Self-Employment and Discipline

I know, that title probably sounds ominous, but bear with me. I have met so many people, both in-person and online, who say that they want to write a book. This hypothetical book can be almost anything; fiction, their life story, how well their new diet works, home decorating tips, recipes, obscure hobbies, etc. But guess what?

The overwhelming majority of these people who supposedly really want to write a book will never write a single word of that book. And the majority of people who do write anything will never finish that book. Why?

Well, there are a lot of reasons. Maybe “I really want to write a book” is just an expression and they don’t really want to write a book. That’s fine. Or maybe they’re too afraid of failure/rejection, and that’s fine too. Or maybe they’ve tried and given up because they don’t think they’re a good writer. That’s sad, but also fine. There are tons of answers. But the one I hear most often?

“I just can’t find the time.”

Listen, people, I get it. The day job takes up most of your life, and when you get home, you just want to relax, have fun with the family, maybe spend some time on hobbies. And on the weekend, you don’t want to be stuck inside on the computer! That’s what you do all day during the week. I get it, I really do.

But the thing about writing, at least with the plan to finish and/or publish a book any time this century, is that you can’t just wait around for time to magically fall from the sky. Writing is hard work on its own. Writing well is even harder.

Sure, you can wait until retirement. You might have more time then, once the day job is out of the way. But do you really want to wait that long to even start that hypothetical book? If you want to make any money or gain any recognition off of your work, then the earlier you start writing and publishing, the better. Because, for most people, building enough of a readership and fanbase to make a living off your writing can take a long, long time.

Like, 10-20 years “long time.”

Here’s the secret all writers (that I’ve seen) share: You don’t find time. You don’t wait for time. You don’t schedule an appointment with time at four PM this Friday because time just has so many other customers to deal with.

You make your own time. You ignore time’s secretary calling for you to stop and you barge into time’s office because you have a job to do (write), and time’s job is to serve your needs.

In other words: You stick your butt in the chair and type, until something a bit better than nonsense gets put across the page. And trust me, I know what I’m talking about. My first book was pretty much just nonsense until I got a bit more practice in and went through it with a red pen. A lot of red pen.

Note that this also applies to that small sects of wannabe-writers who say that they’ve got a great book idea, or that they’d like to write a book, but they’re waiting for “inspiration.” Inspiration, real inspiration, is everywhere. You can get it from the movie you just saw in theaters, to a new book, to even overhearing strangers’ conversation in public. An author needs to develop the skill of finding inspiration, disciplining themself to sit down and actually write, and use that inspiration in the book.

Discipline is a big thing. Nobody likes work. Well, maybe some people do, but most people don’t like work. And writing is a kind of work. I enjoy writing, but it’s still a kind of work, and I still take breaks during the day. If I didn’t, my brain would probably fry inside my skull.

But in order to be an author (or any self-employed entrepreneur, really), a person needs to be able to discipline themself. That means sitting down in your chair, or at your desk, or wherever your workspace is, and actually doing the work. Unlike people employed by companies or other people, entrepreneurs are our own bosses. And what does the boss do? They drag the poorly-performing worker into the office to have a harsh word. We entrepreneurs need to have harsh words with ourself. And trust me when I say that, while you don’t need to wear a tuxedo or a white dress, self-employment is definitely a case of “rain or shine, in sickness and in health, ’til death do us part” commitment.

Self-published writers especially need to take our work seriously. We can overcome the tsunami of crap on the self-published marked that, quite frankly, never should have been published in the first place. I don’t think the authors had bad intentions, but they obviously lacked the skills necessary to make a good book.

So if you really do want to write a book, it’s never too late to start. Whether you’re twelve or eighty, if you really want to make a good product for people to enjoy, you can do that. It’ll take hard work, like everything worth doing, but the reader and writer community will thank you for your efforts.

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