What does it mean to live like a writer? Isn’t living your life and writing enough. Maybe for some…

A cup of tea and a notebook sitting in the sill of an open window with the text "Live Like a Writer (and Finally Finish Your Novel)"

I don’t think there is one specific way to live like a writer. And I want to say that there are many writers you should definitely not live like. I don’t glorify substance use disorders or not getting the mental health help you need and deserve.

Instead, I talk about the writing and how to make space for it.

No cults of personality. All writing.

And that means that to live like a writer, you need to think about what you need in your writing life to do the work you want to do.

Why You Should Try to Live Like a Writer

Let me share an anecdote.

Before I decided to live like a writer, I was doing what I was supposed to do. That is to say, I was showing up at the day job I hated and trying to move my way up their very short ladder. I put time and energy into it, and never got anything out of it.

But when I pulled my focus back and tried to look at the whole picture of my life, I realized that I was focusing on the wrong goals. Rather than being the writer I wanted to be, I was being the person that I thought I was supposed to be to fit into the job title I had at that time.

And since then, I left that terrible job. I taught at a university for five years, and I eventually quit my job to do stuff that aligns more with who I am and pays me to write.

Because of that, I’ve been writing more and creating a publishing schedule.

Basically, living like a writer made it so that I could write consistently and focus on the writing.

But you don’t have to quit your job to do it.

How to Live Like a Writer

For me, living like a writer has been all about making tiny little tweaks to my lifestyle. It’s not about doing what other writers have done. Instead, I recommend focusing on what you need to do what you want to do.

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It’s about enabling the writing.

Here’s what living like a writer looks like in my life:

001: Plan everything around the writing.

Writing takes precedence. So, if I know I want to get some blog posts out or I want to write a chapter in my WIP that day, I start with that task.

Everything else can be done around it.

I also try to block off mornings and early afternoons for writing. Even though I sometimes have calls at those times, I try to get my writing done first.

Then, I do the freelancing.

Naturally, I can’t always adhere to this schedule. But if I keep it as the goal, it’s easier to put my writing first.

002: Carry a notebook everywhere you go.

Okay. I’ve talked about what a writer’s notebooks is, and how to start a writer’s notebook. But just having a notebook is a game changer.

You can use it to jot down ideas or to journal or to write down quotes that have inspired you. You can do pretty much whatever you want with it.

Always having a notebook on hand means you’re ready to write whenever. And if you’re ready to write whenever, then you can write.

And at the end of the day, isn’t that what being a writer is? Just writing?

003: Consume art and media that makes you want to write more.

This is probably something that should go without saying, but I want to be clear on this one.

There are so many people out there that think reading the classics is the best way to become a better writer. And in some cases, that may be true.

But when it comes to content and style, you’re not going to get very far if you’re writing like Charles Dickens in the modern era. You can’t write a Jane Austen-style marriage plot because it’s not going to resonate with people the same way, and nobody courts one another like that anymore.

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This isn’t to say that those stories don’t still have value. It is to say that those stories have been told by someone who is already venerated. You’re a young upstart. So do young upstart things like writing young upstart stories.

Instead, consume books and movies and TV shows that make you want to write. What elements tickle your brain in an inspirational way? What about those stories makes you feel inspired?

Find those things and keep consuming them. That’s where your next WIP is probably going to come from.

004: Build an active daydreaming habit.

I literally use daydreaming more than I use the math stuff I learned in anything beyond Algebra I. The more you daydream, the more your brain wanders.

I find staring out a window and letting thoughts happen to me is a good way for me to rejuvenate my brain, but also to just come up with stuff for writing. And the best part? We are all daydreaming all the damn time.

Don’t deny it. You know you’re not paying attention during the work meetings. You are thinking some wild stuff as you drive home from work. You’re not thinking about your grocery list as you quietly sip your coffee before heading out for the day.

You’re daydreaming.

Let it happen. It’s good for you.

005: Don’t feel obligated to answer to non-writers.

Non-creative folks won’t understand why you use your free time the way you do. And for the most part, if you’re not always available to placate people who need to be entertained, you’re going to be the sort of friend who falls by the wayside.

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This isn’t a bad thing.

I no longer have friends who call out of the blue to invite me to do a thing. And they aren’t my friends anymore because they need someone to distract them immediately, and I don’t do that. I love intentional hangs. I hate spontaneous nonsense.

This started happening probably around 10-15 years ago, but it’s important to note that I don’t mind it. As my focus shifted from partying or going out or being the sidekick to whatever shenanigans that friend with Regina George energy had planned to writing, I was no longer the friend they needed.

And it helped me see they weren’t the friends I needed too.

So if someone wants to know why you’re spending Friday night at home reading or writing, you don’t have to explain anything to them. You’re doing it because you want to and it’s important to you.

006: Focus on the writing goals over the goals pushed on you.

So, I mentioned this earlier in the post. But when I was trying to climb that corporate ladder, I didn’t realize that I didn’t want it.

It’s hard to know when you want something if everyone around you sees this finish line and points to it. You have to realize you’re running a different race.

That’s the thing about writing. You don’t want to spend your free time working extra for a boss that sucks. You want your nights and weekends for writing.

And you have to make sure you’re making space for those writing goals, because no one else will do it for you.

How Do You Live Like a Writer?

What do you do that makes writing your focus? How do you live so that you can achieve your writing goals? What shifts have you made to make writing easier for you?

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