Managing Creativity When It’s Your Job

  • By: Jessica Faust | Date: May 04 2015

I’ve always talked about the job of getting published. That writing the book is great fun, but once you determine that it’s time to seek out an agent, a publisher or even self-publish you’ve entered a new realm. Your writing is no longer a hobby, but a job, and you need to treat it as such. That means strict deadlines, focus, planning, management and all of those other things that drive business owners crazy.

I was reading a great article in Fast Company about The Secrets to Being Creative on A Deadline. In the article, Roman Mars, host and creator of the 99% Invisible podcast had this to say,

“Just sit yourself down and make yourself do it. That’s the difference between being a professional and an amateur. Deadlines focus your attention and make sure you get stuff done rather than worrying about inspiration. The key is to sit and suffer through it. It comes to you when it has that pressure. I became a much better in the years after I had kids, because I didn’t have the luxury of time.”

For some authors the hardest change to being published is accepting that the writing has become a job. You now have set deadlines (even if you’re self-publishing) and you have to meet those deadlines. Sometimes it means just keeping that butt in the chair and writing no matter what else is pulling at you. It means quitting your job as class mom, skipping your book club, turning off the game on Sunday or whatever it is you need to do, or say no to, to get that book done.

Often I hear authors complain that the creative process doesn’t work that way, etc, etc, but to think accountants, lawyers. literary agents, chefs or mechanics don’t need to be creative is short-sighted. Every job takes some amount of creativity and every worker needs to find a way to tap that at times when she least feels able to.

Taking breaks is an important part of any job. You wouldn’t believe how much of BookEnds was founded in the shower or emails written on the drive to the gym. Getting out of the office and thinking helps build our business and is important, it also keeps us all on deadline.


5 responses to “Managing Creativity When It’s Your Job”

  1. For some authors the hardest change to being published is accepting that the writing has become a job.
    True… and also unfortunate, because ideally, we love (or at least like/enjoy) our jobs. Probably, though, what we don't think about is that all jobs, of course, include things we don't love, too… and I suppose, given your later line:

    Often I hear authors complain that the creative process doesn't work that way, etc, etc, [aka: 'blah blah blah"] we can attribute this "job" shock to the idea that we "creative types" like to feel unique, and guess what? We're not. At least not in the ways that matter for turning our writing into a career. (We're not really that unique in most other ways, either, to be honest, but let's just keep that between us, okay?)

    Success, in anything, takes perseverance and discipline. And, as you say, creativity, regardless of the career.

  2. Avatar Elissa M says:

    My "day job" is as an artist. I've personally found it very helpful to alternate between painting and writing (bouncing from one side of the brain to the other).

    Most of my paintings are commissions, so I've learned to create on a deadline. For many years, I only dabbled at writing. Now that I'm taking it seriously, I don't think I'll have problems making the muse show up.

    My advice to writers who don't mix writing and painting: get out of the chair anyway. Yes, they say "butt in the chair" is the only way to be a successful writer, and they're not wrong. But you still need breaks. Set a clock. Write for a half-hour, forty-five minutes. Then get up and do something else for at least fifteen minutes. Housework. Exercise. Gardening. Whatever gets you moving. After the fifteen minutes are done, go back to writing.

    Some people think it's bad to interrupt your workflow like that, but I've found the opposite is true. If you wait until you've run out of gas (or ideas), you're more likely to get hung up and possible blocked. If you take a break when the ideas are flowing, you'll be chafing to get back to work. Plus, writing is sedentary. Getting up and moving is always a good thing.

  3. Avatar LynnRodz says:

    Why is it, my best ideas come while I'm in the shower?

  4. If I don't meet my deadline, my columns don't make in the paper, my editor weeps, her boss fumes, the publisher rants, readers circle my home with torches, state police set up swat teams, David Muir is outside my door with a microphone, I am in the crawl on the bottom of CNNs worldwide screen, the Pope steps out on his balcony, the Queen calls, Obama gives a press conference, "the column is late it's the end of the world".

    That's why I always make deadline. It's not discipline, it's because the world depends on me:)

  5. Avatar AJ Blythe says:

    @LynnRodz – in Australia we have crayons designed to be used in the bath/shower, perfect for when the muse hits *grin*

    @2Ns – Oh my gosh, the penny just dropped after reading your post… CNN = Carolynnwith2Ns. And you tried to convince the world you weren't famous!

    Back on topic: I'm not published but I treat my writing like a job. I think that if it is something you want to be a job, treat it like a job. My unpub writing circle think I'm a little strange because I have a business plan etc, but if I don't take my writing seriously how can I expect others to?