After prioritising fiction writing over paid writing, I’ve noticed some immediate changes and learned some very valuable lessons.
Prioritising Writing is Scary as Hell
Genuinely putting writing first has been a journey into the unknown.
The idea of prioritising something you love over the thing that brings in the cash is quite a romantic idea, I think. It creates a warm and fuzzy feeling. It’s life-affirming. It’s noble. It’s courageous.
Doing it, however, is scary as hell. It’s like playing chicken with a juggernaut, only you know that the trucks (deadlines) are blind, they don’t give a damn about your writing, and they are on autopilot.
It’s been difficult to remain committed to putting fiction first. I’m no stranger, however, to doing what feels right, even though it seems insane on paper. Working on stories when clients were waiting for their non-fiction articles felt ludicrous at first, but I persisted in the name of personal experiment. I already knew what I thought would happen. It was time to see if and how that would pan out. Would it really be as bad as I thought?
A Focus on Fiction is Difficult But Worth It
haven’t missed any deadlines since prioritising my fiction writing. In part, that’s because I’ve been working longer hours to get everything done.
Fact: pursuing my fiction is making achieving the paid work more difficult, no doubt.
Getting the work done has not been impossible though.
And most importantly, it’s worth it. Yes, I’ve had to work longer hours. Yes, I’ve had to forsake drumming several days in a row. Yes, I’ve had to cancel some French lessons and some meditation classes. These are minor sacrifices, however, compared to what I’ve given up over the years. And I am now advancing again towards my number one goal.
How much time I spend with my family is not something that I expect to change dramatically as a result of this shift. I could spend more time with all of them, it’s true, but as a husband/dad who works at home, I think I’m getting more family time than many guys. Improving the quality is something to think about, but that’s not anything that has been changed by moving my writing around.
So, putting fiction first hasn’t destroyed my relationships at home or with clients. I have had a few 4am finishes to get everything done. And I’ve asked some people to wait for things longer than usual. In the short-term, this has been just fine.
Minutes Become Hours in Seconds
I’ve committed to writing 25 minutes of fiction per day. Using the Pomodoro technique, I write for 25 minutes and then take a 5 minute break. After 25 minutes of writing my own fiction, however, I feel like I’ve got another stretch in me. I’m constantly tempted to do another pomodoro, and then another, and then perhaps another.
There are far worse temptations to succumb to. Since I’m re-writing tricky bits of my current novel, I am embracing the feeling of wanting to do more than half an hour. The knock-on effect is that my paid work is getting pushed back into a corner.
I’m starting to think that I might try working generally in 2-hour blocks, which is convenient for the Pomodoro technique. As often as possible, I will make at least one of those 2-hour blocks for some aspect of my fiction writing, whether that’s writing, editing, blogging, or promoting.
Paid work has gone from being a ravenous beast that needs feeding to being a job that finances, among other things, my ability to write and pursue my vocation.
Writing Fiction is (Ful)filling
When working for my clients, I feel satisfaction at getting a job done well, but in the end I still feel hungry. After writing fiction, however, even if I’ve not been at it all day as I would love, I feel like I’ve eaten a full meal.
After writing, I’ve got the energy – mental, physical and emotional – to tackle the other demands of the day in good spirits. Life is no longer an opponent that tackles me before I can reach my writing goal. I reach my writing goal and then tackle life.
Writing advice suggests that writers should write every day, even if it’s only for a few minutes, eve if writing that day means re-reading. I used to think that was only about keeping up momentum, but it works in more ways than that.
Noting the difference between how I felt before prioritizing fiction and after, I can’t see myself going back.
How do you balance your day job with the work you hope to become your day job?
I'm Dean Clayton Edwards, author of dark fiction stories, novellas and novels.