The wannabe writer needs to ask an important question: “Am I prepared to never have such a thing as spare time again?”
Most writers work part time if not full time at normal, everyday jobs, just like anyone else, and always will. Some writers will be successful enough to give up the day job, but a portion will never quite have the courage to strike out and leave that feeling of security. Other writers find themselves at home full-time, and for whatever the reasons will use that time pursuing the career of which they’ve always dreamed.
Working at a day job or not, there can still be demands on time — home, family, friends… hell, just trying to have a life. I advise balancing all these requirements. The writer who dives into nothing but work can burn out. I’ve come close and seen it happen to others. Trying to do too much can make it almost impossible to do anything.
Everyone needs some time off. That includes writers. The trouble with that idea is the one thing many writers struggle to do is to throw that switch off in their heads to not thinking about work. And by that, I don’t mean whether an editor’s got back with a yes or no yet or whether the latest edits will be tear-inducing. It can be very difficult not to think about the work in progress or even the next. Even when a writer has reached an aimed for quota, if the work is flowing, it’s hard to step away from the keyboard to think about such things as making dinner or going to bed and sleeping.
Another way to phrase the same question is: Am I prepared to work on the weekend? By that, I don’t only mean writing. Writing is no longer the creation of a story, sending it out there, sitting back, doing nothing but thinking of the next project. There’s the writing (which can be difficult enough), the research, the submission process, working with an editor, gearing up for a release date, the marketing. All of which takes time. Time will soon be a precious commodity. And even if the writer becomes one of the lucky few who streamlines everything and discovers the right marketing that works, the creation process — those little voices in one’s head — can speak up when least convenient.
I’ve discovered that for many in the publishing industry — writers, cover artists, editors, company owners… Whether they have offices that shut the doors on the weekend or not, often they take work home with them. They may work from home — many businesses can survive electronically these days — but no matter how wonderful working from home sounds, it can require far more discipline. Many in publishing work seven days a week.
There are those who insist they won’t work on the weekend, but it’s necessary to resolve such a decision. Even then, deadlines wait for no one. If the work is impossible to complete without working on a day ‘off’, then it’s important to prepare to work even on short notice. The writer soon realises that, just as with many day jobs, the only true way to ‘get away’ is to head off to somewhere isolated and take no electronic devices — just make sure the publisher knows the M.I.A. dates to avoid the court-martial.
Time off? I’m betting the writer will find it impossible not to take a notepad and pen to jot down those ideas that pop up during a conversation, at dinner, when lying in the bath, in the middle of the night. Become a writer and it doesn’t end, and if there are a few quiet hours, for many, being idle will never feel right again, will feel downright unnatural. For even if when the writer completes all the editing, the marketing’s sorted, there are stories that require telling… and a small nagging voice will ask why you aren’t busy writing them.
Writing for a hobby is one thing. In publishing, prepare to be busy. Prepare to be self-disciplined.