house will want to pay me the big bucks. But, from a young age, I was taught by my parents that I should have a “steady source of income” and, though they never said it to me directly, they probably were implying that becoming a best-selling author doesn’t happen for everyone. They’ve always been supportive of my writing. They read my books and my mom has even become one of my go-to editors for projects. But, I was raised by two rather practical sorts who wanted me to be able to support myself and do the things I love, too.
I often get asked about how I write and work full-time. People seem to be surprised. They don’t understand how I come home after work and have the energy to keep going (I don’t always because, let’s be real, I’m only human). My answer usually tends to be this: I don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t write when I was at home. I don’t know how to not create. Writing is just a part of who I am and a part of being for me.
In all honesty, it’s not easy, though. Even in spite of that natural inclination or desire to create something. I’m tired when I get home from work. I want to hang out with my boyfriend or friends or family. I want to go to the gym. I suppose that I have the added complication of being an extrovert. I crave time with people, especially after being in my office writing all day.
Also, it’s easy to get out of the habit of writing and SO much harder to get back into it. Like going to the gym, you fall out of shape faster than you can get in shape. It’s one of those unfair realities of life, I guess.
So, how do I keep motivated and focused while working full-time and living the rest of my life? Here are a few things that I do to keep moving.
- Find a support system or fellow writers to keep you motivated. I have a writing group and a support system. Some of my best friends are writers and we work together, write together, connect on social media and share our triumphs and struggles.
- Set small achievable goals. I set small goals for myself when I’m working on a new project. Every time I sit down, I strive to write 1,000 words. If it’s NaNoWriMo, I write 1,000 words, 30 days in a row.
- Reward yourself for accomplishing steps. When I complete a full draft, I allow myself to reach out to my cover artist and start talking about design possibilities. Getting that first look at a cover with my name on it is SO inspiring and motivating!
- Take breaks and live life as needed or desired. Sometimes I don’t write for weeks. People like Stephen King say you should be able to complete a novel in a season. And while he may be onto something with this, it’s just not realistic. The only thing Stephen King has for work is his novels and that’s not my reality.
- I remind myself that work requires one type of writing and the voice of my employer. But the style and voice that I truly love and that represent me, well, I can only tap into that at home. So if I want to really express myself, I have to make time for it at home.
- I take time to remember why I love creating and, perhaps most importantly, I write for me. If you look at my book list, you might wonder why all the jumping around. Well, it’s because I’m writing for me. I’m writing those characters and stories that inspire and motivate me. And that means genre hopping. I have a zillion interests and sources of inspiration and I like having the freedom to pursue them as I please.
- Train your friends and family. For a while, people might look at you funny when you say “Hey this has been great, but I really need to go home and write now.” Eventually, they get used to it and it gets easier to make an exit when the time comes.
Writing and working full-time is a big load. But, if writing is something that truly moves you, you can find a way to make it work. The most important thing, though, is to remember that you’re only human. You’re going to give into other inclinations. You’re going to have roadblocks. Accept those and then keep going!
How do you keep yourself motivated and the words coming while balancing a full-time job or other responsibilities? Please share in the comments!