This morning I am writing in a tiny library room I reserved for Wednesday mornings. It is on the side of the library that gets morning sun, so it is far too hot for my taste. I even brought a fan this week. Despite my discomfort, it is an auspicious morning. Today is the 489th day I have been intentionally writing, and it also happens to be the first day I write as an official professional. I received an email yesterday afternoon that I placed as a runner up in a writing contest, earning my first dollars for my writing! I celebrated with my wife last night, but today I am back at it, because that’s what professionals do.
I have been cultivating a pro attitude toward writing for about two years now. That was when I decided to give writing a for-real try instead of letting it wallow as a sometimes hobby. I started using an app called Loop Habit Tracker to track which days I wrote. That’s how I know that today is #489 of writing. I haven’t written every day, and took two whole months off. But I keep showing up every day I am able, and I sit down to write even if I don’t feel like it. I rarely feel like showing up to my engineering job, but I do it anyway week-in and week-out. So it makes sense that writing would work the same. Side note: if you are trying to make any kind of habit stick, I would highly recommend tracking it in some kind of app or calendar. The days I have felt frustrated like I haven’t made much progress at writing, I can look back at my habit tracker and be assured that I have put in my time.
Back to the pro attitude. If you worked a regular 8-5 job, decided to take a month off without telling anyone and came back with a long string of excuses to tell your boss about how you had been dealing with home repairs and pets and children and whatever else you used to justify your absence, you would be lucky to still have a job.
Writing when I felt like it or when the mood struck was not going to get me where I wanted to go. So I decided if I was going to write for my job, that meant I had to show up. I blocked out time in my schedule every day and made it work. Or if I missed a few days being sick, I treated it like being on paid-time-off and then got back to work when I felt better.
As far as professions go, writing seems to have a long lead time for payout (at least for me). Most jobs start paying you within a month or less. Two years for a first paycheck is a bit longer than that, and that first payout isn’t going to go very far. But I feel like I am doing what I am supposed to do with my life. I don’t enjoy every minute of it. This morning I am writing this post to avoid writing setting descriptions. Coming up with unique details to describe characters and settings is something I absolutely hate doing. But I am a pro, so I sit down and mash my forehead on the keyboard until something comes to me.
How about you? Is there something you have always wanted to do but just don’t? Maybe it’s a hobby and not something you want to make money with. Great. Could you take a few minutes to think of a way to make it happen? When the excuses start coming up in your mind, think about them as opportunities to prioritize. Your brain is feeding you a list of reasons you can’t do what you want to do. But in reality, it is feeding you a list of things that you are prioritizing. Your brain is actually giving you the very thing you need to succeed. Write down all of your excuses. Those are your current priorities. If you want a new priority added to the list, it just needs to bump out a few others.
Let’s say the thing you want to do is learn to yodel. Is yodeling more important than hand-washing the car this weekend? Do you want to prioritize yodeling above that extra hour of sleep in the morning? Here’s the real sticking point: it is actually ok if you decide that yodeling isn’t a high enough priority for you during a particular season. If you go through your list of current priorities and yodeling doesn’t make the cut, fine. But then let go of the pressure you put on yourself to do it. Nobody needs that stress. If, on the other hand, you decide that yodeling is more important than a bunch of the other stuff on the list, then act accordingly. Don’t let lesser priorities cut into your yodeling time. Or your golfing time. Or your hiking time. Or your writing time. Whatever you want to prioritize, do that. Then give yourself permission to live out your priorities without guilt about what you aren’t doing.
It seems I am well entrenched on the path to becoming a writer. But it took many steps over many days to get to this point. Regardless of where you are at in your journey, I wish you all the best, and hope that my musings about writing push you forward to do what you want to do in life. Personally, I will be back at it tomorrow for day 490.
Feel free to check out my runner up story over at Short Fiction Break: https://shortfictionbreak.com/murphys-law-of-home-improvement/