There seems to be this misconception floating around out there that if writing is your full-time job, then it would be a piece of cake to write. That’s simply not true. Just because you have an entire day to write, it doesn’t mean you “feel” like writing. The muse is not always going to come out to play. There will be days where writing will be like pulling teeth, and you feel like you’ll never finish the book.
Also, just because you earn a living with your writing, it doesn’t mean it’s all roses and unicorns. The pressure to keep on publishing books hovers over your head, and bills mount up all around you. People in your family might depend on you for some, if not all, of the income. This is stressful since writing income fluctuates. You can run ads and engage on social media, but the very best marketing tool under your belt is the next book. You can’t spend all of your time on other pursuits. You need to write to get the book finished. Taking a long time off from writing isn’t always an option. People are depending on you for food, shelter, clothing, and keeping the lights on. The constant day-in and day-out of writing eventually takes its toll on you, especially since not every book is going to perform as well as you hope.
Burnout is a real thing in the writing community, but I rarely ever see it discussed. People assume if someone loves to write, then this whole thing is a breeze. They also assume just because the story is quick to read, then it took very little effort to write. Writing is work. It’s hard work. There is a lot more to writing a story than coming up with an idea. You have to make the story entertaining enough to hold someone’s interest from beginning to end. After that, you need to polish it up (edits) and package it into something that is attractive (get the cover). This is not easy. If you do all of the writing, editing, formatting, and cover art yourself, you’re wearing multiple hats. If you hire out for editing, formatting, cover art, then you need to hire the best people to do those jobs. I guarantee you that not everyone you hire is going to do a good job or reach the deadline you give them. (Make sure you give them a decent amount of time to work on the job. Expecting someone to get something done in a day or two is nuts. I advise at least two weeks.) Then you have to publish the book and either hire someone to do the marketing for you or do the marketing yourself. If a book could sell itself simply by being published, then every author would make a living at this. When you’re self-publishing, it’s on you to do everything yourself in one way or another.
I probably “feel” like writing about 25% of the time. Most days, it’s a struggle to get into it. It’s been like this since 2016. I love writing. I love what I’m writing. I have ideas. I enjoy the books that I’ve done. So it’s not a lack of enjoyment for writing itself that makes this such a struggle. I’ve been trying to pinpoint why this is so difficult for some time now, and I think an author friend was right when she said, “The reason you’re feeling burned out is because this is something you have to do. It’s a job.”
Writing is a job. The only way I’ve managed to get all of these books written and published is because I’ve made it mandatory to show up, sit down, and write. Like any other job, there are days when you feel like doing it and days you don’t. I tried to deny admitting this for a long time because it gives other people the impression that I hate writing. I don’t hate it. It’s just not all fun and games like it was back in 2008 when I started this path.
I don’t know if anyone can relate to this, but if you can and haven’t figured out how to make yourself write even when you don’t feel like it, I can offer some input. Routines are key to successfully managing a long-term writing plan. Routines are great. They give you a time to start and a a time to stop. If you know you’ll be at the computer from 8am to noon, then you know that at noon, you can stop writing. Also, I recommend days off. If you work from Monday through Friday, you can take Saturday and Sunday off without feeling guilty about it. You also have the weekends to look forward to if the week is a hard one for getting words down on paper. I recommend scheduled vacations and holidays off. I also recommend not doing the marketing while you’re supposed to be writing. Now, if you’re unable to set aside a block of time like 8am to noon, then think in terms of 250-word or 15-minute increments. I had to do this when my kids were little. I had a certain word count goal for the entire day, and once I hit that goal, I stopped writing for the day. I prefer the 8am to noon shift better because I feel more organized and rested, but when you’re a mom with little ones to tend to, the kiddos come first. When you’re taking care of them, just think about what you’ll write the next time you’re at the computer. That helps keep the flow going. I will add that I don’t stay in the chair the entire 8am to noon shift. I will get up about every 15 to 20 minutes to do laundry or another small chore. This gives my eyes a break from the screen and gets me moving around. I guess it’s not all that different from taking care of the kids, except you have control over how short the breaks are.
When you are done with the writing, then you schedule time for emails, blog posts, social media, website updates, ad placements, working with editors/cover artists, formatting, etc. I like to do this after I write since I won’t get distracted with the marketing side of things. If you’re the type who can set a timer, market, and then stop cold when the timer goes off, then I see no reason why you can’t market first if you feel more relaxed to write after the marketing is done. However, if you can’t stick to that timer (like me), then you need to write first.
The routine takes a lot of discipline. I find it takes about two weeks of doing the routine for it to feel comfortable. Your routine has to work with your life. You don’t want to push yourself too thin. If you find that you can’t produce a certain amount of words each day, then cut back the word count to something easier to manage. You want a pace that won’t stress you out. You need to be relaxed if you’re going to put out your best work. And there will be times when you have to change your routine. As frustrating as it is, you need to do it to stay sane. Experiment until you find the right routing for you.
I know you can’t eliminate all of your stress. As long as we’re alive, we’re going to face some form of stress. All you can do is set up a routine that keeps you on a track so you can write at a pace that is comfortable for you. That’s how you can keep writing even when you don’t feel like it. That’s how you can stick with this job for the long haul. Just take it one day at a time. Make the daily goals small. Some days will be better than others, but every day you write will add up. If you keep chipping away at that book, you’ll eventually get it done.