Career Vs. Creativity: 3 Writers’ Struggles Between Work and Writing

“I want to be a writer.” They’re the six words we’ve all uttered, either as children when asked what we want to do when we grow up, or while sitting at a desk and poring over a stubborn manuscript. It’s the phrase seasoned writers encourage us to toss away—if you write, you are a writer, they insist. But ultimately, our writing always comes down to that proverbial fork in the road: is this something I want to get paid for, or is it simply a hobby? Another fork: Do I pursue a writing-related career in addition to my creative and/or freelance writing, or do I opt for a non-writing career to offset it?

All 3 of us co-founders are at different stages in our careers and have asked these questions of ourselves, and we’d like to share with you our experiences. Because what you pick for your career or your next job affects your writing in more ways than one—often, both positively and negatively—and we’ve been learning that the hard way.


Cristina R. Guarino
Cristina GuarinoI work full-time and have been doing so for about two years now. Growing up, I knew I wanted to write for a living. What kind of writing that was, I never put much thought into. My mind flitted from glamorous daydream to lavish fantasy: a stay-at-home bestselling novelist who wrote by the lakeside of her country cottage; the next Carrie Bradshaw typing away at her laptop in an Upper East Side apartment; a music journalist pressed up against the barricade at a punk rock show, fumbling with a camera and a pad of paper against a writhing crowd. Either way, I knew I wanted to be a writer, and I had some pretty grand delusions about what that all meant.

This isn’t to say that attaining these jobs is unrealistic—I just never put much thought into the real world before achieving my ideal dream job, whatever that winds up being (I still don’t know). I didn’t know what I wanted to do while I worked toward discovering and arriving at that final goal. So, I tried out a few things.

Full disclosure: I am beyond happy for the experiences I’ve had. Though my past jobs, both employed and freelance, I’ve sampled news journalism, magazine journalism, blogging, and content marketing. Currently, I work in the content marketing scope, which requires me to write pretty much all day, every day. And you know what? There’s one thing I never took into account, something that never dawned on me in my pre-career days, that I’m learning more and more with each of these jobs I hold.

Writing as a day job makes it all the harder to pursue a writing “night job.”

It becomes increasingly hard to sit down and put in the hours with my creative work after writing newsletters and blogs from 9 to 5, then coming home to work on my latest freelance piece for the number of blogs and publications I contribute to. Ultimately? I want to be a novelist, but my novels often fall to the wayside to make room for my more pressing obligations. Often, whatever writing time I have outside of work is sucked up by these other projects. And I love all those projects to death, but I’m quickly realizing that if I want a creative writing career, I’m going to have to make some cuts.

***

Taylor Eaton

I started my full-time job 3 months ago. Up until then, I’d made ends meet by working a well-payed, part-time job, meaning I had my mornings free to write. And I did just that. While I was working part-time, my daily routine went something like this:
– Wake upTaylor Eaton
– 2 hours of writing time (tea and #wordsprints)
– Breakfast
– 1 hour of writing time (with electronics turned off)
– Lunch
– Work
– Gym
– Dinner
– Write until I went to bed

But this all changed when I took an 8-5 job in hopes of pursuing a career. Gone were the days when I could sleep until 9 and write for half the day. But as I set out to start a traditional career, I was determined to continue writing regularly—which I have done, but to a far lesser extent than I would have liked. My daily routines now look like this:

- Swear at my 6am alarm
– Wake up
– Breakfast
– Work
– Commute home in rush hour
– Gym
– Eat dinner
– Try not to fall asleep
– Write a couple hundred words
– Fall asleep
I’m convinced that I’m still adjusting and that I’ll nail down a better writing schedule soon. I’ve only been at this whole 8-5 routine for 3 months, after all. But I already know that while I can improve my schedule, the energy that is sapped from me by working all day, paired with the sheer lack of time I have to spend writing, means that my progress with writing is going to slow. At least for the time being.

***

Skye Fairwin

Skye FairwinI’m a new graduate. Over my three years at university, I cultivated a writing routine that fit in with my studies and lifestyle, which allowed me to make great progress in my creative projects. I started two blogs and wrote over 500,000 words of fiction and non-fiction during that time, the most productive period of my life.

