Every writer possesses an arsenal of excuses for not writing. A full-time student with a part-time job struggles to scrawl pages of thoughts onto paper in her down time. Mothers of young children must tend to their offspring’s every whim. A man whose day job saddles him with extra-long hours is too tired to pick up a pen by the time he gets home. The rapid advancement of technology over the course of the past three decades has created a cultural working environment not suitable for creative thought. Writing for a living can seem as allusive to some as becoming the next Hollywood starlet. Yet, the world of publishing has become more accessible than ever before. Prolific and talented writers will always find a market for their work. You can be one of them.
When I was a child, I enjoyed writing and drawing comics. As I grew older, I felt more inclined to hone in on my writing skills. As a result, I haven’t drawn anything in years. Part of this is because once I enrolled in university, my life simply became too busy to create comics by myself. I felt overwhelmed by my course load bundled with the side work I needed to make ends meet. After college, I experienced a summer of unemployment in NYC. Fed up with the lack of opportunities, I decided to begin teaching full time in China. I went from having a completely unstructured schedule to working sixteen hour days. With every new contract, the cycle continued. At first, I felt quite depressed and powerless. I couldn’t muster the inspiration or energy to write.
Then one day, as I sat in a fishing boat in the middle of a lake thinking about my visa, my muse came flying back. I went home and finished my first novel after several years of adding bits and pieces to it. I believe that taking that moment to enjoy a change of scenery helped me to come up with fresh ideas. It doesn’t have to be a big change, either. If you normally work in a Starbucks, try bringing your notebook to the park. Switch coffee for tea. Call a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while. Breaking the mold is what good writing is all about.
Additionally, I think full-time writers should have as few responsibilities as possible. Minimize debt, cut back on the non-essentials of your budget, and get used to living a simple life. I definitely recommend having a day job. If you can’t find a daytime job, try volunteering. Regular social interaction is important for your mental health and your writing. You will need new events in your life to keep you motivated and new conversations to improve your dialogue. Being a writer shouldn’t be synonymous with being a hermit. That’s a bad stereotype I wish we could get rid of.
Finally, even in the most chaotic moments — when your midterms are due and you haven’t studied, when your baby is crying, when your parents are yelling — learn how to stay grounded. Make yourself an immovable rock in the storm. Filter that chaotic energy around you and put it into words. Use the notes app on your smartphone to take down new story ideas as they pop into your head. If you aren’t big on using tech, carry around a small notebook and a pen to write down ideas. Whatever you do, don’t shut down. Don’t put down the pen. Someone out there needs to see your words.
Dee Em Vine is a fiction author, entertainer, and artist. Vine was born in Chicago and raised between Northern Illinois and the Tampa Bay region of Florida. A drifter at heart, they write characters who frequently find themselves on the move. Vine’s literary work seamlessly weaves the fantastical with the political.
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