Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Working like a professional

When I sold my trilogy to HarperCollins in July 2009, I was grateful for many things. But one of the clearest moments of gratitude came when I realised what a smart thing I’d done to start working professionally BEFORE I sold the books.

There are so many wonderful things about having a contract, but there’s one really bad one – DEADLINES. You can’t take as long as you want to do thing. Procrastination becomes your most sublime enemy. And you’re trying to do all this during one of the most nerve wracking times of your life.

I decided to start working professionally eighteen months beforehand. I’d been having seriously problems writing and I’d decided to change careers so I’d have more time and headspace to write.

I didn’t have deadlines from publishers to motivate me, so I used my own deadlines – and my deep driven desire to give this writing gig everything I had. If I failed, it wouldn’t be for want of trying.

So every day I wasn’t working, I was writing. I had Christmas Day off but that was it. If we went away, my computer went with me. And some days, when I had the late shift – I wrote in the mornings before I went to work (writing after work was just too hard).

I also set up a proper writing space – no more on the couch or at the dining table. We went to a local office supply company and bought a desk, and an adjustable chair. Ergonomics was important – I’ve got lots of friends with back problems from writing.

This set up was in large part responsible for me actually getting the manuscript up to scratch, and thereby being able to sell it. And when I found myself having to fix up two very scratchy follow-ups and submit them, each on a six month deadline – I had the workspace and work habits to do it with a minimum of fuss.

Don’t wait until you’ve sold the book – start working, treating yourself like a professional NOW. It will make it easier to achieve what you want, and easier to cope once you have.


Adriana Ryan said...

Excellent advice, Nicole! And congrats on your sale. :) I've found that setting deadlines is crucial, too. It just makes you feel so much more motivated than a vague desire to finish the book.

Jennifer Lowery (Kamptner) said...

Great advice! Approaching writing like a professional before published is definitely a good idea. We are moving into a bigger house in a couple weeks and I will have my own office so I'll be setting these kinds of goals for myself too :)

Sheri Fredricks said...

Hi Nicole ~ When my husband, who owns and runs his own business, saw how serious I was about writing, he bought me a computer armoire to have my own writing space. He knew I had to treat it like a job and balance the rest of my life around writing. Thus the hutch. I can close it up when I'm not working. I like your view better, however.

Work smart, not hard. Got it.

Nicole Murphy said...

Hi Adriana, Jennifer and Sheri - how fabulous to meet such determined and passionate women!

Adriana - I'm a big fan of the deadline too. I find it really motivating, to have a date that I have to hit with a certain achievement. I know it doesn't work for everyone, but I think everyone should try it.

Jennifer - Yay for your own office! Hope you have many hours of enjoyment there.

Sheri - a supportive husband is just the best! Mine is also very supportive (and also a small business owner - wonder if there's something in that). Lucky us.

Taryn said...

Thankyou! Yes this is exactly how I'm working at my book now, off permanent work so spend 5-7 hours (have stand up breaks) at my desk. When friends call for coffee its a date at a break time only. After 3 years, in the past few weeks I've achieved so much more.

Nicole Murphy said...

Hi Taryn

Congrats! It's amazing how much you can get done when you sit and write, isn't it? :) And particularly well done for training your friends so well. Took me a while to get my family, particularly my mother, trained :)