When I look back, I realise I got so much done because I had plenty of time for writing, both creatively and academically, and I had structure to my day. Most days, I would wake up in the morning and walk down to the library, work on my university assignments and go to lectures until 5 p.m., then return home for dinner and a break. Around 8 p.m., I’d start on my creative projects and work until midnight. Some days I’d have off, but mostly I got lots of work done.

Finishing university has thrown my routine into something of a disarray. This may shock you, but my greatest problem as a new, currently unemployed graduate is finding time to write. Demands of real life, like job searching and maintaining a house, aside, structuring my day in a way that gives me the opportunity to write requires, if anything, more self-discipline than when my days were jam-packed with activities. That’s something I’m working on at the moment, structuring my day so that I can approach writing, on my novels and my blogs, in a more business-like and focused way. I’ll let you know how I get on.


Long story short: don’t quit your day job just yet, but be aware that it’s going to affect your writing! Writing all day at work is going to take away from the energy you have to write later at home, and integrating a full-time career into your schedule is going to throw your pre-career writing habits off. That being said, careers are very rewarding and worth pursuing—at least, until you hit that coveted New York Times bestseller list!

How do you juggle your career and your creativity? Do you find that you thrive or struggle when your job requires you to write all day or structure your writing around strict hours? Let us know!

Waiting for NaNoWriMo: Making October Count

I don’t know about you, but October usually marks a frantic, excitable timeUntitled in my writing calendar. The change in weather makes me pine for my laptop and a Pumpkin Spice Latte at all times of the day/night, the shift in scenery from Summer to Autumn inspires me with each changing leaf, and—of course—the knowledge that NaNoWriMo is on its way both excites and terrifies me. It’s a magical time of year, but how can you make the most of it?

It can be all too easy to lose the month in extensive NaNoWriMo planning or, on the other end, not doing any planning at all. For some, the knowledge that there’s still a whole 31 days until NaNoWriMo sweeps in and commandeers our lives is enough to kick that procrastination bug into overdrive; for others, realizing it’s only 31 days away is just what we need to set off an all-encompassing planning project. Since we thankfully still have a few days until October arrives, here’s how to find that elusive middle ground so you can both prepare for NaNo and still give much-needed attention to your other projects:

  1. Set a goal. Are you working on a few short stories or poems? Finishing the first draft of a novel? Making revisions to a completed one? Whatever your current situation is, come to terms with the fact that unless you’re using NaNoWriMo to chip away at a current work-in-progress, you’ll likely have to put your current project(s) aside for an entire month come November. This means making sure you’re able to finish what you’re working on or get to a logical stopping point before the month is over. Likewise, you’ll have to have some kind of plan to get through NaNoWriMo (unless you’re a true-blue discovery writer—in which case, we salute you), so you also have to determine what you need ready when the clock hits midnight on November first. Figure out what these goals are and write them down.
  2. Structure your time. It’s hard to tell when to stop yourself when you’re on a roll; there’s a fine line between putting a lid on your creativity and preventing yourself from going on a complete tangent. Only you can know your own writing process and habits, but to avoid getting carried away with either your current work or your planning, alot your time accordingly. If you write for an hour per day, for example, split that time up into sections that make sense for your current situation and do your best to stick to those time restrictions: for example, 45 minutes of writing and 15 minutes of NaNoWriMo planning per day, or 30/30, etc.
  3. Partake in a challenge. Last year, writers across Twitter took to #OctoWriMo to help them get into the habit for NaNoWriMo. If planning isn’t your concern, but the habit is, consider trying something like this out—it’ll get you into shape for NaNo while giving you an extra boost on your current projects! Either revive the old #OctoWriMo hashtag or create your own. Have fun with it! You’ll find that gathering some friends or writing buddies to try the challenge with you is always a great motivator. Likewise, you can always set a #WriteChain goal that encompasses both current and future work, such as “write one page of project X and work on one page of outlining for project Y per day,” and also gets you back into the habit of writing daily.

What are your writing plans for October? Does NaNoWriMo factor heavily into them? Let us know!

What Fuels Your Writing? (Part 2)

Remember when I posted about what I use to fuel my writing? No? I don’t blame you, that was over a month ago. Yikes! Where does the time go? Anyway, take a look here.

I wanted to follow up with some of the responses we received in response to that post (and to my incessant tweets).

fuelwritingquestion

Of course, most people said they needed their music, snacks, and a chunk of time devoted to writing.

bookish miss

cassie

harper

And some could only listen to music at certain times.

dylan1

dylan2

Katherine Marie even wrote her own blog post as a response to our question.

