Writing is not my day job. At present it does’t bring in any income at all for me, though I am working to change that. That means I am chained to a different job, probably like most of you reading this, a regular nine-to-five grind at a place I would rather not be.
I’ll be up front with you, it’s not a picnic and it’s not what I envisioned for myself two, four, ten years ago. (For one, I figured there would be more apocalyptic mayhem and genetically engineered dragons.) It pays the bills, though. The day job keeps me clothed and fed, but not happy, and never satisfied.
(The distinct lack of dragons is still a big factor.)
That probably describes most of the people in the workforce. We would all rather be doing something different, something we feel passionate about, something that fulfills us. The only way we will get there is by deciding we want that, then planning and executing those plans. And, meanwhile, we have to put up with less than fun jobs that will take care of us until we can make the dream happen.
I’ve had quite a few jobs since I started working. As a kid I earned money by raising animals, chiefly goats, rabbits, and pigs. When my parents ran a restaurant at a state park for a summer I made a little bit of money waitressing and running the bait shop (I was 11, I think). I helped take care of a herd of cattle and horses and fixed fence as a teen. At 17-19 I was a librarian, and then a greenhouse clerk. When gardening season ended I became a cafe cook, the a health food store clerk, then a fast food worker at Dairy Queen for two days. No offense to the DQ company, I do love your food, but cut out for work there I am not, so I became the assistant manager at a grocery store for five years, and now an AR Specialist at a college bookstore.
Looking back now, I’ve had a diverse employment. Each job has taught me something, either positive or negative, and it’s all been valuable. Especially, if not totally, in the area of the daily grind. Day in, day out, getting up when I don’t feel like it, solving issues only to confront different but same ones the next day. Overworked, under appreciated, exhausted, exhausted, exhausted,
But I need the money. I need to eat, to pay rent, and save.
And I want to support myself by writing.
So how do you stay positive and hopeful as you work towards the dream job of becoming self sufficient through your writing?
1. Focus on your goal.
Before I left the grocery store job, I bought a roll of butcher paper from my then boss. I use it for story mapping as I can tack it to the wall and draw/write on it when I want a constant visual. I reserve one piece next to my bed, where I scrawl inspirational notes and quotes to myself that I read every day. Then I tell myself, “You are going to publish your stories.” It keeps me focused, and reminds me that I am working towards something better.
2. Decide you want the dream more than you want comfort now.
Movie tickets. New tech gadgets. Music albums. Books. Eating out. These are all things you can cut back on in order to start saving to launch your dream. Tom Ewer has a wonderful website dedicated to helping people figure out how to leave their day jobs behind and create an income from their literary ambitions. His How To Get Closer To Leaving Work Behind Today article showcases a lot of good advice on how to cut back on non-essential purchases so you can save more. The crux of it is to decide you want the dream more than your short term or immediate distractions and luxuries.
3. Make time for your dream.
Write before you go to work, during commute (unless you drive), on breaks, during lunch, after work, on weekends. Any moment you can carve out, use it. There are a million excuses not to do something. None of those excuses will bring your dream closer. If you want this, you’re going to have to take it. You’re going to have to sacrifice for it, whether it be an extra hour of sleep, TV time, whatever. Dreams are never real until you make them so.
4. Picture yourself as successful.
You will fall and fail, that is part of life. But you know that whole law of attraction thing people have been talking about? It really does work. Picture yourself as however you deem to have ‘made it’. Me, I picture myself dressed in an AC/DC shirt, jeans, and chucks at a writing convention signing books, meeting fans and other authors, and holding a physical copy of a book I’ve put sweat, blood, tears, and effort in my hands. I picture myself writing the next book on planes, trains, on the sides of roads, in bright lit cafes and dingy diners. I picture myself working, just as hard as ever, but I’m smiling.
5. Keep your chin up, buttercup.
Slogging day in and day out through the same shit is hard and discouraging, especially if you can’t yet see how much progress you are making towards what you want. Don’t put yourself down for believing in it, even if everyone else does. Love yourself, love your dream, even when it hurts, even when you’re tired. You’ll get there.