I’m a writer, but my full-time job is not writing. Thinking back upon my life thus far, I can remember nearly always possessing a love of writing but in addition to other loves. When I was a kid, I enjoyed writing but also wanted to be a doctor. As I went through school, I enjoyed my English electives but chose to major in the sciences. In college, I was inspired by one of my professors to become a doctor (not the type that I or my parents were originally thinking) and eventually went all the way to earn my Ph.D in Biological Sciences (I have the scars from field work to prove it). Now, so many years later, I enjoy writing fantasy even though I’m an Associate Professor of Biology. To date, I’ve published 4 novels and 1 nonfiction book, but the professor life remains one of my full-time jobs, and raising my family is my other full-time job. Peoples’ life circumstances are different, and I am friends with several full-time writers, many writers that also are in occupations related to writing, and lots and lots of others that are in occupations, including parenting, not necessarily related to writing.
Occasionally, I stumble across writing advice that honestly irks me, and then I have to take a step back (i.e., run away) and remember to breathe (i.e., not scream). I take this moment to remember what I just said above: everyone’s life circumstance is different, and not all advice for writers applies to you. For every writer that celebrates the end of summer because it means kids are back in school, there will be writer-teachers that mourn the end of summer because it means going back to to work — or writers that can’t empathize with this because they don’t have kids. For every writer that depends on the support of a partner to take over the household and/or kids so they have more time to write, there will be writers that don’t have partners — or writers that don’t have partners that are able and/or willing to take over the household and/or kids. And so on. And so forth.
So yes, I have a full-time non-writing-related job and am a parent. Originally, I was going to title this blog “If Your Full-time Job is not Writing…” BUT this won’t apply to every writer (and I don’t want to irk anyone). So ultimately, this is my blog post about acceptance of who YOU are as a writer and YOUR life circumstances, whatever they may be.
Here are things that have helped me navigate the trickiness of life and all it has to offer:
- Regularly reevaluate your priorities. Writing does not always have to be on the top of your list today. It does not have to be on the top of your list tomorrow. Your life circumstances might require that you shift priorities from season to season or even day to day, and this is okay.
- Do not compare your progress, success, situation, or life to others. You work the way that is best for you. Period. Comparing your situation to someone else is not productive — you set the standards or bar for yourself, not anyone else.
- Create small, realistic goals for yourself. Adjust whenever needed. Keep your goals attainable and within your control. “Selling X books within a month of book release,” or “Hitting a bestseller list by the time I retire,” are examples of goals that are not within your realm of control. “Write 5K this week,” “Revise three chapters today,” or “Critique a beta read by the end of the month,” on the other hand, are great goals that are within your control.
- Cultivate a different enjoyable go-to activity for those hard-to-write days. Hitting those writing goals provides us with a great deal of enjoyment, but everyone has those days when the words become a thick sludge and simply refuse to come out. Everyone. Instead of depriving yourself of the specific enjoyment of hitting your writing goal, shift your efforts to something that also provides you with joy.
- Allow yourself breaks from writing — “as long as you need.” “As long as you need,” is the response that one of my writing group sisters gave me when I told them that I needed to take a writing break. I’m filled with gratitude for this level of understanding, which brings me to the next point.
- Take care of yourself. Orly Konig’s post yesterday shared 4 wonderful ways to protect your writing boundaries. In addition to your writing boundaries, you need to protect yourself too, your mental and physical health, and your sense of well-being. This may require saying “no” or forgiving yourself for taking necessary breaks.
- Take time to remember and reflect on why you are a writer. If you’re here on Thinking Through Our Fingers and any of this resonates with you on a deep level, then you are a writer. Even if you don’t write today, tomorrow, for weeks or months or years, you are a writer. We all have reasons why we’ve embraced this difficult and often frustrating trade, and it’s emotionally helpful to remind ourselves of why we write.
- Ignore writing advice that doesn’t apply to you. Instead of being irked by writing advice that doesn’t apply to you (as I tend to do), move on. You will find your way — a way that works for you and others in similar life circumstances. Or maybe just for you. ❤
Helen Boswell loved to get lost in the pages of a story from the time she could sound out the words. She credits her dad, an avid fiction reader, with encouraging her to read ALL OF THE BOOKS on his shelves. An author of both urban fantasy and contemporary romance, she loves to read and write characters that come to life with their beauty, flaws, and all. She is the author of the upper YA MYTHOLOGY trilogy and new adult contemporary romances. You can find out more about her books at www.helenboswell.com.