My favorite response came from mariecreativity in the comments section of the original post.

marie

I’d never heard of anyone finding inspiration via organizing things! But after reading her comment, I gave it a shot. And I have to say that there’s something oddly calming about organizing items on my desk – it slows my thoughts down and allows some inspiration to leak through. Who would have thought?!

And, lastly, Skye gave me a wonderful reminder of something that fuels my writing, but that I somehow forgot to include in the last post: word sprints!

skyeresponse

Thanks for all your wonderful responses everyone! It’s great to hear what keeps you all writing – and to try some of it out, myself.

So, what fuels your writing? Let us know in the comments below!

Avoiding the Organizational Time Warp: A Writer’s Guide To Getting (And Staying) Organized

Let’s face itorganized: writers are creative types. And with our creativity comes the stigma that we’re helplessly, unavoidably disorganized.

I typically try to steer clear of stereotypes; I’m sure there are plenty of writers out there who are impressive organizational fiends (cough, Skye, cough). But for me and many writers I know, that’s not the case. In fact, many of us have learned to embrace our messiness as both cause and effect of our creativity: we’re messy because we’re creative, and we’re creative because we’re messy. It’s part of who we are. Some may even find it endearing!

However, we tend to run into a problem with this. Disorganization can often lead to confusion and wasted time, especially when your precious writing time is being spent getting re-organized again… and again… and again. How many times have you been elbow-deep in a project, only to have to stop your creative flow to go searching for a long-lost piece of research? How many hours have you spent organizing computer files to get all your writing categorized and accounted for? And, most threateningly to your productivity, how many times have you put off working on your project indefinitely and foregone it for yet another session of sorting papers and labeling documents?

I know I, personally, have postponed many a writing session in hopes of overhauling my entire filing cabinet, laptop, and external hard drive. Every time, I manage to convince myself that this will be The Big Overhaul that will leave my writing forever organized and allow my creative mind the freedom it needs, now that the obsessive-compulsive part of my brain is happy that all my writing, notes, and to-do lists are accounted for.

So how do you break this habit? I’m still learning, myself, but here are the steps I’ve been taking that seem to help:

  1. Download an organizational program like Evernote. The great thing about these tools is that they sync up to your desktop, laptop, and mobile device, as well as a general cloud that can be accessed on the web from any location. You can make notes and compile them into notebooks, store all kinds of research and information searchable by keyword, and create tasks and to-do lists that you can actively tick off as you complete them. My personal favorite tool in Evernote is the web clipper, which allows you to save web pages as documents with one click. This is an especially efficient and speedy way for authors to “clip” research articles, or for bloggers to save downloadable copies of their online content!
  2. Buy a small notebook and bring it everywhere. Yes, I mean everywhere. No exceptions. One of the reasons we get so disorganized is that, thanks to our sneaky unconscious minds always working in the background, we often have ideas on-the-go. If you’re anything like me, these ideas get fired off to your personal email inbox in random messages without subject titles and often get either lost or stored in a folder for another future organization project. This project usually doesn’t happen or isn’t extensive enough to include all your scattered notes-to-self, leaving a lot of gems overlooked at the bottom of your email food chain. But buying a small notebook to keep handy is great for keeping all your ideas in one place; while loading the Evernote app on your phone will also give you the capabilities of organizing your ideas anywhere, anytime, it’s handy to have a specifically designated writing notebook should any technical difficulties occur. Plus, sometimes it’s just exciting to write things down by hand in a fancy moleskine!
  3. Set time goals and limits. Ultimately, you’re going to have to do a bit of organizing—it’s inevitable. By setting aside a certain block of time every week—or even every day, if you must—to transfer and sort your notes and do any other literary housekeeping, you can ensure you routinely maintain your writing materials without going overboard and losing hours in spreadsheets and yellow file folders. If you have exactly one hour of free time per night, for example, try setting aside only 10 or 15 minutes of that time tops for organizing. Once those minutes are through, it’s time to write!

How do you stay organized? Do you often find yourself getting lost in these enticing organizational projects? Let us know in the comments below!

Sprint Watch! YA Buccaneers

Calling all word sprinters! YA Buccaneers, a creative swashbuckling group of writer and word sprinters, is hosting a word sprint marathon beginning tomorrow morning!

