How to Build a Writing Life: 12 Writing Tips

How to build a writing life
How to Build a Writing Life

This post is for anyone looking to prioritize living a writing life above all else. Maybe you want to be published, or maybe you’ve just realized that you’re a happier, better person when you’re writing. Whatever your reasons, if you want to build a life that prioritizes writing, I’m here to help!

First, a quick personal note. I knew I was serious about being a published author in high school. But after grad school, I decided that writing made me so happy and fulfilled, that I wanted it to be a priority for me even of the only people who ever read my books were my family and friends. With that in mind, I set out to build a life around writing. There were a lot of factors in my journey to publication that I couldn’t control, but building a life that made me happy–one centered around writing–that was something I could control.

This post includes things that helped me create a life I loved. Ultimately, they did lead me to a book deal, but I would have been okay even if they didn’t. Because approaching writing and life this way made me happier than I ever anticipated.

With that said, not everything in this post will work for every writer. There are some trade-offs, and I can’t tell you what will work for you and your life. But if you’re serious about making writing a priority, here are some tips that helped me–and they just might help you too!

1) Make “enough” money

This is the first and biggest sacrifice. Figure out the bare minimum you need to make to get by and take a job that pays you that amount (or a little more to be safe). This might mean taking fewer hours at a job you’re currently working or finding a new job entirely. Making less money, generally means you’re working less, which means you have more time to write. (If you found that you’re already at your minimum, then consider some of the other tips instead.)

2) Get a low-stress job that saves your brain

If you have a high stress or mentally draining job, it will likely take most, if not all, of your mental energy. This means you won’t have the energy or time to write. Instead, consider jobs that don’t take too much brain power, stress, or off-the-clock attention. Like data entry, reception, or tutoring (like me).

I decided that I would rather have a “real world” job than a “real world” career in favor of prioritizing writing. To me, this meant being happy with a job that was not too demanding and that I didn’t have to take home with me, but had no real growth opportunity.

I have had a job as a college writing tutor for five years. So for four hours a day, I help students with their papers. I don’t make a lot of money at this job, but I make “enough.” I also don’t have to make lesson plans, grade anything, or do any work when I’m off the clock. I get to control my schedule. But the job itself will always be the same and I’ll never be in a position for any kind of promotion or real pay raise. This is perfectly fine for me because I have plenty of time to write, which is what fulfills me.

3) Schedule writing time daily

The first two items may require big life changes, so here’s one that doesn’t. Work writing into your schedule daily–or at least as much as you can. No one is going to prioritize writing for you. If you want to have a life that puts writing first, you have to make sure you actually write! This is something you can start ASAP. Even if it’s just fifteen minutes a day. There has to be something you can ditch in your day and drop writing in instead.

Do you have a half-hour lunch break? Start bringing a lunch you can eat quickly, that doesn’t need to be heated (like a sandwich). Give yourself fifteen minutes to eat, then write for fifteen minutes. Or get up just fifteen minutes earlier. If you need some tips on how to commit to your writing, check out this post.

4) Take courses

If you want to be a better and more serious writer, consider taking classes. Colleges, libraries, and community centers may have some info on inexpensive classes that could be more accessible than you think. This may be a particularly good idea if you’re struggling to write regularly. Putting money out to take a class may help put you in a writing mindset. It will give you deadlines, and force you to find time to write, which is a habit you can carry long after the class ends.

5) Read craft books

If courses aren’t your thing, consider some craft books or guides. Writers and writing teachers put out craft books on a regular basis. The resources page has some of my favorites. You can also check out your local library and see what they have on the shelves. And of course, you can read blogs like this one!

6) Read books like the ones you hope to write

If you know you want to write a supernatural thriller, read supernatural thrillers and study how the author executes the story. Then see how much of their techniques you can use in your own work.

7) Treat writing like a job

If you’re serious about making time for your writing, prioritize it as you would any other job. This approach was a game changer for me. So much so, that I gave it it’s own post, which you can find here.

8) Find a like-minded or supportive people

Finding and talking with other writers can go a long way in prioritizing writing. This can give you people to check in with, or people who will hold you accountable to your writing goals. If you don’t know any writers, supportive people who appreciate stories and the creative process can be just as helpful. I talk a little bit about how to find these people in this post on find early readers for your writing. The same methods apply in this situation.

9) Create or join a writer’s group

Alternatively, you can join a writer’s group or form one of your own. In this case, I’m not just talking about finding support for your writing, I’m talking about finding people who will critique and help you improve. There’s likely to be an active group in your community–your local library may have some info! If you can’t find one that works for you, consider forming your own. That’s what I did! My writer’s group formed from like-minded friends from high school. We meet once a month. It helps to make writing a priority when you know people will be expecting to read something or see some progress on a regular basis.

If you can’t find a group in real life, check out the internet! Facebook or other social media may prove to be a good resource.

10) Get an MFA (if you’re considering a degree)

I am by no means suggesting that you shell out a ton of money for a degree if you can’t afford it, but if you’re thinking about going back to school or getting a master’s degree, you might want to consider an MFA. I believe I would have gotten published without my degree, but I think it would have taken me so much longer. So if getting a master’s degree is something you’re planning, choosing an MFA would go a long way in prioritizing your writing. For more on the Pros and Cons of MFAs, check out this post!

11) Ask for help

This applies to things around the house, in life, and with your writing. If you want your writing to be a priority, it may mean downgrading some current priorities to make room. This can mean someone else in your house takes on the vacuuming or dinner prep a few nights a week. It may also mean asking a friend you trust to read and discuss a draft. If you have supportive people in your life, don’t feel like you have to navigate this change alone. And if you don’t have supportive people in your life, jump back to points 8 and 9 and get yourself some!

12) Accept and embrace uncertainty

One trade-off I made to prioritize my writing was a stable career with a clear future. Instead, I prioritize writing and the foreseeable future. I do what I can to ensure that I’m secure enough for now. At times, not knowing what’s going to happen next can be a little nerve-wracking, but on most days, I’ve learned to appreciate the fact that anything can happen next!

If you can learn to keep your head down and focus on what you can control, the uncertainty of a creative life is not only manageable but exciting. After all, no one else really knows what’s going to happen next either. The downside of a stable career is that you owe a lot of your time and energy to someone else. And in the end, a company can still go bankrupt or fire people and leave them just as uncertain. Expecting uncertainty means giving up that obligation, which can be incredibly exciting and freeing.

I hope this helps you find you build an awesome writing life!

Now it’s your turn: What’s helped you created a happy, sustainable writing life? What’s been a struggle? Tell me about it in the comments!

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