Being a writer is … awesome. From the fun and chaos of journalism school, to writing articles on everything from finding body confidence in my birthday suit to surrogacy, to penning a novel that will soon grace bookstore shelves, it’s been a dream “job” so far.
Because of this I bristle a little when I hear others lament the challenges of this career, though I certainly understand the inclination. There are days when it feels impossible to write a good word. The money (mostly) sucks. It’s competitive, and whether you’re drafting, revising, interviewing or researching, it’s easy to work all the time. But it’s also very much a choice (others feel it’s a calling, but that’s a post for another day…) – the truth is, no one is forcing your fingers onto those keys. Except maybe your editor, if you’re behind on a deadline … on those days it might feel like less of a choice.
So if you’re with me and think writing full time is the Bees Knees, but you still have that pesky day job to sort out, here are a few suggestions for how to take the leap:
- Set goals; have vision. When I quit my cushy marketing director desk job in favor of freelance writing and being home with my then one-year-old daughter, everyone assumed it was to write magazine articles. Yes, that was the goal, but with no real connections I knew it would take some time and effort. So for two years I did communications and marketing copywriting, and sharpened both my writing and rainmaking skills. Then I had an opportunity to pitch a magazine editor at a conference. She ended up buying that pitch, and then a number of others after it. Another year and a decent stack of byline credits later, I started working toward my next goal: to publish a novel. Three books and three years later I’m nearly there and looking to the next goal, which is to be an over-caffeinated, full-time novelist.
- Get your “dose of reality” injection, or “do your homework.” Before I left my job I had three things in place: one, a few paying clients and projects to sustain the first six months of my freelance life; two, daycare a couple of days a week so I had uninterrupted work time; and three, a supportive husband who was 100% on board with the decision. I knew there would be challenges (sick kid, deadlines, slow-to-pay clients, tear-your-hair-out projects, dry spells) but I also had strategies in place to deal with each. As much as I could prepare, I did, and while there were days when I cursed my decision and longed for my ergonomic desk chair and paycheque, without question I was happier overall – and that counts for a lot.
- Know thyself. Though I do (still) miss the office vibe, and the coffee break chats, and the opportunity to brainstorm with colleagues, I’m much more productive when unencumbered by lengthy meetings and group schedules. And while I at times enjoy the solitude that comes with writing, there are days when being alone is detrimental to my craft and my sanity. So rather than creating a home office space, which essentially limits me to one room and zero interactions, I write all around the house – in the living room, at the kitchen table, on the patio when it’s warm – and have an unofficial office (table) at my local coffee shop for when I need to be a part of the hustle and bustle.
- Upgrade your coffee delivery system and loungewear. Being comfortable AND alert count for a lot. And if you’re more an evening beverage kind of person, here’s my one and only rule around that: Drink while drafting, but revise with (only) coffee.
- Go for it. Sometimes the only way to know if you’ll love something, or if it works for you, is to give it a try. You can plan, study, stress, and dream indefinitely, but until you give yourself permission to leap, you won’t know if it’s the right decision. There is something to the whole “fake it ’til you make it” idea. Which is both scary and exhilarating, don’t you think?
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