Years back when I began to take writing seriously, I scribbled down stories only when I felt inspired to. At that time, I had plenty of time on my hands since I didn’t have a job and I had lots of story ideas exploding in my head.
I remember that almost every morning, I posted short articles on my facebook wall and in 2015, I asked my facebook friends to forward their email addresses to me so I could mail them stories I’d written. I had over a hundred of those addresses and every quarter, I sent short stories to their mailboxes.
But as the years rolled by, writing took a new turn for me. It wasn’t a hobby anymore. It became a career. I was writing between 500 to 1000 words at that time but later I found myself scribbling down words as much 40,000 in some cases.
My feelings didn’t matter anymore. I had to show up for my readers even when I didn’t feel like it. This was coupled with my day job that had absolutely nothing to do with creative writing. You can understand how hard it is to have a legal/administrative officer, a blogger, an author and a budding screenwriter all in one person.
Yet I cannot leave my day job because I have bills to pay and I need resources to horn my writing skills.
The question still remains, can you combine your job with your passion for writing? Is it possible to become a prolific writer while maintaining a job that almost sucks you dry? Here are few helpful tips.
1.Believe strongly that you can become a successful writer. Create pictures of what you want your writing career to look like. Keep your dreams in front of you. Visit the sites of bloggers or authors that you admire. Read or watch their videos from time to time. All of these will propel you to keep moving forward.
2.Create a system. In a recent post titled, The secret to becoming more productive with your life I explained in very clear terms how important it is to create a system. Even if it means writing 500 words a day, depending on how far you can go, then by all means stick to it. Set out few minutes every day to write something. You can’t develop your writing skill without practice.
Don’t wait until you feel inspired. You may not publish what you write. It doesn’t have to make sense at first, but just write. Put your fingers to work. Even if it looks like you are going slowly like a snail considering the enormity of work involved in your day job, keep going. The length of time you spend writing is not as important as your consistency.
3.A word for fiction and screen writers. I understand that it may not be possible for you to finish a story at one sitting. It’s not even healthy for your career to burn out and by the following day you are unable to continue with your story. To avoid a situation when you return to your story and find it difficult to pick up from where you stop, always stop your story draft at a point of conflict. You’ll connect quickly when you sit to continue the following day. This has worked for me several times.
4. When you are too tired to pen down anything, use those times for research. Watch a video by a writer you admire, read a blog post or play a word game. I recently fell in love with Merriam Webster vocabulary game. At the end of each level, I check out the words I missed and their usage in sentences. I’ve been able to build my vocab subconsciously.
Another great option is to edit a post you have written. Just do something every day that pushes you forward in your career as a writer.
5.Cut down on TV and social media time. I loved to watch movies a lot. There were times I’d been glued to my chair from morning till night, my gaze fixed to the screen of my laptop or phone. I had to cut all of that down. It was one of the hardest decisions I made but it was worth it. Now I watch movies intentionally to see how scenes are developed and the dialogue format.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s okay to relax in front of the TV for a few minutes after a hard day at work. It’s fine to scroll down your newsfeed and connect with others virtually but always remember the goal before you. Remember that nobody becomes great by accident. Remember that this is seed time for you and if you will become skilled at this, you must work hard at it.
6.Plan more serious writing during the weekend. While you carry out little consistent work during the week, schedule to write more on Saturdays and Sundays.
7.Read voraciously. On your way to work, read a chapter or two. Read quality books not just self help books. Screen writers, read great scripts. See how plots are formed. Study the dialogue. Get words wrapped around your mind.
Book is to a writer what hammer is to a carpenter. Read as much as you can. There are audio books on days your eyes are too tired in take in words. In your selection of books, pick a hard one that doesn’t entertain or excite you but enough to get your mind to get buried in the words or phrases. You don’t have to read the whole book at once. Just a chapter or two once in a while will do.
8.Have a journal and practice writing synopsis of the ideas popping into your head. The reason you feel lazy to write sometimes is because you have not figured out what topic or story you want to work on. Write your points and lay out the research you have done for your work.
For stories, let your synopsis cover three parts. The beginning, middle and end. Even if you don’t have the middle figured out, the beginning and the end of the story should be ascertained.
9. Always include writing goals in your daily schedule. Plan your annual leave to horn your writing skills. It is a great time to grow faster in your writing career.
I left my house every morning for two weeks to a workspace during my annual leave. Most times, I stayed for 7 hours churning out words and editing my drafts. It cost me money because it was quite a distance from my house but it was worth it. I knew I won’t be able to work from home. So every morning, like any other employee, I dressed up and got out of the house.
Someone may be saying;
‘But Ife, you can’t understand. It’s impossible if you stay in a place like Lagos.’
I can clearly relate. I worked in Lagos too. Many times I left home before 5:30 a.m and sometimes didn’t get home until late at night. The truth is, if you want this very bad, you’ll make out time for it.
Most of the great authors and writers we know didn’t start writing full time. Somehow, they figured out how to combine their day job with their writing career.
I remember reading a piece by Jerry Jenkins, the author of Left Behind Series, where he said he had to write every day from 9p.m to 12mindnight, after his family retired to bed. He was deeply committed to family time, but he had to make time for his writing assignments despite his busy day at work.
Let me end by saying this, I understand that this might be tougher for some than others.
I’m still single and while I have a busy schedule, I can decide to eat out just to finish up a writing assignment, but that can’t happen to a woman who’ll have to prepare meals for her family. But whatever the case I believe if you really want to see any improvement as a writer, you can make a way to see that happen.
Are you a writer? Do you mind sharing the things you do to improve your writing career?