Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.
Yesterday I had coffee with a former professor. He retired early so he could write full time. I think he took some kind of pledge because WOW. He’s doing incredible things in the world of art and literature. More about his work in another post.
Needless to say, we had a lot to talk about. I also have a friend who’s a full-time painter, and another friend who wrote full time for a year. Plus friends who spent their sabbaticals writing. Here’s what it’s like for me, with anecdotes from the artists I mentioned.
- You have to get up. Lazy mornings turn into lazy afternoons. For me, I have to get dressed. Pajamas call me back to bed.
- You are isolated. No co-workers for a quick social outlet. That’s why I try to work once a week with my artist friend. Before I moved, I had regular work dates with other writers. Did we chat? Sure, just like people at the water cooler. Did we have lunch? Yes, that’s when we caught up. Mostly, we talked writing.
- Non-artists ask, when are you going to get a job?
- Retired family members (I love them dearly for their support!) forget about your day job. Can you go out to lunch? Can you run some errands with me? Want to go shopping? Can you do me a favor since you’ve got free time? Often my answer is yes, because it’s good karma. Because I finally live close to them and I want to make up lost time. They’ve done so much for me throughout the years, I’m eager to give back.
- Once my writer friend was asked to provide day care in the summer. Since she didn’t have a job and all.
- You have to take breaks but keep them short. I put down the laptop for a 30-minute workout (which I hate more than getting up early). I throw in a load of laundry. But mostly, I work.
- Sometimes you have to work on vacation. My last two trips, the laptop went with us. I had deadlines both times. Usually I work on the weekends. How long depends on deadlines and whether I’ve been struck by an idea I need to play with and outline.
- You have to set goals so you’re not wandering aimlessly.
- In my case, the Internet is the devil. Sometimes I have my almost-husband shut down the wireless for the day. On the other hand, it’s a research tool and a way to network.
- I rarely answer my phone during the day. Sometimes I don’t answer the door.
- The best advice I’ve ever had: Do something you dread every day. Sometimes it’s a call to make a pitch. Sometimes it’s asking an indie bookstore owner, please carry my book! Sometimes it’s tweeting, which still confuses me.
- You have to read. You can’t write if you don’t read. You read different genres to learn. It’s your homework – and usually a pleasure.
- You have to get writers to critique your work. In return, you critique their work. In my case, it’s a writing group. We’ve been meeting religiously twice a month for almost a decade.
- If you write for kids, you have to hang out with kids. Listen to their dialogue patterns. Learn their silly sense of humor. Watch them play and interact.
- You live in droughts. A good paycheck, then nothing for months. A small paycheck followed by a better paycheck.
There’s more, but I hit the main points.
I’m lucky. My awesome almost-husband never comes home and complains about dinner not being ready (usually not even planned) or the state of the house or all
the Diet Pepsi bottles on the counter. He comes home and says, did you write today? Good for you!
He put a writing nook in our smallish house. He put a monitor on the wall, so I can change neck positions. He bought me anti-virus software and a back-up system. He gave me the most comfortable chair I’ve ever owned. Not to mention this amazing laptop. He’s my champion.
Thinking of writing full time? Congratulations! It’s a wonderful life.