Now let's talk about sad things.
For those of you who may not know, I actually have a day job. And a lot of people who are writers have day jobs. Nay, a lot of writers also have children or old sick parents or three-legged mogwais. So at least I don't have those ... for now.
But I thought we may want to touch on the sad fact that in order to start off as a writer, you're probably going to have to work.
This came up in my mind when I read on a board about someone who didn't want a crappy job anymore and they wanted to "Be Someone," so they were going to attempt to get into an MFA program. Someone candidly said, "And are you going to be okay having a crappy job and not Being Someone while you get that MFA?"
It's true. A lot of people work through their MFA program. Not everyone ... not most people, actually ... get a full funded deal. And even if they do, they need to take out loans or they need to work in order to keep their heads above water.
Another lovely moment that happened in the past two or three months was an author who actually came to my work and told us, "You will never be a writer if you keep working a day job. It's not going to happen."
Oh. Is that true?
So I've compiled six fun pieces of advice that will help you cheat-code your way through your job while you are trying to also write.
MAKE A SPACE THAT YOU WILL USE
Make a space that is yours. Don't try to make a writing space that you "think" you're supposed to have; there have been many a blank notebook and many an unused desk up against the wall because I tried to put together a writing space that fit some contorted worldly view. So you know what mine looks like? I turned the dining room into a writing room, complete with a desk looking out to a pinetree-infested courtyard. And also, I included a bed. That's right. I put a bed in my space, because that is usually where I write. Notice I have more than one place to write, depending on how I'm feeling on a given day. And guess what, I actually sit in this room and work!
YOU HAVE TO WRITE. YOU HAVE TO.
I am awful at getting things done if I don't have deadlines. So I tried to work to get myself some deadlines. But the thing is ... the reason why deadlines work for me is because I have the pending fear of disappointing a third party. So when it comes to that self-imposed deadline and realizing I'm going to miss it, I am very good about forgiving myself. I just shrug, say "Oh well, it's okay, I understand," and move on. But then nothing happens, and an awful cycle of self-loathing and petty forgiveness happens.
So I had to learn to work from within; that is to say, from a place of passion and excitement about a piece. If I want to work on a piece just for the sake of working on it, then I'll sit down and work on it. If a piece gets too hard, the motivation becomes not so much writing good stuff, but instead just writing until the good stuff happens.
No matter how you get yourself to write, you just have to do it. Every single day. You have to sit down in your space and write.
SURROUND YOURSELF WITH SUPPORTIVE PEOPLE
God love the people in my life, but I have to say they're split into two camps. The first camp is full of people who find writing a hobby or a silly little activity you can do when everything else is done. If it comes down to either going out to the premiere of Catching Fire or sitting at home and finishing a scene, they'll pressure you to go out and see the movie. They just don't understand, and that can mangle your priorities.
However, if you can find what I can a "writing buddy" or at least a support system who will pressure you to take your writing seriously, then your priorities will get a little jab in the right direction. When you get your coat on to go out to the Catching Fire premiere, they'll say, "What, what, what are you doing? You didn't finish that scene." And you'll be held accountable for your actions.
But you will not always have someone sitting there breathing down your neck. Writing is a very sad, very lonely profession. We just sort of type away, trying to make sense of something that is honestly kind of pointless in the large scheme of the world. Yeah, there are authors who have changed the world, but for each Upton Sinclair there's been a Barney McNo-One who died with four hundred pages of a manuscript no one ever read. So I feel like writers try to look for gratification and validation from external sources. Even if you get into Brown MFA and you publish a book with Random House, you're never going to feel validated. So you have to learn to write from that place of not knowing. You have to learn to write through the fear.
JOIN A WORKSHOP/GET INTO A LOW-RES/READ READ READ
You are going to need to have an external stimulation, however. You can't just keep writing those vampire stories and memoirs about your first bike ride. You need to go forth and listen to other writers, read other authors, and learn from other sources.
AND FINALLY: TREAT IT LIKE A JOB.
You want this to be your job? Then treat it with the respect a job would deserve. You go to work and you get yelled at if you don't do your work. Then you come home and no one gives a crap if you go to sleep, watch Hulu for five hours, or write the Great American Vampire Novel. That's the dangerous thing. Make it a priority. Make it your life. And make something.
Have a great week!