Over the past few weeks we’ve been talking about “making a living at writing.” In addition to the advice I’ve doled out, I’ve heard from several people with wisdom to add to the discussion, and I have a few other tips to share, so I thought for the Thanksgiving weekend, we could share the best advice we all have for those looking to make a living at writing. Some of my thoughts:
—Keep your mornings protected for writing.Â Move the other work to the afternoon, but write every morning.
—Group similar activities.Â If you do all your phone calls back to back, you’ll get through them faster. Ditto emails, snail mail, project planning, looking over proposals, etc.
—Organize your day first thing every morning. If you have a plan, you’re much more apt to stay focused. Having a “to do” list helps most writers immensely.
—Take a day off one each week.Â Getting away from writing one day each week allows you to recharge your batteries and get your mind refreshed. Hey – even God rested.
—Kill the muse.Â That is, forget the concept that you have to be in a certain mood to write, or find exactly the right space to create words. Just sit and write. I’ve long appreciated Ernest Hemingway’s writing idea that you end each day in the middle of a sentence. That way, when you sit down the next morning, you don’t have to figure where you are, or get yourself into a certain moody, or work up to it. All you have to do is to finish the incomplete sentence you’d left yourself, and you’re off and writing.
—See the value of shitty first drafts.Â Too many writers tie themselves in knots because they think they need to make their manuscript perfect. But for most novelists, what they really need is to get a first draft done. Then they can go back and fix it. (Because it’s always easier to FIX something than to CREATE something.) So think “progress,” not “perfection.” See the value of creating a shitty first draft. (And my thanks to Anne Lamott for first offering this bit of wisdom in her wonderful bookÂ Bird by Bird.)Â
—If you’re running a writing and editing business,Â learn to farm out certain tasks.Â Let’s face it: if somebody else can do something 80% as well as you, then you need to consider farming it out to them in order to allow you to grow your business.
—Protect your hands.Â One of the biggest mistakes I made as a young writer was using a cramped keyboard, then not taking adequate breaks or stretching my hands. Now I have a lot of hand problems. There’s a ton of research on things you can do to protect one of a writer’s most valuable assets – ergonomic keyboards, stretching exercises, the proper chair, being careful to not over-tax your fingers, etc.
So…Â what wisdom to you have to share?Â As you move toward making more of your living at writing, what is the best advice you can give to other writers?
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