“I just want to stay home and write.”
If you’re like most writers who work full time, you’ve probably said these words at least once a month. Or if you’re like me, once a day. Forty-plus hours a week at a demanding job can suck your emotional energy to the point of going home and binge-watching Garage Wars.
What’s an aspiring writer to do? If you’re looking toward a writing career, you need a plan. These five tips will help you determine how quickly you’ll move from “I just want to stay home and write,” to “Hey, look at me! I’m in my favorite yoga pants.”
1. Business Plan. Yes, it sounds pedantic, but you really do need to have a business plan for your writing. Start with looking ahead five years.
Ask yourself these questions:
a. Where do I want to be with my writing in five years? What will it look like? Can I replace my income? How many books, articles, and freelance gigs will I need to get from here to there. Dream big, fellow author. This should be easy for you fiction writers, because you can make something up if you must.
b. Include how many Twitter followers you want to have, how many Facebook likes for your author page, and how many blog or newsletter subscribers. Think platform.
c. Do you want to speak? How many engagements per year? How many conferences do you want to attend or where would you like to teach?
d. Next, do the same for years four, three, two, and one. Working backwards will help refine your goals and your time line.
I revise my plan at the beginning of every year. Some things I didn’t accomplish were out of my control, so I add them to the next year and revise.
2. Decide what you’re willing to give up, so you can write. Are you hooked on The Food Network or This Old House? Maybe you can’t put down that latest bestseller from your favorite author. Don’t even get me started with Facebook. I can waste hours trolling, I mean, scrolling through funny cat videos. Then there’s Words with Friends, another thief of my valuable writing time.
When I first got serious about writing, I met with a multi-published author at Starbucks. “What do I need to know about being a published author?” I asked.
Her answer was simple. “Prepare to give up a social life. This includes television, hobbies, and non-essential social engagements.”
Doesn’t that sound like fun? Okay, so all you introverts are doing a fist-pump and saying, “Sweet!” You’ll need to evaluate every activity that pulls you away from your laptop.
3. Set a goal. Decide on a word count for each time you sit down to write. Maybe you can only squeeze out twenty minutes from your schedule. Make that twenty minutes productive by tuning out distractions and moving your fingers like Elton John on the piano.
If you have an hour, set your timer for twenty minutes, and write like you’re possessed for those precious minutes. Get up, stretch, check email and FB, then hunker down for another twenty minutes. Your writing will be better by giving your mind and body a break. (I just came back from getting a glass of water. See? It works. Watch how much better steps 4 and 5 are.)
4. Writers write. That means you write whether you feel like it or not. You’ve heard the advice ‘cheeks in seat’ or ‘BIC (butt in chair)’. If you come home from work, and the dog has barfed on the freshly-cleaned carpet, you write. When your boss yelled at you for something that wasn’t your fault, you write. When a new episode of Game of Thrones is on, you—well, we don’t want to get too crazy. Yes, we do! You write. There will be days when you’re a full-time writer that you won’t ‘feel like’ writing, but you have a publishing deadline looming. What will you do? That’s right, fellow author. You write.
5. Spend some time with God, asking Him to help refine your message. Why do you write? Are you writing for God or with God? What if quitting your job to write full-time isn’t in God’s plan for you? Hold loosely to your dreams. Don’t make God pry them out of your clenched fists to accomplish His will.
I highly recommend you read the book Quitter, by John Acuff. The subtitle says it all: Closing the Gap Between Your Day Job & Your Dream Job. It is written from a refreshing, Christian perspective. Give your best effort to your day job, pursue your dream job, and watch God accomplish the rest.
1 Thessalonians 5:24 He who calls you is faithful, who will also do it. (NKJV)
How do you keep your focus on your day job, when you’d rather be writing full time?