There are many wonderful things about life as a freelance writer, but creative fulfillment isn’t always at the top of the list.
Sure, writing even the most eye-glazing, hyper-technical white paper offers a greater creative outlet than ditch digging or tax accounting (unless your accountant uses some VERY avant-garde fonts).
And, in general, freelance writing is an excellent option for creative people.
Yet there’s something about the itch to write fiction that even the most inspired non-fiction writing can’t scratch.
People who feel compelled to write a long-gestating novel are sometimes haunted by their failure to get pen to paper — and the primary culprits are usually a lack of time and a reluctance to simply write the first page.
If you’re nursing a passion to write a novel — but your freelance writing career is claiming most of your time — you’re in good company.
Most first-time novelists don’t have the luxury of taking paid-time off or whiling away a sabbatical at a writer’s colony. Instead, they must find a way to pursue their creative endeavors while still maintaining a vibrant and profitable freelance career.
It’s not always an easy needle to thread. Keeping your freelance career healthy requires spending time not only writing, but finding and cultivating clients.
If these tasks become all-consuming, there won’t be much creative fire in the furnace when it comes time to work on your contribution to the canon of literature.
On the other hand, devote too much time to your novel and your freelance prospects can wither.
To help get you started with this process, let’s review a few tips for freelancers seeking to write a novel while balancing the needs of their existing career.
Slipping the surly bonds of authorial inertia
First, let’s start with some of the oldest advice in the world: Seize the day.
The Roman poet Horace introduced this aphorism two thousand years ago (although he actually said “pluck the day”), and for good reason:
As statesman (and fellow poet) Benjamin Franklin said, “You may delay, but time will not.” Defer your ambitions too long and your opportunities may evaporate.
Breaking out of self-imposed stasis and taking the first step (however small) toward writing a novel is the key to everything that follows.
It’s the moment your project becomes real, rather than just an idea you’ve been carrying around.
If you can only write the first dozen words, do so. Everything else will start flowing from here.
Finding time and space for your novel
Writing a good novel is a significant commitment.
To do so successfully, you’ll need to carve out sufficient space in your life to accommodate the work. Perhaps this means spending less time doing other non-essential activities (Netflix binges anyone?), or cutting down on procrastination.
It’s important to remember that you don’t need to block out hours of time to get started. Even a few minutes a day can help you become invested in your project, and eager to find additional time in your schedule.
Sometimes it’s easier to completely tune out electronic distractions in favor of a more monastic approach to writing, as the best writing is usually done in periods of unbroken concentration.
It’s also a good idea to carry a notebook or a digital device that can record notes.
If you’re at Trader Joe’s eating cookie butter samples and a brilliant thought washes over you, you’ll want to start writing before inspiration recedes.
Sometimes a single thought committed to paper can lead to an eruption of good writing.
Don’t let your first draft dissuade you
Hemingway, never one to mince words, believed all first drafts were garbage (though he used a more colorful term). Another famous writer, Terry Pratchett, encourages writers to view first drafts as nothing more than you telling the story to yourself.
In other words, don’t expect greatness to start immediately radiating from your fingertips onto the keyboard (or notebook, if you’re not into the whole digital thing). A draft is just a starting point, and it should never ruin your confidence.
Ultimately, writing a novel while keeping your freelance career healthy is a balancing act that requires some very real sacrifices, whether your reward in the end is a best-selling thriller or mere creative fulfillment.
Yet by following the advice outlined above, you can make the process (relatively) painless.
Chris C is one the most talented writers within the WriterAccess platform who specializes in journalism. We (and our clients) are fortunate to have him.
Contact us now to see how our writers can make your life easier in creating the compelling content, your target audience creates.