How to Avoid the Dangerous Trap of the “Perfect Writing Life”

We all have that one dream in our heads.

You know the one. It’s the dream of the perfect writing life, the one where you don’t have a day job or a house to clean or a car to fix or errands to run. Instead, you have hours of empty time you can fill as you like with your writing.

There’s nothing wrong with dreams, unless they interfere with your ability to move forward. Unfortunately, that’s what the dream of the prefect writing life often does.


When the Dream Interferes with Your Progress

I used to think about this dream a lot, especially before I my first book was published. I firmly believed that if only I could find a way to ditch the day job so I could go away somewhere and just focus on writing, then I could finally make my novels good enough to get that traditional publishing contract I wanted.

I was working a lot of hours at my day job, which meant I had little time or mental energy left over for my fiction writing. A lot of us are in the same boat these days. Even published authors find themselves drowning in marketing activities that can rob them of their creative writing time.

We can get so wrapped up in what we wish would happen—and what we think needs to happen to take our careers to the next level—that we can completely stall our work in the real world.


The Dangerous Mindset of the Writing Dream

Creative people love to talk about following their dreams. We’re dreamers, we writers. We spend a lot of time in our imaginations, and we love to think up new and amazing scenarios, often for our characters, but sometimes for ourselves.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to live up in the mountains where no one would bother you and you could write all day at a table by the lake?

Wouldn’t it be great if you didn’t have to work all day and you could just get up when you wanted to, eat a nice relaxing breakfast, and spend the day writing?

Wouldn’t it be awesome if you could chuck all your responsibilities and spend three months at a writing retreat where people brought you your meals in your room and you looked out on the ocean and wrote in the company of seagulls?

Sometimes you can make these dreams (or a more modest version of them) come true. The danger is if you allow yourself to imagine that only in this dream version of the perfect writing life can you succeed.

This often happens when you get discouraged, tired, and run down. You work extra hours, and have to deal with more life emergencies than you’d like. Feeling helpless and a little out of control, it’s common to imagine an easier life that is more encouraging to the creative arts.

The danger occurs when you start to let the dream take over. You get discouraged with your lack of progress, and start to believe that you’ll never get where you want to go. You wanted the perfect writing life, but you didn’t get it, so you start to believe that you never will, and you start to walk away from your dream.


A Successful Writer Doesn’t Let Dreams Stop Her

A successful writer enjoys dreaming, but doesn’t let it slow her down. She realizes that dreaming is nice, but that her writing has to fit into her life as it is right now. She knows that no life is perfect.

Yes, maybe someday she’ll have more time to devote to her stories, but for now, she needs the paycheck from her day job, and she wants to help take care of her elderly mother, and she wants to be involved in her children’s lives, so she has to make writing work in that scenario if she wants to succeed.

So she does. She takes little steps every day. She writes for fifteen minutes in the morning before the kids get up, and for 30 minutes at night after they’ve gone to bed. She leaves work early on Fridays and heads to the park where she steals 30 minutes to write before going home to make dinner. She makes a point of attending at least one writing conference or other related event each year. She sets deadlines for herself, and makes sure that she keeps them.

Would she like oodles of time to devote to writing? Of course. But she’s not going to let that stop her from putting making time in her life right now.

She knows that the only way to make her dream of the perfect writing life come true is to fit writing into the life she has right now, today.


Colleen M. Story is the author of Overwhelmed Writer Rescue: Boost Productivity, Improve Time Management, and Replenish the Creator Within—a motivational and inspiring read full of practical, personalized solutions to help writers escape the tyranny of the to-do list and nurture the genius within. Discover your unique time personality and personal motivational style when you get your copy from Amazon and other common book retailers. Enjoy your free chapter here!

She has worked in the creative writing industry for over twenty years and is the founder of Writing and Wellness ( To find more information on Colleen and her work, please see her website (, or follow her on Twitter (@ colleen_m_story).



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13 thoughts on “How to Avoid the Dangerous Trap of the “Perfect Writing Life”

  1. Great blog. I have found myself thinking “If only”, usually followed by “I won the lottery, I could write all the time” (a weekend at the lake would be nice, but I think my dreams are a little over the top). I’m the queen of excuses and they usually center on “if I had more time”. Thanks for the kick in the butt.

    • Hey, I’ve had those lottery/by-the-lake dreams too, so you’re definitely not alone! :O) Good luck fitting more writing in.

  2. Ooh, Colleen, those dreams are yummy! I loved MURDER, SHE WROTE with the adorable Angela Lansbury, and life in Cabot Cove looked as wonderful as any writer’s dream could be … cute coastal community of interesting people, the satisfaction of writing “The End,” invigorating daily runs on the beach — and a helpful, patient editor who never minded if Jessica Fletcher took an extra few days to meet her deadline so she could solve a murder mystery. LOL That dream looks even more wonderful in these days when authors must do so much more promotional work than Jessica had to do. But, hey! She had to use a typewriter!!! hahaha Seriously, though, your advice is golden — baby steps, do what you can, scale it down and make it work. Thanks!

    • Ha ha ha. So true! “Castle” was similar, the author rolling in dough and bouncing around the police department while (of course) producing bestsellers. Ha ha. Good point on the typewriter! Thanks, Janet.

  3. I have a confession. I have the “dream”. I was laid off several years back and I am fortunate enough in my life to not have to continue working, though I did work some part-time positions. There is as big a trap in having the ‘dream’ as not having it. It is very easy to fill your days with everything but writing. If you don’t have a solid deadline to deliver a manuscript it’s very easy to push your writing down in priority. I have done that and then hated myself for it, and forgiven myself for it. Self-discipline is only part of the answer. Writers are creative and we need that free time to let our minds wander. But it’s very easy to let that become the reason you don’t go forward with your writing. The ‘perfect writing life’ is really going to be different for every person. It’s not the place or the amount of time you have. It’s the self-determination and drive to get the story on the page.

    • Such a great comment, Diane!!! So glad you shared. I talk about this in “Overwhelmed Writer Rescue”—the grass is always greener, but when we actually get there we realize we still face the personal demons that stall our writing no matter what. We “think” it’s about time but like you say, when we get the time, we find that wasn’t it. Such a good point and one we all need to take to heart.

  4. Ah, yes, when to be flexible…and when to bite the bullet and “just do it.” After two years of being flexible (and not having much choice about it), trying to get back in the groove has been a challenge. I’ll get there though.

  5. The perfect writer’s life: get out of bed at noon; go to the beach; eat breakfast at the surf shop cafe; read under an umbrella while now and then lusting after naked women frolicking in the surf; go to Turk’s Head bar and party all night until the bar closes; stagger home and fall unconscious on the couch until noon.

  6. Love your blog. I’ll hit 50 published books this year and I’m still looking for that dream. I remember coming home with my first RITA from RWA and thinking I’d finally made it. Stepped off the plane and before I got in the car my husband said we had company waiting at home, my son yelled he was out of underwear while my oldest announced his English teacher said she’d like to talk with me.
    RESEARCH! I decided. Life is the beautiful, messy, wild ride of a dream. Writing is my work. Jodi Thomas

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