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 (writingandwellness.com). To find more information on Colleen and her work, please see her website (colleenmstory.com), or follow her on Twitter (@ colleen_m_story).