Back at the start of January I decided that if I wanted writing to be a career I needed to make some changes to how I approached my writing time. I'd gotten into the habit of writing every free second, or rushing to my computer... and if I didn't hit my daily word count, or finish the chapter, or finish editing a section, I felt guilty.
Which isn't how "real" jobs work.
I've had office jobs before, they had set hours, and if things didn't get done in that time they got done the next day.
My husband never feels bad about not doing office work on a Saturday. He rarely sneaks back to office after dinner to finish One More Thing. So why was I letting writing control my life? To be perfectly honest, it happened because I never stopped to think about writing as a career.
I mean, I thought about sales and marketing and taxes. But, mentally, writing was still shelved with Art and Painting and Music... I was kind of treating it as a hobby, and still writing like a beginner.
One of the big things everyone pushes new authors to do is Write Daily. Which is great. A daily writing habit is often necessary if a new author wants to finish a book and never has. That's why NaNoWriMo is so wonderful. It's also not sustainable. No one writes seven days a week, not their whole life long, it's physically impossibly and emotionally draining.
I love to write. I find it very relaxing, and I enjoy the insanity that is publishing. But I know on the days I edit I'm not writing. On the days I'm sick (like today) I'm not writing. I don't have the mental energy needed to create a logical scene right now.
So, back in January, I decided I needed to calculate in time off, sick days, and no-guilt vacation days.
For writing to be a sustainable career I need to make sure I'm the one in control. I dictate the hours when I write. I dictate when I'm working. Not the other way around. Otherwise writing - or any other career - becomes a monster that steals your weekends and makes you fret during family dinner.
Writing every day is not as important in the long run as writing consistently. In 2015 I noticed I wrote in fits and starts. A few weeks of high output, and then weeks of nothing. That's not sustainable. That doesn't get books written or careers built. And I see this all the time with authors who quit before they get published. They get upset because they miss a day of writing, or they get off schedule because of an illness or project at work, and they are so angry with themselves they quit writing.
Or, after keeping up the daily writing schedule the author feels they don't have time for family and fun, so they quit writing.
Do you see a theme here?
Jobs have sick days. They have vacation days. They have a quitting time when you leave work. If writing - or any art - is your job, then make sure you schedule your sick days and vacation days. Figure out what's reasonable for you. Set your quitting time.
I'll be honest, the most productive year I had writing was the one where I turned off the computer at 4pm every day. I miss being able to do that. I'll make excuses all day long for why the 4pm shut-off doesn't work for me anymore (mostly because I need to be done at 2:30 and the smallest doesn't nap anymore... but that's another story), but it's the truth. Spending extra time in front of the computer doesn't make me more productive, it gives me more time to slack off.
So what's your action plan? Make a schedule, plan for days off, pick a quitting time, and write at a sustainable pace, not one that's going to kill you or your creativity.
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