NaNo What Now?

Finding your editing process, revising your NaNoWriMo book and building a writing career through publishing and beyond

Building a Writing Life

start a writing habit, find time to write, discover your process and commit to your writing dreams Non-Fiction

Write for the job you want, not the one you have

There’s an expression that says, “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have,” and it applies well to your writing life. Even though you’re just starting out, you likely know where you ultimately want to be. You know the writing life you want to have, even though you’re not there yet. The key to getting there is to write for that life now.

What is the writing life you want? Let’s say you want to be a bestselling author. You want to have dozens of books out, readers clamoring for more. While that may be the farthest thing from your current writing reality, you can write for the job you want by replicating elements of it right now.

What does the writing life of a bestselling author look like? For starters, they are regularly writing and completing books. They have strict deadlines to meet for each stage of the project (pitch, first draft, final draft, etc.) and as soon as they finish one project, they are looking ahead to the next. They are professional, friendly, and supportive of their industry connections, fans, and peers, and they work steadily to grow their careers book by book.

There’s no reason you can’t do these things right now even though you don’t have the big book deals yet. You can be friendly and professional to everyone you meet so that those connections are already there by the time you have reached that point. You can set yourself deadlines and take them seriously, making sure you finish what you start on time as if it really was under contract. And you can always look ahead, finishing one project and then moving right on to the next one while you send the first out into the world.

  • Even if you haven’t snagged that first freelance gig, you can still practice reporting and delivering a piece on a deadline by starting a blog. Providing steady, quality content that way will not only help you build your audience but also a portfolio of work that can land you your dream job later.
  • While you may not be a famous poet, you can still produce poems, submit to anthologies and contests and go to open mic nights to put yourself out there as you build up notoriety.
  • Theatres may not be begging for your latest play yet, but you can still live the life of a playwright. Start by setting up your own readings and performances of your work with friends, all of which will help fine-tune your writing and get you to where you want to be.
  • Even if you haven’t achieved enlightenment from your meditative writing, you can still share your favorite lines from your morning pages. You never know what might inspire or strike a chord with someone else, making you a new fan or friend.

Give yourself goals. Pretend there are readers desperate for this next book that you will disappoint if it isn’t out in time. Play the role of writing professional even though you’re still the newest beginner. Focus on building a writing career of multiple works instead of obsessing over just this one.

It’s not just a mental trick. It’s a useful way to get yourself into the mindset you need to succeed in the writing life you want. At the same time, you’re building up the habits, connections, and portfolio that will help get you there. And all that practice ensures you’ll be better prepared to crush it when you do achieve that dream job.


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About the Author

Hillary DePiano is a playwright, fiction and non-fiction writer who loves writing of all kinds except for writing bios like this.

Books and Plays by Hillary DePiano