Top Life Hacks for Writers, Artists, and Seekers
People often ask me what a writer does all day. After I remind myself that this is exactly why I don’t go out, I tell the truth (a few glasses of wine help too). Like other religious callings, this one is ripe with doubt and underwritten by faith. Family will think you’re fooling yourself and strangers will be impressed – but nobody will tell you what they really think. No wonder we writers have a tendency to make things up. Because the truth is nobody knows.
And to some extent, you don’t know either: whether you will succeed or fail, feast or famine, swim or drown. The risk as an artist is to wrestle painfully with your own training. When I reflect on over a decade of my past life in Corporate America, I realize how powerful inertia can be. In the end, I had to be knocked sideways in order to wake up.
For me, the time had come to take a chance at pursuing a dream. As romantic as that sounds, the other shoe dropped pretty quickly. My landlord raised my rent, co-workers that I thought were friends stopped returning my emails, and others considered me a free babysitter because, you know, I wasn’t “doing anything”.
It took me over a year to emotionally adjust and there’s always more work to be done. Here are a few things I learned the hard way:
- Keep a schedule – As a perpetual dreamer, I could sleep all day and all night. Art in the making is more often everyday practice than flashes of genius. It is a volume game. This means getting up and writing every day. Consider downloading the Sleep Cycle app, which wakes you up according to your natural body rhythms. Meditate. Give yourself space to find a schedule that works for you, then stick to it.
- Mind your budget – As a working artist, you may not know when your next pay day will be so commit to keeping your costs down. Suggest meeting for happy hour instead of after-dinner drinks. Walk everywhere you can. Grab drumsticks instead of chicken breast. Try shopping at the local thrift store, which can be both inspiring and cost-effective.
- Find a support group – Human interaction is important to stay grounded and experience for yourself that you are not alone. Check your local library for writer groups or start your own with Meetup. It also doesn’t have to be related to writing. Sometimes it can be too easy to waste hours complaining with other writers. The goal here is to be uplifted and, for you, that could mean church, AA, or volunteering. Experiment with different communities.
- Be wary of emerging artist contests – Overnight success is possible but not probable. I discovered many writing contests with reader fees were veiled get-rich-quick schemes for those running them. My personal boundary is that I won’t apply to anything that costs more than $20 to enter so even if I get rejected (very probable), I won’t feel the extra insult of wasted money. It is also important to study each contest’s previous winners. If their “emerging writers” have already been published and been to Yaddo, they may not be looking to uncover an unpublished ingénue like yourself.
- Expand your definition of art – These days you do not need a three-book deal to be published. The internet, for the time being, is still based on text. Your audience is waiting for you. Start your own blog. Challenge yourself by writing a business plan. Commit to tweeting a 140-character story every day.
- Be inspired – During my darkest hours, I find inspiration in the visual arts. Many museums are donation-based meaning you should feel free to pay only what you can. Wander around and sit with what resonates with you. Remember that Rembrandt and van Gogh died in poverty, were completely committed to their calling, and left timeless gifts to humanity. This is truly a journey not for the faint of heart. Trust that you also have a unique gift worth sharing with the world too.
Above all, be kind to yourself. You have chosen a good thing. Take it one step at a time and imagine all the artists who came before you: holding you up and guiding you along the way. Listen to your heart and the rest will take care of itself.