Debut author lessons: Writing is no longer a hobby.
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This is one of the hardest parts of the writing life. For a long time, writing probably was your hobby. Even if you didn’t approach the writing itself that way, it was still something that you had to fit in to the cracks in your life. You had to “make time” for it in the way you structured it into your life. You might have even felt selfish for it.
You are writers. If you want a career in this, then all of the advice in the world can boil down to “don’t treat writing like a hobby.”
If you have a full time job, in addition to being a writer, then you have to deal with balancing things in the same way that anyone else who works two jobs does. If you feel like you are still in the learning phase of your career, then it’s no different from someone who is going to school part time and working a full-time job. Either way, writing is not a hobby.
My husband and I use these coping strategies.
- I set boundaries and expectations. I have a tri-fold sign that says, “Writing,” “Other Work,” and “Goofing off” because I recognize that my husband cannot tell, when he walks up to me, if I’m at work. “Writing” means “do not speak.” “Other Work” means “approach with caution” and “Goofing off” is a green light. It’s just like working at home, because that’s what I’m doing.
- I do not take my husband with me to cons just as I would not take him to a professional conference. We’ve tried. It splits my focus and I am there to work. Socialize and have fun? Sure, but I’m going to the conventions because it’s part of my career. I write him letters when I’m on the road at a convention. I call him. When I come home we go for a walk. But when I am at work, I’m working.
- We had serious talks about criticism and the creative process. As a result, I give him things to read, I flag it as such so that he knows if he should be reading it in his role of “supportive spouse” or in his role as “critic.” I only ask for the “critic” role when I know that I am in a receptive place to hear it. This is the same dynamic that I’ve had when I’ve worked with anyone else that I’ve had a relationship with. Marking the transition between work and personal makes it easier.
- We have strategic planning sessions. I recognize that my work has an impact on our life and we periodically have business planning sessions in which we’ll talk about convention travel, budget, and upcoming projects.
- We also have a marriage. When I am excited by something and just want to share that with my love, I also flag that, so he knows that it is not the time to think of it as business. Examples of conversations gone wrong– Me: “I’ve been invited to England!” Him: “How much will that cost?” So now I start off by saying, “I’m excited by this!” and then later we can have the business conversation.
The path you will follow will vary based on the pieces of your life, but the place you should start from is that writing is your job.