Work and Writing
With three books released in just over a year, the most popular questions I get are:
1. How many copies did you sell?
2. How the heck do you find time to write all of those books?
Since question one is something I’m still working on (marketing is a post for another time), I’m going to tackle question two today.
As many new authors know, publishing a book does not automatically equate to the ability to buy a vacation home, a yacht, or even an order of groceries. Most of us simply must keep our day jobs.
Not that I mind. My first love will always be teaching, and as a high school English teacher, I have the perfect career to support my love for writing. However, with my full-time job as a teacher, it can be tough to find balance.
Between working on my master’s degree, teaching, regular adult responsibilities such as laundry, and everything else, finding the time to write is tough. I currently have more project ideas than I have time to write.
However, I do still find time to write. I have three books published in the past year, and I have two more drafts finished for two other books.
I could never do that! I don’t have that kind of time!
Is that what you’re thinking? So was I after Voice of Innocence was published.
But, over the past year, I’ve learned a few things about finding time to write.
Do not Force Yourself to Adhere to a Strict Writing Schedule
Many famous authors would disagree. Many argue that consistency is the key to producing a lot of works. You must set a word limit. You must write every day.
For me, though, writing is the place where I don’t have to be the meticulous, rational rule follower I am in my day to day life. I love the freedom in writing, the creativity.
So I don’t force myself to adhere to a writing rule.
Over the summers when I’m not teaching, I do write every day. I try to write at least a chapter or two.
But if I don’t feel like it?
Sure, there is the risk of getting completely away from writing and falling into an endless cycle of Netflix binging. But it hasn’t happened to me yet.
I’ve found that by not pressuring myself to write a certain amount, I’m able to write more and write with a higher quality. I simply write when I am inspired, and I write when I can. If I have a free night, I write. If I have a free week, I write every night. If I’m swamped with schoolwork and other activities, I don’t write.
I do not want to be a writer who sacrifices quality content for quantity. I refuse to write when I’m not inspired. I refuse to pressure myself to produce if I’m stressed. I think this is where the day job complements my writing. When you aren’t writing for the sole reason of producing an income, you have more flexibility in your schedule. So yes, it’s hard to balance the demands of teaching with my desire to write. However, my teaching allows me to be flexible, to write whenever I’m inspired, and, thus, to be a better writer, I think.
The lesson: Write frequently, write when you have time, but only write when you truly have your heart in it. Word quotas are only successful if your heart is in it.
Confidence Leads to Efficiency
Voice of Innocence took me about three years to write only because I didn’t have any confidence. I constantly told myself:
Once it was published, I thought I’d never write another book. I couldn’t possibly find another idea and find the ability to finish it.
But then I wrote Without You over the course of a single summer.
Once it was published, I wrote Then Comes Love over the period of about two months.
Once it was published, I wrote the majority of a first draft for my next book over the course of winter break
What’s even better is that I do not believe I’m sacrificing quality for this increased efficiency. In fact, my readers have agreed that my third book is better than my first two.
So do I have a magical potion that is helping my fingers fly faster, my brain work harder? Yes, in a way.
The more you write, the more you publish, and the more readers you gain, the easier it gets. Truly.
Before, I would second guess every character, every word choice, every scene.
I’ve learned now, though, to go with my gut. Whatever I feel, whatever I vision, I write.
This doesn’t mean my gut instinct is what shows up in the final copy. I edit mercilessly.
But for the draft, I no longer worry if I can pull it off, if I can be successful. I just go for it.
It’s like taking the training wheels off your bike for the first time. The first ride down the driveway is wobbly at best, slow and sometimes painful. The more hours on the bike, though, the smoother you get, the more confident you get. Suddenly, you’re riding around town without a thought.
The lesson: Give yourself time. Experience leads to confidence, and confidence leads to faster writing.
Find Genuine Passion for Words
For me, writing is my escape. In the “real world,” I’m rational, logical, responsible. I worry about how society views me, I worry about saying the right thing.
In my books, I can be someone else. I can be the wild Amelia who isn’t afraid to do crazy things. I can be Violet, the zany redhead who fearlessly goes after her dreams. I can see parts of the world, I can meet new people I’ve only imagined. It truly is like another world I live in.
It’s hard to explain the zone I’m in when I’m writing. It’s almost like a meditative state. I’m thinking, but I’m not. I’m visioning what’s happening and letting it translate into words. It’s not a deeply conscious, rational process. It’s very freeing.
Thus, writing truly is my hobby. While some go hiking to clear their heads (are you crazy? :) just kidding), some bake cookies, some exercise, and some knit, I write. It’s what I love.
Thus, the hours spent laboring over a work, the nights invested in writing a new book or editing a finished one, they fly by. They don’t feel like I’m working.
If you have a true passion for writing, you’ll find you want to immerse yourself in the process. It’s not a chore. It’s not something you have to schedule.
It’s something you’re called to. Even when I tried to quit writing Voice of Innocence, I simply couldn’t. The characters would come back to me during a walk, at night when I was trying to sleep, at random points in the day.
I simply felt I had to write.
When you have this passion for anything, be it writing, fitness, singing, or shopping, it’s easy to make time for it.
Rachel Ray once said in an interview you know you’ve found your calling in life when you don’t mind staying late at your job. It’s the same for writing. If you truly love it, the time will work itself out.
The Lesson: True writers have genuine passion for the work.
Any tips you have for balancing your job with your writing? How do you make time to write? Comment below to get the conversation going.