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Keeping life in balance while pursuing your writing dreams

Making a plan that includes time for your creative passions

Woman writer on park bench writing

Very few of us can afford to give up our day jobs and devote ourselves to the dream of writing full time. At least not in the beginning. But, if we give into the notion that we’ll write as soon as we have time, or when we have our own office, or when tomorrow comes, we’ll never become writers because we’ll never write. We’ll never learn the craft, improve our skills,  overcome our weaknesses, or explore the magical world that creative writing provides. We’ll never know if we had what it takes. Being a writer will always remain an elusive, albeit romantic dream.

But some people manage to overcome the resistance, as Steven Pressfield describes it in The War of Art. They manage to carve out time to do the work. They overcome the resistance by making it a priority in their life to the point that it is a daily ritual. Many writers wrote amazing literature while working full time, including the greats like Harper Lee, Toni Morrison, Anton Chekhov, J.K. Rowling, and Herman Melville. 

How do you become a writer?

You write every day. No excuses. 

If it is a day you wake up, then it is a day you write. You don’t wait for inspiration. You don’t complain of being blocked or busy or tired. You write every day. It becomes a part of your daily schedule, an appointment you make with your writing, and you don’t miss your appointments. It is on your To-Do list. Give yourself a star sticker on a calendar that is hanging where you see it every day so that one date with a missing star will make you nuts. Earn the star every day. If you don't have a current writing project you are working on, then do free writing or use writing prompts to just get you writing. The more you write, the better you will become.

Do a search for creative writing prompts and select a new one every day. Here are a few links with free prompts to get you started: 

There are also affordable Kindle books with a list of prompts, just for those times when you need a quick idea to get you chugging away (and to meet your self-imposed daily writing goals, which you have, right?):

There are also some inspiring books for any writer, in any genre, that are inspirational and motivational. Some of my favorites are:

So, there you go, no more excuses that you don’t have ideas to write about every day. However,  don’t use reading these books to be an excuse not to write! Many writers spend years procrastinating (while calling it researching) and not getting to the work at hand. Don’t be one of them. I speak from experience here, unfortunately.

How do you become a better writer?

Here’s the crux of it all, unless you just happen to be an intuitively, talented and productive writer already:

Read other writers. 

Read the authors who move you the way you’d like to move others. Study their work. How did they do it? Why are you moved? What works and what doesn’t and then emulate what works. 

Then, write every day. Put your butt in the chair. Select a schedule, even if it begins with only 15 minutes a day, but stick with it and eventually expand the amount of time you carve out of your day. After a few weeks of a writing ritual it will become easier and more rewarding, and before you know it, you’ll look forward to that part of your day to the point that you wouldn’t dare miss it.

If necessary, trick yourself into feeling motivated. I already mentioned giving yourself a star on your calendar, but some writers use a word count goal that they track on a spreadsheet or a calendar. The idea of sitting down and thinking you have to write a novel is likely to keep you from ever starting. But giving yourself a goal of 500, 1,000 words a day or 15, 30 minutes, or 2 hours of writing every day will eventually become a novel draft.

Did I mention that you need to write every day?

Share your work

Share your work with others and ask for feedback. Some of it will be invaluable, and some of it will be useless. But you will learn from all the feedback you get, so ask for it. Feedback will also help you to develop a thicker skin and learn to accept criticism, constructive or otherwise, and not become angry or devastated. It also helps you to learn to kill your babies (those works of art, or so you thought when you created them, that are actually changlings and need to be dispatched to the netherworld.)

Join or build a tribe

There are some great courses, workshops, and online opportunities and many of them also have a Facebook group with which to network and get to know other writers. I recently signed up for a short story writing course, to get me back in the habit of being accountable for my writing practice. It is called The Write Practice. One of the best things about it is that it allowed me to meet other writers in my same situation. They can help you, you can return the favor and you’ll learn by critiquing the work of others. 

A few new writers

You can learn from others what works for them and how they integrate writing into their busy lives. You will learn how they have overcome challenges you also face. You can be inspired by their successes.

Evelyn Puerto

One of the first writers I met at The Write Practice was Evelyn Puerto. To say she always loved to read is an understatement, as she told me she drove her mother crazy bugging her to take her to the local library about every other day. But she never had plans to be a writer. That came about in a convoluted way. She left her career in health administration to serve as a missionary in Russia. Every summer she’d travel to Ukraine to meet a group from her church and to help them in the medical clinic they held. While she was there, she met a family who’d endured fierce persecution under communism, a family who had amazing stories of how they persevered. After she returned from Russia, she was asked to write a book about that family. Her response? “I’m not a writer.”

She eventually agreed and went on to write the award-winning Beyond the Rapids. It took nearly eight years because she was trying to fit the writing in around a full-time job. The only way she managed to get it done was to do a little bit every day and to occasionally block out chunks of time (like on a Friday night). She never gave up.

Along the way, she realized she’d found a new career. She became fascinated with the idea of telling stories that move and entertain people. She turned her attention to writing fiction and loves the research and world-building that go into creating a novel. 

Currently, she’s working on a fantasy novel. After she quit her full-time job, she thought she’d have more time to write. She says, “Funny how doing laundry starts to look more appealing when the blank screen gets a bit intimidating.” I could relate. 

Getting past the fear of never being good enough was one of the hardest parts of writing for her. And sometimes she says she puts so much energy into her freelance writing business that there’s not much creative energy left for her fiction. 

But, like any successful writer, she’s learned to set clear goals for the day and week. She’s also found that mornings work best for creating, while editing and revisions go better after lunch. Playing mood music that matches the scene helps her capture the emotions of her characters. 

Evelyn found that another challenge has been marketing, which is why she joined the writing course where I met her. “Being able to meet other writers, to encourage them and network with them will help us all succeed,” she says, “And make the whole process a lot more fun for all of us.” Visit Evelyn Puerto’s website or follow her on Twitter or Facebook.

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Krissy Baccaro

Another writer I met is Krissy Baccaro. She is a writer who also loved writing stories even as a little girl, but recently began to write in earnest and has completed her first novel. She is now dedicated to writing regularly and to seeing her work through to publication. 

She is also a fulltime teacher of 26 years who juggles her two professions by committing to at least four days per week for an hour per day (at a minimum). Her current process is to either write after she gets home from work, or at night before she goes to bed (looking for a chunk of uninterrupted time). She has checklists of what she wants to accomplish for both her short and long-term goals. She tapes these goals up on the wall near where she writes as a visual reminder of where she is headed.

Krissy says her biggest writing challenges are making the time to write without neglecting the responsibilities of a full-time job, family, and children without writing into the wee hours of the morning and then start all over again at the crack of dawn.

For Krissy, the writing process is relaxing and therapeutic. She loves to see where the story goes and to explore the inner workings of characters with different backgrounds and experiences from her own, while also weaving her own life experiences into her stories. Her first mystery/crime novel, “Buried Secrets” will soon be ready for publication. Visit Krissy Baccaro’s website or follow her on Twitter or Facebook.

By BL Golden