Let’s face it; unless you’re in the upper echelons of the writing business, you’re quickly discovering that writing won’t make you rich. I’m a full time math teacher in Nashville. I learned early on that writers, by and large, are one of the few professions that make less than teachers. So, until you become the next J.K. Rowling or James Patterson, you’ll need to manage your writing efforts in conjunction with your day gig. Here are some steps on how to do that.
1. Never ever ever leave the house without a way to record your ideas. Inspiration for a new book, a change to a scene, or even a character’s distinguishing feature strikes at the most inopportune time. Keep pen and paper, or a voice recorder, your smartphone, something with you at all times.
Guest column by Patrick Carr, who was born on an Air Force base in
West Germany at the height of the cold war. He has been told this was
not his fault. As an Air Force brat, he experienced a change in locale every
three years until his father retired to Tennessee. Patrick’s day gig for the last
five years has been teaching high school math in Nashville, TN. He currently
makes his home in Nashville with his wonderfully patient wife, Mary, and four
sons he thinks are amazing. Sometime in the future he would like to be a jazz
pianist. Patrick thinks writing about himself in the third person is kind of weird.
His first novel is the Christian fantasy A CAST OF STONES (Feb. 2013,
Bethany House), which was a finalist in the ACFW Genesis Competition
for Speculative Fiction. The sequel launches in June 2013.
2. Take advantage of small moments. Let’s be realistic. If you work a full-time job and have any kind of life, sometimes small moments are all you’re going to get out of a day. If you’re in the doctor’s office (okay, that may be a large moment), or waiting for your kid to finish his/her oboe lesson, or chilling during halftime of your NFL team’s latest victory, you have time to write. Remember: It’s like eating an elephant. Case in point: I’m writing this in the lobby of the high school where my son is trying out for the mid-state orchestra.
3. If you can’t give it your best, then give it what you can. There are a lot of days I feel like I’ve left it all in the classroom and I’m totally convinced that anything I write will be worthless. So why bother? Because it’s not worthless. Granted, it may not be Leo Tolstoy. Heck, it may not even be Leonard Nimoy, but it will have value and there will be something in there you can use. And if not, hey, you know what not to write next time. Nothing is ever wasted.
4. Train your mind to think like a writer. If you want to write, you have to adopt the Sherlock Holmes credo of life: notice everything. I write epic fantasy which requires a lot of world-building, but even within the freedom that offers, I still have to find new ways of describing things we’ve all seen and read about before. The next time you’re at a meeting (teachers have lots of meetings) or function that’s more of a requirement than a joy, take time out to observe, really observe, the people there. Then play my favorite game. Take a photograph in your head of what you’re seeing and try to put it into words so that we see what you do.
5. Make writing a priority. I’ve wasted more time on a momentary game of spider solitaire than I care to admit or remember. Thirty minutes for me is the equivalent of three hundred words or more. If that’s all I could do in a day, I’d still have a full-length novel at the end of a year.
So do it. Set your mind to writing. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.
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