Treating Writing Like A Job

After four rounds of StoryADay, three NaNoWriMos and several decades of being in various stages of writerly success, avoidance, denial and productivity, I think I’m finally getting the hang of treating my writing as a job…

After four rounds of StoryADay, three NaNoWriMos and several decades of being in various stages of writerly success, avoidance, denial and productivity, I think I’m finally getting the hang of treating my writing as a job.

Pursuing The Craft

I’ve developed a three-pronged approach to this ‘course’ I’m taking in writing. I’m sharing it because if you aren’t doing all of these things, you will want to add them to your writing life. And because if I’ve missed something, I’d love you to share it in the comments.

Commitment

If you vow to write a certain amount every day, or at the same time every day, or to finishing a thing by a certain date, that’s commitment. You’re not just messing around. You’re practising your craft. Whether or not you start off each writing session in the mood, you write when you said you would. You’re taking it seriously.

That in itself is a big step.

But better than that, if you really writing, committing, finishing, you will be learning and improving and progressing towards a point where you can be proud of what you write.

Study

Learn from other writers.

This is a lesson I resisted for a long time. Let’s face it I don’t like to be told what to do. And in a way, it is dangerous to read about what other writers do, unless you read voraciously. Read, listen to podcasts and interviews, take it all in.

At first you’re going to get depressed because all the writers you love are doing it differently from how you do it. You’re going to try to write 2000 words a day, every day, like Stephen King or you’re going to think you can’t finish a book without a writer’s retreat in Taos, New Mexico. And then maybe you’ll find that your writing method is frighteningly close to that of that jackass writer whose books you wouldn’t read if they were the last words on earth.

But the more you listen, the more you’ll realize it doesn’t matter. You’ll find your own way and you can try out tips from other writers. Discard them if they don’t work. Hoard them if they do. And you’ll start to realize that all writers have slumps, all writers find the middle difficult, all writers think they’re writing garbage at some point in the first draft. And all the successful writers keep going anyway. They finish. They send their work out there. They move on and write the next thing.

Read, listen, learn.

Get Out There

Showing your work to your mother or your spouse is all very well (and a necessary stage to give you the courage to move on to the next bit). But a biased reader-review is nothing to the power of a review from another writer.

Get out into the world and find yourself some other writers. (Try Meetup.com for real-world writers groups in your area — I found an awesome group this way. Hang out in the Writer Unboxed community on Facebook, or at one of the billion other online communities (including this one!)

There is nothing like hanging out with other writers to help boost your confidence in your writing and in your decision to embrace this writing thing that pulls at you. Suddenly, you are not alone, and that feels great.

Even better, their feedback will come at you from a different angle. They won’t say your writing is ‘nice’ or ‘fine’. They’ll talk about character arcs and shading and plot archetypes, and you will learn from all the things they’ve read and learned as they study their craft.

How about you? Are you writing if and when the muse strikes or are you laying traps for her by writing every day, studying up on the craft and hanging out with other writers? What else are you doing to develop your writing career?