It’s been your dream to be a non-writer ever since you were a little girl reading during the long summer days at your grandmother’s farm. You remember basking in wonder at the new worlds you could explore from the comfort of the living room, thinking, “Gee. One day when I’m all grown up, I’d like to be a sales analyst.”
Or maybe not.
I’m convinced the desire to write is not some slight nudge toward a blank document on your laptop. It’s more like an unbreakable elastic band that won’t let you leave for more than a few weeks before it snaps you back into its grip. For many of us, writing is inescapable. For others, it’s the only thing that gets us from day to day. For a select group, it’s what puts food on the table. But those are the lucky ones.
So how can you survive long enough as one of the “unlucky” ones to become a career author?
I’m always surprised by how little some writers read. My compulsion to write stems from my love of reading. Deep down, I know I have a story other people will fall in love with. I want to give back to the community that has given me so much happiness and enjoyment.
But not everyone has time to read. I get that. I might respond with the annoyingly overused quote, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have time to write,” but I don’t necessarily agree with that. Instead, I’d like to throw an alternative quote at you:
If you don’t have time to read, you won’t know how to write, nor will you have the motivation to be a writer.
It comes down to this: being a writer is being in love with story telling. If you’re at a point in life where you don’t have time to tell your story, reading is an excellent way to quench your story needs. Furthermore, it draws you into the land of stories and takes you on a journey. It fills you with motivation to get your own book out there. On top of that, reading gives you technical/stylistic knowledge that can sometimes only be known on a subconscious level, taught by years of consuming good stories and learning how they sound.
If you’re at a point in life where you don’t have time to tell your story, reading is an excellent way to quench your story needs.
Play the long game
It’s difficult for me to plan more than 20 minutes ahead. It’s nearly impossible to consider a decade into the unknown. But I must. All people should, but especially writers.
S.E. Hinton may have written The Outsiders in high school and published it early in college, but you likely won’t experience such early success (and if you do, please teach me your ways). Writing is one of those things where you could make slow progress for 15 years and finally get where you want to be or make no progress for 20 years then suddenly find yourself a bestselling author. It’s impossible to know.
This is encouraging because it means you don’t have to stress about seeing results. Should you be building your platform on social media? Yes. Should you be writing blogs and short stories? Also yes. Should you expect to have your first novel published? No, probably not.
Working 40 hours a week anywhere is tough. Working 40 hours a week at a job you’re not passionate about is emotionally exhausting. Getting rejection letters on top of that? Brutal. Just remember these three things:
Any progress is good progress. Rejection means you’re trying. Success is almost never instant.
So when you’re out of energy at the end of the week and the most you can manage is a paragraph of poorly written garbage before your brain splits in two and leaks out your ears, give yourself some credit. Most people go to work, and that’s it. You’re trying to do what they do to survive, and on top of that, kick off an entirely different career. Be patient. Stay focused. Play the long game.
It’s so easy to be discontent.
You’re underpaid. No one reads your work. Bills are somehow getting more expensive each month. You feel tired all the time. Your dreams seem to be slipping away.
Life can beat us up sometimes.This is especially true of people who aspire to do something great. Writing a book and/or pursuing a career in a highly competitive field which pays very little simply because you’re passionate about it, that’s noble. But sometimes, we forget that isn’t the only thing we were made for. Other parts of our life can become nothing more than unwanted distractions to us. This isn’t healthy, and it will rob us of joy.
When you find yourself without time to write, try not to see this as a bad thing. People are more important than your book. Whether you’re doing something fun like having a game night or something mundane like grocery shopping, try to enjoy it. Yes, even if you had planned on spending that time catching up on your blog. The better you are at living your own life, the better you will be at writing real characters your audience will truly care about. But becoming a better writer isn’t the only motivation. Maybe when you become a full time author with huge book deals you’ll look back and long for a time when no one was waiting on your book and you could just shut the laptop and go play some Chutes and Ladders with your kids. Enjoy what you have now.
The better you are at living your own life, the better you will be at writing real characters your audience will truly care about.
Don’t give up being a writer. If you’re discouraged, don’t worry. You’re not alone. Try to remember that you’re making progress, even if you don’t see it. You’re improving your craft and building your platform. Don’t expect instant success. If you want to make it as a full time writer, you’ve gotta make it as a full time non-writer first. These are the proving grounds, and you’re doing just fine.
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