When I was young, I was told that I would never be able to make money as a writer. My stories were creative, cute, compelling, and any list of other words. But when I said I wanted to do it for a living, people laughed. Laughed. And laughed. And laughed some more.
Maybe they were right at the time. I needed a lot more practice as a writer, and I needed to decide some things about my life. Like what it meant to me to make a living and what I was willing to sacrifice to get there. I also had to realize it wasn’t just me who would make sacrifices, but those around me as well.
So when I finally found that other than writing I was pretty likely unemployable or at least had no real “career” prospects, I had to, for a long time, and a few times since, work a day job while I figured how to actually treat writing as a business. When I first started out, I had a full-time job, a family, and bills like everyone else. So how in the world did I find time to write?
Figure Out Your Best Writing Time
Most people by the time they are really ready to do this writing thing for a living already know when their brain works, but if you don’t, it is time to figure it out. Map your time, and pay attention to how you feel when you are writing at any given time. Note before we go any further: we are looking for your best writing time, but using that particular time of day to write is not always possible. You have to write when you can, but we will talk about that more in a moment.
When you feel the best and most creative is probably the time you will write the most words in the shortest time possible. That’s great. Then, if you can, arrange your schedule so that you are writing during that time.
For most people, their ideal writing time is either early in the morning or late at night. There is usually a lull in the middle of the day or specifically mid-afternoon, where the majority of people are less creative and productive. The point is to find that ideal time for you, and try to schedule the rest of your daily activities around it. If you can’t do that, you still need to write every day. But setting aside that ideal time should be a goal for you.
Writing as a business consists of three essential elements, outlined in more detail in my forthcoming book, Writing as a Business: Production, Distribution, and Marketing. You want to use your most creative time for writing, most of the time. However, as a creative person, you also should use your best time for developing a new marketing strategy, writing great blogs, and even for some administration tasks. To fit all this in when you are working full time is frankly pretty challenging.
- This means you can only do a few things to free up your time.
- Get up early or stay up late. You know when your most creative time is, so do one or the other. For a while at least, you will sacrifice some sleep.
- Work on your breaks. This can mean lunch breaks but it can also mean dashing out a page or two on a coffee break.
- Watch less television. As a writer you need to be reading, so don’t cut out your reading time, but you can probably watch less television. This can free up a lot of time for writing and for business.
- Get some rest. I know, I just said you will sacrifice some sleep, and you will. But be sure on the weekends and when you can that you get some extra rest. Your muse will thank you.
- Take care of yourself. Writers are notorious for neglecting exercise and proper diet. Take care of yourself, and your time will be more productive.
- Set your time(s) to write as an appointment, and keep them. The only way you will write when you should is if you hold yourself to it. Be accountable to someone if you need to, but when you say you will be writing, write. Don’t do anything else at that time.
The last item is important not just to your writing time, but your Writing as a Business time. If you plan to succeed and quit that day job, you have to leave time for things other than writing. We will talk about that in another post about time management. The important thing is you need to have a schedule and stick to it.
Set Goals and Deadlines
Want to really be productive? Set deadlines and goals and hold yourself to them. This sometimes means since you don’t have a boss looking over your shoulder, you need to trick your brain or use other methods to hold yourself accountable. This applies to short term goals especially. If you have a goal to write 50K words by March, that is an easy goal to set, but unless you divide that into how much you need to write every single day to reach that goal, it can be easy to procrastinate.
If you are working with a publisher, they will usually set a deadline, and you will need to break that down into shorter goals. If you are indie published, set a public release date and force yourself to stick to it. Better yet, in either case, book yourself on an editor’s schedule and put a deposit down. Usually, if you miss that deadline, the editor will charge you extra and may have to bump your book further down in their schedule.
Partner with other writers for accountability too. Keep them focused on goals and deadlines and allow them to do the same for you. It’s important to just get your drafts done and move on. A writing partner can help you do just that.
Be Willing to Sacrifice
This is the number one stumbling block to people making the transition from writing as a sideline to writing as a business. They either do not want to give up sleep, don’t want to give up television or another vice, or they will simply say they don’t have anything they can give up to increase their writing time.
First, this is likely not true. Most people have things they do that are not necessary, and take up time they could be using to write. If you are not willing to sacrifice something, making time for your writing will be exceptionally hard, and for many impossible.
If you are going to write for a living, you are going to have to make time to write. Do you have questions? Feel free to reach out anytime. I love helping others avoid the mistakes I made.
Have something to contribute? Tips and tricks that have worked for you? I’d love to hear from you.