I started treating writing like my job in grad school. To be fair, at that point, it kind of was my job since I was getting graded, but once I started that habit, it carried over into my post-grad life. I believe it’s a massive reason why I’m published and why I can handle it. So today, I’m going to talk about why I believe this can be beneficial, how it’s helped me, and give you some tips to help you do the same.
It builds good habits
You get used to showing up at your computer or notebook on a regular basis. If you want to be paid for your writing someday, you will have to meet deadlines. To meet those deadlines, you often have to show up even when you don’t always feel like it. The sooner you can get used to that idea, the more habitual it will be and the easier it will become.
It ups your productivity
I don’t think this needs a ton of explanation. When you show up on a regular basis, you will get more done! Sure, some days will be harder than others, but even a little bit of progress on a bad day is better than not writing at all. I also found that writing got a lot more fun for me once I saw consistent progress.
It helps protect your writing time
When you treat writing like a job, it makes it easier to protect your time and say no to others. If you asked someone for a favor but they had to work, they wouldn’t hesitate to say no. If you start thinking of writing as your job and framing it that way to others, it will be easier to say no to things. Because you do have to work. (I wrote a micro-post on Saying No to Others if you need more tip on this.)
It makes transitioning into publishing more manageable
Like we said earlier, if you want to be published, you will have to meet deadlines. Those deadlines will be easier to meet if you’re already in the habit of scheduling your writing time and committing to that schedule. It’s pretty common for writers to spend years working on their first published book. No one is waiting on it, so you can take all the time you need. But once you sell that book, you’ll have a pretty serious deadline for revisions. And if you’ve sold more than one book, you’ll have to write an entire book from start to finish in a fraction of a time that it took you to write the first.
Personally, I found meeting publishing deadlines to be (for the most part) a lot easier than I was expecting. There were some parts I had to adjust to, but as a whole, it was a relatively smooth transition. I’m pretty sure this was because I was already used to the idea that writing was my job and that deadlines had to be met.
It forces you to take your goals seriously
The moment I decided to treat writing like my job was the moment I writing went from a fun side project to a career goal. It made me more dedicated and determined. I also found that once I took my goals more seriously, it either made others take my goals seriously, or helped me to tune out the people who didn’t.
How to make it happen:
Make a schedule and commit
When you have a ‘real job’ you have a regularly scheduled time to report and tasks to complete. If you’re treating writing like your job, then it’s going to need its own schedule and set of tasks. Pick a time of day that you can show up to your story on a regular basis. Maybe it means getting up a half hour earlier, staying up a half hour later, or writing through your lunch break. It doesn’t have to be a lot of time if you’re just starting out, just make sure it’s consistent.
Something else to keep in mind: while we are treating writing like a job, it’s important to remember that writing isn’t necessarily like other jobs. Some days, the brainpower and creativity just aren’t there. On days like that, I still encourage you to show up at your computer or notebook, if that’s part of your plan. Even if you can’t meet your goals, do what you can to keep that time commitment to yourself. Find a way to take a step forward, even if it’s only a small one.
Set manageable goals
It’s okay if you treat writing like a part-time job instead of a full-time one. The point is to take your writing time and production as seriously as you would if someone were paying you to do so. However, you shouldn’t run yourself into the ground in the process. Small sacrifices are one thing, but you shouldn’t be killing yourself to make your writing dreams a reality. It’s unhealthy and unsustainable. It’s really hard to be a happy writer if you’ve spread yourself too thin, so set goals you can reasonably accomplish. Once you do break into publishing, you might be able to cut back on other obligations to get more time, but for now, build the habit. It’s easier to expand a habit you already have than to start from scratch.
For more on this topic, check out these posts: How to Set Manageable Writing Goals and The Importance of Setting Reasonable Writing Goals.
Hold yourself accountable (or find someone who will)
If this were a normal job, there would be a boss, someone above you waiting for your work. Someday, that will be your agent, editor, and publisher. For now, that boss is going to have to be you. If you’re someone who is good at holding yourself accountable this might not be too hard. Personally, I get a lot of satisfaction out of sticking to a schedule, but that might not be you. If that’s the case, then find a friend who will check in on your regularly. Then come up with a system. Maybe you have to report your word count or (if they’re a good early draft reader) send them pages. If you can find another writer, you can support each other and hold each other accountable.
If you have the option of leaving home to write, give it a shot. I’ve found that this creates the feeling of “going to work” and helps me stay focused once I get there. I also know of writers who made it a habit of stopping a cafe for a half hour or so on their way home from work. They knew once they got home, the writing wouldn’t get done, so they found another option. If you want more on this topic, I did a whole post on the benefits of writing out.
As always, I hope this helps!
Don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter. You’ll get a bi-weekly email with posts like this one (plus a handful of email exclusives) delivered directly to your inbox!
Now it’s your turn: What helps you take your writing seriously? Is there anything on this list you’re excited to try? Tell me about it in the comments!