I wrote this specific piece for all of you part-time writers out there also struggling in this venture. You’re not alone. Below are six specific struggles I found while trying to write, and some solutions to those struggles. I hope you find them useful. Please don’t hesitate to comment and let me know. Or feel free to share your own tips for fellow part-time writers.
#1 Remember Why You’re Doing This
I’ve been told being an author or writing doesn’t necessarily mean you can quit your day job and enjoy life. And that’s true. Many authors out there, especially the ones starting out, are doing this in their free time. And all the work doesn’t necessarily lead to an amazing book deal, or any book deal at all. Sometimes, our hard work sits there waiting to be picked up as we continuously shop it around to find some book professional interested in it. And even then, there may be several rounds of changes made to that manuscript that we slaved over for who knows how long. But why go through this torture? Why bother putting in all this time to get little results if at all? I guess only we can answer that ourselves.
For me, it was the idea of writing something at all. I knew I had it in me – storytelling – but I didn’t know if I could actually write a story. I was never really a writer, but I have great ideas. (Don’t we all?) If only we had the time to sit and let our mind wander; allow ideas to play around in our minds; explore potential storylines and characters and settings. If only we were independently wealthy that we didn’t have to go to our day jobs, put our creative mind on hold, then try to revive that creativity when we are home staring at a blank page.
#2 Making The Mind Switch
The moment that sometimes kills me: Staring at that blank page trying to get my mind to go creative after a long day at the office working with my business mind. It’s hard to just switch the creative on. I need to let it relax to do its magic. I need to think about my story and play out the possibilities. Then I can get to writing. But sometimes, the mind wanders and by the time I want to write, it’s time for bed – man’s got to get up in the morning to go to work. Ugh.
#3 Remembering Your Ideas
But, in an effort not to lose my creative thoughts, I keep notebooks everywhere. On the coffee table, on the dining table, on the nightstand or in the kitchen. I even have a little notebook in the glove compartment in my car. Let me pause for a moment to explain the idea of the notebook. Why a notebook? Why not type the ideas in your computer? Why not just punch it in your notes app on your phone? Because writing it – I mean actually writing with a pen and paper – helps me remember my idea. Taking the time to use my pen to formulate the words of the ideas that come to me, and watching the words being written, feels like I’m engraving the idea into my brain. It’s as if the idea is concrete or physical because I see it – I “made” the words by literally writing them. The idea then is there, in my head, and in my notebook. I would sit on the sofa, look at the notebook and see the blurbs I jotted. And more ideas could come.
#4 Can’t Write Down Ideas?
We’ve all been there: Thinking of ideas while driving or preoccupied with something where we don’t have the opportunity to write it down. There have been many, many moments that I would be driving to and from work for example, and I can see my words in my head and think of more ideas. I don’t want to lose those thoughts. So, I’ve trained myself to repeat the idea over and over in my head as I’m driving. I play out particular scenes, think of dialogue – sometimes even say dialogue aloud; which could make me look like a madman talking to himself in the car, but with the invention of hands-free phone, I just look like I’m having a chat on a call with a friend. The important thing though is to remember your idea to immediately write it down when you get to your destination.
#5 Writing Process Taking Too Long
All of the above – working in our free time only, mostly – makes the writing process longer for me. I’m a part-time writer trying to make it work. I’m trying to get my second book moving, but as I explained above, it’s a slow ride. Slow until I take some time away (a small vacation, for example) to take my ideas and connect all my notes into the story I’m trying to write. But I know as my story gets going, it seems to work. So, it takes me longer to get a story complete – so what? It’s just something I have to live with until I can be lucky enough not to have to go to a day job. But, let’s be real here – we all need to eat.
#6 Don’t Give Up
You know you can do this. If I can do it, anyone can. Seriously. I already told you I was not a writer before all this, but now I can say that I’m an author! I mean, the fact that I struggled through all this and wrote my first novel The Love Fool (A Rome-antic Comedy) is proof enough that I can do it again with the new story I’m trying to get going. Don’t quit your day job, of course – I mean, we’ve got bills to pay. Just find time to let your mind wander (on weekends; in the car; on a hike; or a small holiday). Write down ALL of your ideas, even the ones that suck – you never know that those crappy ones could actually turn out to not be that bad, and may find a place in your story. Keep at it – don’t give up.