So you want to be a professional writer. What’s stopping you?
Oh, you already have a full-time job. And, as it happens, a life. Writing is something you squeeze in whenever you can.
Don’t worry, you’re in good company — most of us are in the same boat. But that doesn’t mean you can’t take your writing to the next level. In fact, being a “professional” has nothing to do how you fit your writing in. It’s about attitude, quality and industry knowledge. And sure, it’s a little bit about the money.
So want to stop letting your full-time career hold you back from being a professional writer? Here’s what you’ll need to focus on:
It’s easy to put off writing until inspiration moves you — it may even seem like the practical choice when your life is full of other, more pressing demands. But don’t let yourself be ruled by the muse’s whims.
Professionals show up even when it’s hard. They get the job done without excuses. So carve out time in your regular schedule (daily is best, but at least weekly) that is dedicated to writing, and stick to it.
Professionals, of course, produce quality work. The first step to writing well is writing a lot, which we’ve just covered. The second step is to read a lot — and read good writing, writing in your genre for your target audience. Read the authors you admire and want to emulate.
While both steps are important, it’s the third that’s crucial. To truly do your best writing, you need feedback. Participate in workshops, enroll in courses, join a critique group. It’s hard to share your work and face criticism, but once you learn to listen to it, your writing will improve tenfold.
Professionals also keep up with industry news and trends. There are some exciting shifts going on in publishing right now as digital and self-publishing affect reader habits. Make sure you keep up by joining writing and publishing organizations, following magazines and blogs, and attending conferences.
The more you know, the better prepared you are to make informed choices about how you share your work with the world. A great place to get started is The Write Life’s 100 Best Websites for Writers.
Especially when you already work full time and have a steady paycheck, it’s best to start by focusing on writing well and creating something you enjoy. Novels take a darn long time to write — three years of manuscript development has yet to earn me a cent, and considering my book as a money-making venture would only stress me out.
That said, making money is part of being a professional. So as you hone your craft, start putting your work out there. To start, it may benefit you to reach out to smaller unpaid publications, but as your work and confidence grows, don’t be afraid to set your sights high.
And remember that the digital age has opened up myriad new options to help you get your work to eager readers. Go ahead, get creative!
How do you fit writing around a full-time job?