Life as a full-time writer
Many of us dream of life as a full-time writer. Being able to support yourself with your craft, having little else to worry about; to many, it’s a dream come true.
I had the good fortune to live like that for a while, through a construction based on benefits. It wasn’t because my writing was just that good. But, I did spend all day, every day writing and expanding my knowledge about being an author. This blog, I’d like to show you what problems I ran into and how I dealt with them. That way I hope to dispel some of the magical myths surrounding it, as well as show what it’s like when writing is your job, and not just a hobby.
Keeping a schedule
As much as I love to spend all day in yoga pants and not wear a bra, that has some severe consequences when I do it day in, day out. At one point I lost all track of time. Without a set rhythm for the week, it is hard to remember the feeling of a weekend. The lure of life as a full-time writer makes it easy to forget to hang out with loved ones.
With all that free time to write, I felt like I had to make every minute count. Monday morning to Sunday night, I would be writing, editing, working on my author platform, providing critiques for others, and so on. Because it felt like such a blessing, I put a lot of pressure on myself to spend every waking minute at full productivity.
That changed when I started keeping a schedule. Every Monday I meet up with a friend for dinner at his place. Tuesdays I take an hour to be creative with other forms of art. Wednesdays are for cleaning the house, and so on. Every working day has a fixed task or thing. And on the weekends I don’t have to do anything; that includes writing. Those days I can spend watching tv and not feel guilty about not writing.
Keeping a schedule like that sounds incredibly forced, and sure, at first it is. But it brought some much-needed structure to my life, and it became natural as I got used to it.
Plan my social life
Another big aspect for me was to plan my social life. No matter if you have all day to work on your book or if you work from home as I do nowadays, when you live life as a full-time writer, that is all you do, and all you want to do.
Unfortunately, that also meant I lost track of what else is important. I started to neglect my friends and social life because I was in the zone. But in the long run, that doesn’t make me happy or my life any better. So nowadays, I plan my breaks. Once a week I go over to a neighbor to have dinner and usually spend the evening watching a movie. I buy my groceries for 2–3 days so I have to go out of the house at least twice a week. No writing software is on my screens during my lunch break. No videos and/or podcasts about writing while I eat, not before 9AM and not after 11PM.
Instead of having to create moments where I can write, I have to create moments when I don’t write. Just because I am my own boss doesn’t mean I can’t get a burn-out. Too much pressure and unrealistic expectations are still very real threats to my mental health.
Shut down that screen
Last May I got new prescription glasses which only correct my sight up to 90% because I work behind a screen so much. Even with a 40 hr a week job that would be a good idea, but there have been weeks (even months) where I racked up an average of 15 hours a day fixated on screens. Even during breaks, meals, evenings; it was all screens, all day. Even on the toilet I would stare at my phone. All of my reading was on a screen.
The lack of traveling time really plays into this frightening number of hours. The moment I wake up, I check my phone for any notifications. Since half my social life happens online and at 6 to 9 hours time difference, things tend to come in while I sleep. Then after that, I start my workday after taking a minute to get changed.
Work doesn’t stop or change until I go back to bed that night—unless I actively change my routine. I took out a library card so I can read on paper, and as my schedule improved with planned breaks the strain on my eyes has decreased. Sleeping used to be difficult with all the blue light coming at me, so after 9 PM my monitors switch to softer lighting. And recently I started drafting and rewriting in longhand, which is also much kinder on my eyes.
It is so easy to get swept up in a story and not want to let go. But when I have to do other things, either meet up with friends, work out, or have errands to run, I have to. Discipline is very important when you’re a full-time writer as there are many things you may want to avoid but are still important.
On the one hand, as my own boss, sometimes I have to force myself to get into the mood for writing. Other times, I may be tempted to bury myself in editing my own work but I’ll have to focus on friends and self-care, instead. The only thing that gets me through it is to prioritize.
Every week I make a list of things I want to or have to do. Ticking the boxes helps me see how far along I am and what I still have to do. Anything that is still on there by Monday gets moved to the top of the list.
The reason that works so well for me is that I learned what I can realistically get done in a week. So after that week I know if I spent my time well or not. I can see if I didn’t finish everything because I got sick. I set realistic goals for myself and keep track of what else is important.
If you are familiar with the term writing systems, you’ll notice that the things I described above are the basis of what my writing system turned into. There’s a blog coming out about that very topic soon so keep an eye on our blog!
If you have any questions about life as a freelance editor slash copywriter, don’t hesitate to leave a comment or reach out. You can find my services at www.vanirediting.com and follow what Saskia Brakenhoff and Madeline Pine are up to over at Twitter or sign up for our monthly newsletter.