Friday, October 5, 2012

How to Make Writing More Like a Real Job

Photo by Victor1558
Is this you?

All suited up, sitting in your super hip office, looking totally fly while you write?

Hmm...probably not. At least, I know it's not me.

Yes, I have a "real" job. It's only one day a week and I don't dress up. And I'm a mom of three kiddos, which to me is a "real" job.

But writing? Is that a real job?

I think if we're passionate about writing, and we want to be published (or already are), and we're striving to get our words on paper, then writing IS a real job.

But it's not a typical job. Not nine to five. Probably sans chic briefcase. Lunch hours? Paycheck? Vacation time? No, maybe, and probably not.

So, how do we make writing feel more like a real job? Here are some tips!

1) Have a Schedule
No matter what your day looks like, you can still have a bit of schedule. If you have to write around kids, do it! Even if you can only get in 15 minutes. If you have to write early morning, do it! Basically, plan to get some writing in each day (or at least each week day), and stick to that plan. Even better, try to make it the same time and length each day, and then make sure it gets done. All of our schedules will look different, but if we have a schedule, writing will feel more like a real job and there will be productivity.

2) Create a Work Space
You don't need an entire office. But some kind of workspace that you use every day is a good idea. That way when you're in your "work space" and the kids see you, they'll be more inclined to understand you're "working" (at least we hope they will!). Make it yours, make it fun if you want, but have a designated space.

3) Take Time Off
At real jobs we have weekends off. We have vacation time - usually. We get 15 minute breaks or lunch time. And we start and stop at a particular time. So make sure you're taking time off here and there. Don't burn yourself out.

4) Make it Professional!
ACT like writing is a real job! Also, try to find some sort of outlet, something that brings writing into your life. Go to local writing meetings, meet with writer friends. Make friends on-line. Blog about writing. Do something to bring writing into your world.

5) Talk to Your Family
Speak with your husband/wife and kids about your writing. Tell them it's important and it's your at-home job. Explain to them that when you're in your scheduled time at your computer, you're working and you need to focus. Let them help you! The more support and encouragement you have (especially from your family), the better!

6) Set Goals, Be Accountable
At a real job, you have responsibilities. You have to be accountable for something, or a lot of somethings. So make yourself accountable for your writing. Make goals and keep them!

Does writing feel like a real job to you? What helps you make writing more like a real job?



Heidi Chiavaroli said...

Great post, Cindy!

I recently--okay, only yesterday--decided to allocate two hour blocks (first thing in the morning) to writing. I'm excited about this, because I usually save writing for last. I always felt like I'm racing to get to the good stuff, but then often never did.

Like the perspective here, Cindy!

Lisa Jordan said...

Wonderful post, Cindy!

Writing is a real job to me since now I receive money for it. I have most of the things you listed, except I've been off my writing schedule since I returned from ACFW. I need to be a better steward of my writing time so I can be a more productive writer.

Angela said...

Thanks for the great tips Cindy! I am going to make it a point to stick to my schedule or word count goal.

My new mantra is going to be, "butt in chair, butt in chair, and write."


V. Gingerich said...

Right now I'm a busy volunteer and humanitarian worker but I find myself looking ahead, hoping to make writing my "real job" someday. I know that when I do, it will take self-discipline, something I don't have an abundance of, and I'll need to set up a schedule. I long for spontaneity but work better under schedules and deadlines.

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Heidi, wow! Two hour blocks of writing time is great! I hope you're able to get a lot accomplished.

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Hi Lisa. I hear you about schedules! They're so important, but taking time away from writing (even for a writing related thing) sometimes gets us off. Have a great weekend!

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Angela, I like that mantra! Butt in the chair. Way to go :)

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Wanderer, yes, you have a full schedule! I love that you're looking ahead. A lot of being productive is planning, so you already have a great start :)

Jeanne T said...

Cindy, I love your ideas. I found it much easier to set tangible goals when I was fast drafting my novel. Being in revisions has taken much longer than I expected it to. I get up at 4 a.m. Mon-Fri and write for the first hour of the day. I usually set aside one day a week for quiet time, walking and writing while kids are in school. I'm grabbing any other time where I can. My biggest challenge is fitting writing in when kids are home or we have extra commitments during our week.

Do you have suggestions for goal setting with revising?

Loree Huebner said...

Love this post, Cindy.

I have a full time job, then my writing job. I feel as if I'm working two full time jobs at the present. It's okay - it a good time for it. My kids are all out on their own, and it's just hubby and me. I do try to arrange writing time - like punching in on a clock - a certain amount of time per day. I found that it's also important to have my own writing space.

Great tips.

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Jeanne, it sounds like you're already very disciplined, so congrats on that! Revisions are so different from writing that first draft, aren't they?

I'm a big fan of editing/revising in stages (I usually do about three big ones like content/substance edit, line edit, and then an overall tweak to catch those small things). I'd say for each round, set a goal each day (or week) for how many pages you want to get through. On your first or even second read-through, take notes. Write down what you want to add/change as far as the small stuff (like adding more senses on a page, for example) but don't stop to do it right there because you'll lose your momentum. Change the big things and save those notes for the next round.

Setting a daily goal is a great idea (like planning on getting through 40 pages, or three chapters or whatever is reasonable for you). I'd also say, take a break after each scene or chapter, depending on how long they are. Your brain gets tires if you keep reading and reading and you can miss stuff. Just pause for a few minutes to read a few blogs, or to stand and walk around, do a few dishes, and then return to your manuscript and keep going. I think once you get a rhythm, you'll be able to get through a big chunk of pages each day and see some progress.

Hope that helps!

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Loree, I can't imagine having a full time job outside the home and then trying to write, too. It sounds like you're managing just fine :) That's nice you have your own writing space, and I'm glad to hear it helps!

Lindsay Harrel said...

Well, I DO dress up for my job...but not the job I really love (writing). Just the one that's okay and I get paid for right now. Hehe.

I love all of your suggestions. One day I hope to be a SAHM/writer, so I'm tucking tips away for when that day is here.

Angie Dicken said...

I have just started dedicating my writing time during my daughter's nap. And it really does help take the guilt away of needing to get things done since I know it's part of the schedule, and I get things done at other times. Also, it makes me stick to getting her down on time!! Great motivator. :)

Karen @ a house full of sunshine said...

Great tips - thanks, Cindy!!

Jeanne T said...

Thanks for your tips, Cindy. They are so helpful!

Mary Vee Writer said...

I find I am MUCH more productive when I set a schedule. I am just to ADD type to set a schedule way in advance, but to type A to not have one for a day (that is a warning for anyone who chooses to hang out with me LOL).
I open my calendar on my computer first thing each morning and record my goals in the time slots...makes it more doable. I also include family things to keep from having to find a clone machine.
Great post, Cindy.

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Lindsay, do you think you'll dress up for writing when you stay at home? :) That's great that you're already planning for that time!

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Angie, that's a great way to do it! It helps, too, when you don't have that guilt.

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Thanks, Karen! Have a super weekend!

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Jeanne, I am so glad the tips are helpful! Making a plan is half the battle.

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Mary, that's smart to include family things on your schedule, too--because it's not just about writing, it's being able to balance writing with everything else.