The One Thing My New Job Taught Me About Writing

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In December of last year, I started a new job. It was a position I had been after for months, so when I finally got the offer, I was super excited!

However, getting the job was just part I. In order to keep the job, I needed to be licensed, which meant taking an exam.

“All right,” I thought. “No big deal. I’m a smart guy. This will be a breeze.”

Let me tell you, studying for that thing was hard. Every morning for two months I was slapping the alarm clock at 5 AM just so I could get in an hour of studying before work started. And every night after work I set up camp at my desk, surrounded by textbooks and notepads, studying until either my eyes were too tired or it was just time to go to bed. On average, I’d say I spent about 4-5 hours a day studying for that test. My relationship with my wife suffered, I hardly saw my friends and family, and I was constantly miserable, agonizing over whether or not I would pass.

So why did I put so much effort in?

Well, for starters, I wanted to keep my new job. But you know what else kept me going? Everyone at work knew I was taking the exam. My professional image was linked to whether or not I passed. Talk about accountability!

Which got me thinking…

What if I devoted that same amount of time and effort to writing?

As a writer, “showing up for work” pretty much just means plugging in the laptop and hacking away. But if you don’t? Well…Let’s just say you don’t have to file a report with your boss as to why you only wrote a few dozen words over the weekend.

There’s just another level of responsibility that comes with being a professional. When you are held accountable to a superior, or when other people are counting on you, when your image is at stake, we tend to put everything else aside and DO WORK.

I call this Professional Discipline.

But I’m not a professional writer, you say. I don’t have have an editor, or an agent, or a publisher. I’m not accountable to any one.

Then pretend like you are. And keep pretending until you don’t have to any more.

That means getting up at 5 to get in that extra hour of writing before work. It means using your lunch break to sneak in another hour, or saying “no” to Netflix in the evenings. If you maintain the discipline of a professional, it won’t be long before other people start calling you one.

And when you do have the editor, and the agent, and the publisher. Well, you’ll already know what to do.

And just so you know, I did pass that exam (eventually) and I got to keep my job, but the lesson I learned about Professional Discipline was even more valuable.

Call to Action:

How do you drive yourself to achieve Professional Discipline? Share in the comments below, and be sure to click the follow button on the right for more writing tips!

Dreams Do Come True! How to Make Your Dream a Reality – Part 1

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We all have dreams. From the thrill of one day making it as a paleontologist to the very idea of realizing your life long passion as a Lego master builder (both of which I have longed for at one time or another), everyone has something that drives them. Something they love to do.

For some, it’s easy: you can make money doing what you love, and to you I say, be glad you don’t have to suffer.

And keep scrolling, because this post is not for you. This is for those who do have to suffer. Those who color outside the lines. Who break the rules. The fools who dream.

To all of you I say this:

There’s hope.

Why? Because you are unique. Creative. Artistic. You see things differently. And one day, if you work really hard, people might actually pay you money just to get a glimpse of the world through your eyes.

That’s the real dream, isn’t it?

But a lot of work needs to happen if you want to get there, and it starts with three simple questions. Three questions that need answering if you’re going to make your dream a reality.

  1. Who am I?
  2. Where am I going?
  3. How am I going to get there?

I’ll go over each one in depth over the next few weeks, but for now we’re just going to focus on the first one.

  1. Who am I?

When you’re embarking on a road trip, what’s the first thing you ask before pulling out of the driveway?

“Do we have everything?”

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It’s the same thing when it comes to pursuing your dream. You have to take stock before you head out. Just like you won’t get very far without the necessary supplies, you can’t expect to have success without at least a basic understanding of who you are.

The goal here is a super simple approach to answering this question. Conveniently, we can break this down into two areas:

  1. Skills, gifts, and talents (What am I good at?)
  2. Desires and passions (What do I love to do?)

Here’s my example. I actually have this as my Twitter bio:

“Writer, aspiring author, pianoman.”

Simple, right? Let’s talk about it.

  1. Skills, gifts, and talents

This is what you’re good at. Could be anything. Knitting, cooking, ping pong, swimming, roller skating, basketball, anything! Maybe it’s something you’ve always had a knack for (a gift). Maybe it’s something you’ve worked really hard at (a talent). Or maybe it’s something you’ve learned over the years (a skill). Whatever it is, identify it. Write it down. Put it right after your name. This is your base. Your suitcase. From here you can start to pack.

2. Desires and passions

This is what you love to do. What gets you up out of bed in the morning. What keeps you going when things get tough. Maybe it’s the same as #1. If so, great. That makes things easy. But if it’s not, then you need to make some choices. This is where you have to be honest with yourself. You might want to be a rock artist more than anything in the world, but if you just flat out suck, it’s time to look long and hard at whoever’s on the other side of the mirror and answer some tough questions.

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This one is especially hard because, ultimately, your desires and passions are what will drive you to pursue a dream. I’ve seen many talented, skilled, and gifted musicians walk away from music because they hated it. What your good at does not equal what you love.

Ultimately, your desires and passions are what will drive you to pursue a dream.

Your job is to find the apex of what you’re good at and what you love. Somewhere in that sweet spot is a dream that’s not just a dream, it’s a very real possibility.

So what do you have so far? Might be something like this:

“My name is Angela Carlisle. I love to sing, and I’ve been doing it since I was a little girl so naturally I’m incredible.” (What she loves to do = what she’s good at).

For others, it might be more difficult.

“Hector Cox. I’m in the best shape of my life, but I really want to become a motivational speaker.” (What he’s good at is different from what he loves to do. Is there a way for him to bridge that gap?)

There’s something about actually writing it down that makes it real. Seeing who you are emboldens you, and sets you up right for the journey to come. There will be adversity. Lots of it. But if you know who you are, really know, it doesn’t matter what comes at you, because you know who you are.

And…if you come back next week, you might learn how to find out where you’re headed too.

Feel free to share about who you are in the comments below! I’d love to hear about your passions and desires, and what you’re good at!

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