Last week at the Fall Writer's Loft orientation, we held a panel on The Writing Life. I moderated, and mentors Bill Brown, David Pierce, and Linda Busby Parker participated. It was a freewheeling and wide-ranging discussion, as I'd hoped. Since I was moderating, I scribbled notes, just in case the conversation lagged and I needed to get it going again. That didn't happen, but looking back over my notes gives some idea of what all we covered:
- Finding a balance between making a living and writing
- Tips on just doing it
- The value of getting into the flow of writing 1,000 words a day, no matter what
- "Stay with it" momentum (see above)
- Handling rejection
- Pointing yourself in a specific direction
- Switch it up–try non-fiction if you mostly write fiction, etc.
- The pressure to write a blog and keep up with twitter and social media
- The best writer's conferences and events
- How to use prompts
- And we covered all this in 45 minutes…
After I got back home to the lovely (and hot) PDX, I started pondering the writing life anew. I didn't talk much at the panel, as it was not intended to be about me. But many people have expressed interest in the writing life that I have created for myself. While I don't yet make buckets of money and I'm not a household name, I do have a satisfying life that I love. It gives me tons of freedom and independence, which are two of my most important personal values. I can pretty much do what I want when I want, though let us not forget I earn this right by being slavishly devoted to my clients and their deadlines. (Just so you don't think I'm a slacker all the time.)
Anyway, I started thinking about some of the things I've done to create myself a writing life and came up with the following:
1. Decide what kind of writing life you want. Do you want to pick a job that doesn't require you give it your heart and soul, and thus frees your emotional energy for writing? Or do you want a job that is in writing or a related field? Obviously, I chose the latter and I like it because the more I write, the better I get. All of the various kinds of writing that I do–ghostwriting, copywriting, blogging, fiction, critiquing–enhance each other.
2. If you do choose the full-time writing life, be willing to do anything (well, within reason). Like most free-lancers, I wear many hats, and I like some of these hats lots better than others. But that doesn't mean I turn down the things that aren't as much fun. For me, its all writing, and I still get a thrill from even the dullest of jobs. I had no idea that ghostwriting could be such a fun and lucrative gig, until I did my first assignment, which I got nearly by accident. So keep your mind and your options open.
3. Be willing to take low-paying jobs at first. You need experience. You need clips. Work for free or a pittance if you have to at first. I got paid a miserable wage in my first years as a writer, but I was able to up my fees quickly once I mastered the various genres and had the clips to prove it.
4. Broaden your physical horizons. We're a global community now. Many of my ghostwriting clients are in LA, and my students in Nashville. Doesn't matter–we've got this thing called the internet that allows us to communicate instantly. Don't reject jobs because they are in other locations. Besides, one of the best parts of my job is the fact that I get to travel to places I love.
I'm sure I've got more advice in me, but the workers who are doing God only knows what at the house around the corner are so noisy they've got my brain scrambled. So, since I don't have to report to anybody but myself (did I mention that as a huge benefit?) I'm taking my freedom and heading to New Seasons.
PS. Read more about the Loft orientation at Linda's blog, right here.