When: Tuesday (9/16) and Thursday (9/18), 9am EDT/7am PDT/14:00 BST

Where: The YA Buccaneers twitter account and the #YABWordSprint hashtag

How: Follow the YA Buccaneers on Twitter and comment on their announcement post to let them know you’ll be taking part! Then log onto Twitter at the correct time and join in the fun with #YABWordSprint so other sprinters can find and encourage/compete with you.

Then, join the Sprint Shack exactly 12 hours later both Tuesday and Thursday for our weekly #TNightSprints to top off your writing and give your word counts an extra boost.

We hope to see you there!

Tackling Loneliness as a Writer

It’s no secret that writing can be a lonely careelonelyr. For those of us with day jobs, it takes away from our social lives on nights and weekends. For those who write full-time, many a day (and/or night!) is spent tapping away at the computer. Many may insist that loneliness comes part-and-parcel with writing and that it’s simply something we have to get used to for the love of the profession, but I disagree: even as a writer, there are ways to tackle loneliness.

Why might you want to do this? Sure, some of the greatest writers in history were loners who benefited from the copious amounts of alone time spent with their work. Many were, and are, notorious for getting up at the wee hours of the morning, writing through lunch, and returning to their solitary writing desk after the kids are cared for, only to join their partner in bed well after he or she has fallen asleep. Still others go to the extreme of stealing away to the woods to write in peace (we’re looking at you, J.D. Salinger). But if these tactics don’t work for you—and my guess is that for many people, they don’t—that’s okay.

Humans are pack animals. If you need human interaction, it doesn’t make you a bad writer. In fact, it can make you a better one! One of the best ways to create living, breathing characters is by interacting with and observing real people, so shutting yourself out from the world can actually do more harm than good to your craft. On top of that, loneliness can contribute to a number of awful mental disorders that are common amongst writers and creative types, such as depression and anxiety; for some, this can even lead to alcoholism and drug abuse. And while greats such as Hemingway may have glamorized this life, it’s not one you want. It’s not one that will make you a better writer.

So once you’re decided that you’d rather not shut the world out to work, what can you do? Here are 3 ways to combat loneliness as a writer and keep your spirits high while you tackle that work in progress:

  1. Write in public. It can be hard to tune out the world and hone in on your work with the clatter of café cups and the wailing of an ambulance in the distance (can you tell I live in New York City?), but if you can perfect that art, writing in public can greatly keep you from feeling too secluded when working. If you need something quieter, try a library or a park. Find a spot that works well for you and stick with it for a while—not only will you be surrounded by people, you’ll likely forge your own writing space that will allow you to work even more efficiently!
  2. Join a writing group. Whether you’re in the early stage of exploring your voice or writing your third bestseller, it’s always helpful to have a small group of beta readers to work with. Find two or three people who are around the same stage as you in their writing career and meet regularly to discuss each other’s work. This will give you the opportunity to both work on your craft and satisfy your social needs all at once, leaving neither to be sacrificed for the other.
  3. Get active on Twitter. When nothing other than a dark writing cave will do, consider introducing Twitter to your writing day. This shouldn’t become a distraction, of course, but using the social media platform to meet and network with other writers and industry professionals can have a number of benefits beyond socializing. To take it a step further, join us or any other participating writers for some word sprints, or host your own! The reason we’re such word sprinting fanatics to begin with is that they’re so productive and fun.

Does writing make you lonely? How do you combat loneliness when writing? Let us know!

Tuesday & Thursday #TNightSprints

tnightsprints
Hey there word sprinters, and happy Thursday! We’re here to announce a new sprinting event taking place twice weekly on our very own Twitter account. Join us at @TheSprintShack every Tuesday and Thursday nights for some word sprinting goodness at the following times and use the hashtag #TNightSprints to report and compare word counts!

GMT: 2 a.m. – 3 a.m.
EST:
9 p.m. – 10 p.m.
PST: 6 p.m. – 7 p.m.

It can be tough to come home and write at the end of a long day, but that’s what the sprinting community is here for! Unwind from the day’s work with some good company, writing, and inspiration. Sprints will typically be led by Cristina throughout the hour with a 20 minute sprint at the top of the hour, a 10 minute break, and a 30 minute sprint to finish strong from :30 to :00.

For more information on word sprinting and how to join in, check out our FAQ page.

We hope to see you there!