Up before dawn and a lot to do this morning but none of it involves writing — except writing this post!
It’s 5:45 AM and I have already done yoga but I still have to muck stalls, exercise my horse and clean my chicken coop and water the five fruit trees waiting in my garage, in buckets, for Spring. I should be finished long about noon! And I mean finished.
There are some days, like this one, when it doesn’t seem possible. So, on days like this, sometimes I think I will just read a book or do some research online instead of writing. Then the inner voice that nags me starts to whisper things like “Real writers don’t take breaks.” “You can’t really write anyway so why not read?” Or my favorite, “No one will ever read your novel so maybe you should quit.”
While I don’t really believe that voice in my head, it is tempting to contemplate not writing sometimes. What? A writer who thinks about not writing? What kind of writer does that?
An honest writer.
When you have been writing for close to 2 decades, and I mean writing stories, articles, brochures, business plans and essays, you might also think about life without a keyboard attached to your wrists or a pen stuck to your fingers. You might long for the days when you can lay in bed with a novel, a cup of coffee and no desire to put words on paper.
Writing is hard work. It takes discipline. It requires loving attention and long hours alone, just you and your thoughts and your writing tools. It is the proverbial labor of love. No magazine is ever going to pay you for the 5 hours you spend researching or the 2 hours of interviews you do to learn about and explore the topic. Transcribing notes — 4 hours and not billable. Contemplating how to start the story? Not going to earn you a dime.
From assignment to finished article, it can take up to 20 hours of hard labor. The most I have ever been paid for a cover story of more than 2200 words was $400. When you do the math — that’s $20 an hour or 18 cents a word — you can see that this is not a job for those who want to make easy money. Most magazine publishers pay about 10 cents a word.
Making a living as a freelance writer is hard. I don’t know a lot of people who are successful at it. Most of us have full time jobs so we can support our full time passion. Working 45 hours a week, commuting about 2 ½ hours every day and trying to get a little time in for exercise, eating, cooking, cleaning, laundry and sleep leaves me about 10 hours a week when I might, actually be able to sit down at the keyboard and write!
So, how do I make time and save energy for writing?
I get up at 4:30AM every morning. I write before I eat, before I go to work, before I head out to the stable or put in a load of laundry. I write for an hour every morning. Whether it is journaling or banging out two new pages in my novel or putting the finishing touches on an article, I write.
As early as that is in the morning, as hard as it sounds to put EVERYTHING ELSE on hold and just sit here and write, I do it because writing lives at the very core of me. When I don’t do it, I find myself resenting all those other things that are necessary to living and all those other people who make my life so rich and full.
So, advice from one writer to another – write!
Find a time of day, early, middle or late, when you will take just one hour for yourself and write. Then stick to it. If you only write 2 pages a day, you will have more than 700 pages of your novel written in just one year. And if you aren’t writing a Russian novel, you could have two full novels done by this time next year!