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The writing life is tough: It can be hard to stay motivated when you’re slogging along, alone, with nothing but the company of your rejection letters and the world’s tiniest violinist playing sad music outside your window (okay, maybe not that last part).
If your goal is to be a career writer (that is, a writer who makes a career out of words), here’s one trick that many successful writers found useful, even when they were just starting out, even when there was nothing to indicate that they had a future as a writer.
Let us put it simply:
Write Like It’s Your Job…Even If It’s Technically Not
If you want to be a professional, you have to start by thinking of yourself as a professional. This seems like a simple notion but it’s not. How are we writers supposed to think of ourselves as consummate professionals when we work in our pajamas at odd hours, when an hour’s hard work is staring into space and daydreaming, and when it’s so easy to put aside our writing goals for the sake of family and friends?
The key to becoming a professional writer is believing that you are a professional writer—now, while the neighbors are outside having a pool party, while the kids are jumping on the bed, while nothing in your career looks quite like you want it to—yet.
No matter where you are in your career, you’re always in a position to reset your mindset to treat your own goals with the professionalism and respect they deserve.
When you demonstrate that you take your work seriously, others will take it seriously too. Even family members or friends who have doubted will—eventually—have to come around because your dedication, professionalism, and seriousness will convince them.
When you treat your work with professional courtesy and dedication, your mindset will have a ripple effect. Having the support of nears and dears can be critical to success, and at the end of the day, you are the one who sets the tone for your career. Plus, when you treat your writing time as sacred and important, agents and editors are more likely to feel that (and see it in your words).
More Writing Mindset Tips For Launching A Career
Act like you’re working for someone else. You know how being late for work can be a huge stressor—because who wants to get on the boss’s bad side? But then, when it’s time to sit down to write (or get up early in the morning to squeeze in some writing time), it’s easy to say, “What difference will fifteen minutes make?”
If you pretend you’re working for someone else—someone that you’re professionally obligated to do right by—then you might muster a little more diligence.
If creating an imaginary writing boss doesn’t work for you, consider treating yourself as your boss. When it comes to writing, is there anyone who you should be trying to impress who is more important than you are? We think not.
Read more: How To Stay Motivated To Keep Writing
Don’t call it an office; call it a studio, playroom, or imaginarium. Some successful people will often say things like, “I’ve never worked a day in my life.” Now, most of us know that’s poppycock, in a way—Edison says genius is more perspiration than inspiration. But the mindset of approaching the work is what we’re getting at. Work hard and do so because you enjoy it. Attitude will help you go far.
Pay yourself for writing. Very few (realistic and practical) people decide that the best way to make a fortune is to write a novel. There’s a reason writers end up with a reputation for being short of funds. Here are our thoughts about how much money you can expect to make writing poems, stories, or books.
But even if you’re low on dough, you can create a system to pay yourself for your work. Maybe you write by the hour (and pay yourself one Hershey’s kiss per hour). Or maybe you are paid by the word (with an extra minute in the shower for every five hundred words you write).
Whatever you decide, when you treat your writing like it’s a job—even if it’s not actually paying money yet—there’s a better chance that real paychecks will be coming down the line.
Caveat: This particular technique might not work for everyone. Some people don’t want their writing to feel like work, ever. Some people don’t distinguish between work and play when it comes to creative pursuits. What do you think?