In exactly five months time, I’ll be taking a year away from dayjobbery and seeing how close I can get to generating a full time freelance writing career. For the next five months I’ve the luxury of preparation time, trying to figure out how to make it work and putting some things in place that will pay off down the line (maybe). Then, at the end of September, I’ll take the leap, put all of this into practice, and see if I’m right about any of it. As we go along, I’ll be tracking things here every Friday for anybody interested in how it all works out. I’ve already posted about how I’ll measure whether this is a success, and what I plan to do about the self-employed vs. traditional routes to readers, among other things. You can track back through those entries at your leisure.
So, at this point the plan is all but in place. I’ve got awesomeballs spreadsheets that count things in super-exciting ways, I’ve got data on how sales have worked in the last two years, I know what I’m going to self-publish and what I’m going to try and approach traditional publishers with, and I’ve got a year aside to try and make it all happen. Wow. Looking good.
I’m sure there’s something I’m forgetting though. Something… I don’t know… something important.
Oh yeah. Words. Writing some. I nearly forgot about writing the words.
Which is a bit silly, because that’s what all this is supposed to be about. I mean, if I don’t write any words, what am I going to put on my awesomeballs spreadsheets? Still, with all the planning and thinking you’d be forgiven for thinking I’ve forgotten the bit where I actually have to write stuff.
Which, let’s face it, is the easy bit. That’s why I almost forgot about this post.
Did you hear that sound? A sort of wet, splattery noise in the middle distance? That’s the heads of several writers reading this exploding at the mere suggestion that writing fiction is easy.
It is though. It’s really, really easy. Easiest thing in the world. Sit down. Make stuff up in your head. Type it out. Doddle, that.
That’s another thing that’s taken me forever to work out, because writing is supposed to be hard. Everyone says so. It’s about exposing your soul, bleeding onto the page, suffering for your art…
Bollocks. Oh, you can get stuck sometimes. You might dither over plot choices, or be unhappy about how a story shapes up, or get a bit uncomfortable about how much of yourself you’re exposing to the world. Those things just aren’t that big a deal though. The quest for perfection can be a bit frustrating, but the only way to get over that is to… well… get over it. Or, you know, actually be perfect. Bit of a tall order, that last one. As nobody is, it’s probably not a good idea to set it as an achievable goal.
Writing is only hard because most people who do it have the luxury of making it hard. The truth is though, my dayjob is a hundred times harder, and a lot less fun. If I screw up badly at my dayjob there are all sorts of potentially serious ramifications, for other people and myself. Real life serious. If I write a bad story, what’s the worst that can happen? I’m going to fire me? I’m a harsh critic of my work, but not that harsh. I’ll just write something else, and try to make it better.
Writing isn’t a problem. Where many writers have real difficulty is in structuring time. Making good habits happen. I’m not remotely immune to this. As a professional hobbyist I also have a dayjob, so writing necessarily has to happen in my spare time. I’ve also got a wife and daughter whose company I enjoy. Writing is something that I squeeze in when I can.
I’ll be taking a rather different approach when it’s my job for a year, as you’d hope. For a start, I’ll be keeping exactly the same office hours as I do now. I intend to be at my desk at eight-thirty every morning, take a half hour for lunch somewhere around midday (probably when my lady pops home from work) then crack on until about four thirty. That may not be how it works out long term, but it’s a familiar pattern that I might as well stick to until I find something that works better for me. The only difference is that instead of spending those hours dayjobberising, I’ll be making up stories instead. I really don’t need to reinvent the wheel on this. I’ll stick with what I know. The habit already exists, during those hours. I might as well make use of it.
That alone should put to bed all questions of productivity. If I sit down and write fearlessly during those hours, words will happen. Once I have words, I can do all the other stuff I’ve been thinking about.
I’ll also, potentially, have more free time. That sounds strange from this distant point, but if I can keep to those hours then I won’t have to squeeze writing in around the edges anymore. I’m sure that some of my evenings and weekends will still end up on the sacrificial altar, but only when there’s good cause. Right now, I feel bad if I don’t fill every spare second of my time writing stories, and that’s not healthy. My wife and daughter might even end up seeing more of me than they do now. I haven’t mentioned that to them yet, in case it fills them with dread…
It’s a possibility that makes me extremely happy though.
We’ll see how it all works out. Right now, all I can do is jot it down as a starting point, and then find out what happens in September. I have a feeling that if I can make the habit stick, a lot of other things will fall into place around it.
There’s only a couple more planning posts left to write, I think. One on the value of short stories, and another (linked) post about Dandelion Time. That should cover the next couple of weeks, and then I’ll stop plotting what I want to happen, and start tracking what I’m actually doing. We’re very close to the release of my novel Craven Place now, and in my head that’s more or less the start of the experiment. It’s one of three major things I want to have in place before I step away from the dayjob. I’ll tell you about the other two, and what my calendar looks like, in the not too distant future.
And that’s it for this week. I’m looking forward to tomorrow. The Saturday Novella awaits, with Short Story Sunday on the far side.