I remember when I first made the choice that would change everything. “I want to be a writer, professionally”, I said aloud for the first time in 2012. I had switched majors five times and found that what truly made me happy was writing. I knew how silly it probably sounded to my family and friends but it was my choice and nobody was going to change my mind.
Little did they know that every free minute I had to myself, I had spent writing. My mind was overflowing with ideas and it seemed like every 30 seconds a new idea would pop into my mind. Did I know the struggle ahead of me? Did I realize the majority of people in my life, (or those who knew me), would never really understand? To an extent – yes – I knew. However, there was SO MUCH I didn’t know.
If you’re thinking you want to become a writer, full-time, there are some things I wish I would’ve known before I abandoned all other options and solely pursued writing. For all my fellow scribes out there, here are all the things I wish I would’ve known before I started writing professionally:
1. It can get really, really lonely
Working from home, in itself, can become pretty lonely. Being a full-time writer from home can get really, really lonely. There aren’t many ways to meet other writers, (that I’ve found, anyhow) and you don’t get the chance to have “traditional co-workers.” It’s pretty much going to be all you – all the time – by yourself. And while I don’t regret my choice at all, (I don’t believe I really ever had a choice in the matter), the loneliness is not for everyone.
Being a writer isn’t a traditional career choice, so don’t expect to have all the benefits of those who chose the traditional path – including co-workers.
2. You’re going to Face a lot of Rejection
It’s just part of the gig. Writing is subjective, so don’t expect every single thing you write to get published. Most of it probably won’t. You’ll likely get a shit ton of rejection letters, (if you hear anything back at all), when submitting to publishers. With rejection, you can also expect a lot of negative feedback. You need to make sure you’re tough enough to handle it. (I certainly had to get tougher skinned).
3. Lots of People won’t understand what you “do for a living”
I’ve heard this so many times: “I wish I could just stay home and do whatever I want.” (Eye roll – yeah me too). A lot of people don’t understand that writing is a job, and usually it’s a lot harder than having a traditional 9-5 with a supervisor telling you exactly what you need to be doing all the time.
Nobody sets my hours. There isn’t someone telling me exactly what I need to be doing. It’s all on me. Yes, there is a freedom to it, but there are also chains. The difference in being a writer is that you have to ability to control your own chains. But, if you expect to make a lot of money, you’re going to need to work a hell of a lot more hours than 30 per week. Writer’s don’t get paid vacation. We don’t answer to anyone, (save the occasional publisher or editor).
Not everyone is going to get it and that’s just something I’ve come to accept. Their opinions aren’t writing me checks, anyways. 🙂
4. Time Management can be a horrid Bitch
Managing time as a writer, (besides the actual writing part), is the most difficult. Like I said, there’s nobody setting your schedule. YOU’RE setting it for YOURSELF. This means that time management is incredibly important. I have had occasions where I was working on one freelance project for 5 hours, completely neglecting my other obligations. Time flew by. I lost a contract that day because I wasn’t adequately managing my time.
You have to come up with your own method of managing your time. I use the stopwatch feature on my FitBit to manage my time now and I always make sure to actually look at the freaking clock. It’s really easy to get lost in writing and hours turn to minutes. Time management is essential to being a successful writer. Learn to manage it or face losing money and opportunities.
5. Not all Writers are the same
You can read as many books as you want written by your favorite authors and maybe their approach to writing will work for you. However, it probably won’t. I had tried TONS of writing rituals and approaches before I found the one that worked for me – (the one that allowed me to be the most productive).
Sure, I tried to emulate the rituals of famous writers but the truth is, they didn’t work for me. It’s an individualized process that you have to discover on your own. It took me years to find my best writing ritual and method.
If you choose to be a writer, (something I don’t think is really a choice at all), expect a lot of setbacks and criticisms. At least with me, I had a lot of people close to me not understanding what the hell I was thinking. Most of them probably talked a lot behind my back and that’s okay. Like I’ve said, it wasn’t them paying my bills. The most important piece of advice I have is that you have to believe in yourself and honestly, f*ck what everyone else thinks. If you’re a writer and you know it – well, that’s the only opinion that matters.
Writing professionally can be difficult. It can be lonely and when it comes down to it – you will be your own boss. That sounds great to a lot of people but sometimes it isn’t. There are many people who need a boss to tell them what they need to be doing – and that’s perfectly fine. I get it. Some days I wish I could just curl up on the couch and binge some Netflix but I know I have to get work done or I won’t get paid.
If this is the path you choose for yourself, awesome. We should all do what makes us happy. Not everyone who tries will be successful, but you’ll never know if you don’t try. I wish all my fellow scribes the very best 🙂 .
I’ll continue to add more tips about writing so keep checking back.