Giving up work to write full-time I think is every writer’s dream come true. The thought of simply writing what we want to write in whatever hours that suits us, sounds appealing, but that’s far from the reality. I’ve found out the hard way that writing takes a lot more time and energy than what we’ve all been led to believe.
A few months after I got married, I handed in my notice to my employer of almost ten years. It was a decision that was not made lightly, but one I knew had to be made. I had tired of my job and as far as I could see there was no future for me there. It was time I moved on to something different.
Excited by the prospect of fulfilling the writing dream of writing full time, I gathered enough notebooks and pens to last me a good while. I spent time making sure the computer had enough space to accommodate my works, and living in the Blue Mountains at the time, I had an inspiring view of the Grose Valley from my balcony. I was in a perfect situation in which to write.
With so much time on my hands, I began to squander it. Projects I had eagerly begun were tossed aside for the next project, only to see the process repeated. After these ‘failures’, doubts began to fester until I dreaded starting anything new and spent less time writing altogether. It was about this time that my husband landed a job in the country, and we relocated, giving me the chance to have some casual work within the same department. Almost two years later, I became pregnant with my first child. Writing during this time was very much on the back-burner.
Looking back, I realise that although I wanted to write, that period in my life was not the time; clearly I was not ready. Also I did not have a plan. It may sound simple, but in my eagerness, I had no idea where I going. Before handing in my resignation, I should have put more thought into what exactly I was going to do, have some kind of back up plan, consider finances, etc.
These days, I’m working to two different pieces of advice: plan your work, work your plan and finish what you started. Planning ahead can save you a lot of time and effort. It also allows you to focus on the task ahead and gives you the confidence you need to reach those goals.
Have you ever stopped working to pursue writing full-time and it didn’t work out? Do you feel guilty when you squander your time rather than write? Do you have any writing projects that are incomplete?
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9 thoughts on “Having a Writing Plan.”
I have half-finished manuscripts, finished first drafts that never went anywhere, notebooks filled with ideas and scenes, and flash drives filled with things I’m too scared to look at. But I also have finished short stories, flash fiction pieces and a completed YA trilogy I’m reworking because my main character said so… Sometimes it’s good to just write whatever comes to mind – you never know when that strange scene you wrote a year ago will be the missing piece in your current work in progress.
And yes: I do feel bad when I take time to do things that aren’t writing related. But then I remind myself why I’m doing it, even if I don’t like it (e.g. someone has to do the laundry). At least I can talk to my characters while cooking/cleaning/going for a walk…
“plan your work, work your plan and finish what you started.” Love that. Finishing a story might be the hardest thing to do, but that feeling of accomplishment is incomparable.
Hi Ronel. What you describe sounds very much like me. I also have lots of notebooks, flash drives and half-finished manuscripts. I’m so sick of all the paper everywhere, but I feel I can’t throw any of it out. I like to refer to it all as my ‘organised mess’. 😉 Taking time away from writing is a good thing as it gives us time to clear our heads. I guess, though, we never really take a ‘time out’ because even then we are still thinking about it, like mentally working on our plots, characters, etc. Typing those words ‘The End’ is extremely satisfying and I think it was even more so when I completed the first draft of my first novel. It finally proved to me that I can do this!
Absolutely! In February I was going to throw a box of old notebooks away when I saw a short story – without plot, but with a great idea – in the mess of papers. I rewrote it and it became three stories that I published during A-Z. You never know when something great is hiding in that mess 😉
I wish I would be able to write full time. A dream indeed. But without a spouse, it is not possible.
Hi Savannah. It’s true what you say – that would make it difficult. I’m fortunate to have a husband that supports me in my efforts. Sometimes I think that writing full-time is not all what it’s cracked up to be. Not only is it a lot of hard work, but you need to be very disciplined and it can get quite lonely at times. I miss the social interaction employment gives me. And when I worked full-time, I appreciated that down-time all the more to get some writing done. Thanks for your comment, I wish you well. 🙂
Most writers I know work full-time because their spouse doesn’t make enough to support both, which is very common. I however, would have no issues being isolated. I work from home most days and rarely speak or see others on those days.
Sometimes we struggle financially, which makes me feel guilty. My husband tells me not to worry and keep with my writing. I’m lucky he has such faith in me, so I really owe it to him to make a go at this. No pressure! 😉
For me part of the challenge of writing is the debate over what to work on. My mind spins ideas out of all sorts of random experiences, and I greedily jot them all down on the off chance that in some future moment “this” will be the seed that springboards a solution to whatever creative knot currently troubles me. Unfortunately this also means I often have too many choices.
And of course there are always other things that need to be done, cleaning dishes, laundry, exercises, accounting, etc.
One strategy I’ve found has been to plan out my week, using a table to outline roughly how much time I think I can comfortably dedicate to writing, and what type of work I’m going to do.
I also try to spend the last few minutes of “today” choosing exactly what I’m going to do “tomorrow”. In a way the distance of looking ahead to tomorrow, instead of deciding what to do “right now”, helps to remove some of the stress/anxiety that clouds my judgement.
I don’t know that I’m quite ready to leave my day job just yet, but every year I try to increase my writing quota by a little bit, in the hopes that gradually I can prove to myself that I can dedicate 20, 30, or even 50 hours to writing in a single week. Granted I know that not every week would be that productive, but I’d like to become comfortable with a 6-10 hour writing session.
Hi Adam. I’m pretty much the same when it comes to figuring out what project to work on. I usually find it difficult to focus when I have other ideas wanting my attention. I guess having too many ideas are better than none – no writer’s block for us! 😉 I use a similar strategy and put in my diary what I what to work on that week. What doesn’t get done, gets put in for the next week, etc. I’m starting with a couple of projects until I’m comfortable to push myself a bit further. I’m currently working on the ‘small progress is still progress’ rule. And having quotas are a good idea. I know James Scott Bell recommends them and suggests using a word count you’re comfortable with to achieve each week and add 10%. The 10% is so you can push yourself just that little bit further. I have yet to try this myself, but it is immensely satisfying when you have achieved something that leads towards your goal, no matter how small. 🙂
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