The DIY Writer Manifesto

You’ve done good with your life. You’ve got a job, a house, a car, kids. Things are proceeding pretty well.

But it’s the same process every day, week, month, year. Something keeps telling you that there’s something you’re meant to be doing with your life – and you might not know exactly what it is, but you’re sure that what you’re doing to earn a crust isn’t it.

Maybe you looked up that commencement address Steve Jobs gave at Stanford after his recent passing. Maybe you got sick of waiting for circumstances to arrange themselves. Maybe you realised that you might actually be good enough for your dreams.

Whatever the reason, you don’t want to ignore that inner voice any more. Now, you want to listen to it, give it the chance to tell you just what you want to do, then make something of it.

Except real life keeps stepping in your way.

You miss your spouse and your kids while you’re at work and you have chores to do when you get back home. The bank keeps upping your mortgage repayments. Car trouble, medical bills, visits to the vet, all keep sucking up whatever’s left. Those government re-skilling courses and university degrees that the TV bombards you with ads about? Why bother looking at those when there’s no way you can afford them?

Have you left your run at really living… too late?

I Know The Feeling

I’m in my mid-thirties, I have a wonderful wife, I have a good job with great colleagues in a town with over ten percent unemployment. We have a lovely home with a huge freaking yard and a vegetable bed, a car, two dogs and a circle of close mates. Plenty of reasons to be cheerful, right?

Except, like you, I’ve got this thing. I love to write. Yet it took me until the end of the noughties to stop being so scared of trying and failing to do something with that passion that I’d splurge my spare time and cash on distractions. Finally, last year, I decided to try making something serious out of (read: earning some money from) my passion.

Unfortunately, I really should have found my inner strength ten years ago.

My job is stable but my position’s career path is a little hazy at best. My wife and I have a mortgage that takes up a third of our combined monthly income; the leftover is barely enough to cover the regular expenses, much less pay the debt on our bruised and battered credit cards. Right when it looked like we were getting on an even financial keel this year, a home insurance excess and a vet surgery bill hit us in short order. Then our car decided to play up and we’re still trying to find a mechanic who won’t charge us several grand to fix it.

On top of that, I don’t have any accreditation to back my attempts at seeking writing work. I crashed out of one year of a Bachelor of Arts at the end of 1996, did a TAFE IT course in ’97 and have only done the odd IT and workplace health and safety course through work since.

I’m in your boat. And I reckon there’s no such thing as too late for anyone. We can achieve what we want to do.

It’s Never Too Late To Take Your Shot

Remember when you got to your second year of high school when you were barely fourteen and the teachers presented you with a list of elective courses to be doing for the next few years (if not the rest of your school career)? Hell, your hormones were only just starting to change you from the child you were into someone else entirely. How the heck were you supposed to know what that mysterious person was going to want to do with his or her life?

Then that brand new person gets told his or her best shot at a decent wage lies in getting a university degree. Yet more pressure to choose a vocation for yourself before you’ve had a chance to sample the sheer volume of options available.

Are there some who combine the self-awareness needed to realise their vocation and the courage to achieve it early in life? Sure. But I contend that they’re the lucky few. I also contend that no matter how long it takes to discover what you should be doing with your life, you can still do something about making it without a degree or certificate.

Your most important resource is time. If you can put the hours into improving the skills your dream vocation requires and can demonstrate those skills, you’ll find someone who will pay you to do what you want to do.

On this web log, I chronicle my own efforts to turn my creative itch into paying work. You’ve come in right at the start, while I’m developing my passion for writing as a sideline to my day job and exploring opportunities to make myself more valuable to my employer.

From here, though, I intend to explore ways to make writing the primary means of paying my bills, whether through making writing a bigger part of my day job or going entirely freelance.

But no matter what, I’m going to find out how to do whatever I need to do myself. I don’t yet have the money to outsource or train in anything, so anything I need to learn or train in, I’ll find ways of finding out what I know and practicing it until I’m good whilst spending the least amount of cash.

And you know what? My wife and I have a list of improvements we want to make to our home, so there’ll even be some straight-up, hammer-and-nails DIY.

Because no matter what, if you want something done, you’ve got to do it yourself.

How about you? What’s that little voice inside you telling you to do with your life? What’s in your way and what are you doing about those obstacles?

2 thoughts on “The DIY Writer Manifesto

  1. Cheryl

    Congrats on getting yourself together, Rob. Other than just writing, one other thing you can do is pick up some used grammar or high school textbooks and use the grammar/spelling/vocabulary lessons to help build up your writing skills. I have a couple of ancient ones that go right back to the basics, so that I’m practicing from the bottom up. It’s tedious some days, but when you can do a lesson in a night’s ‘work’, it doesn’t seem to be so bad and I’ve relearned a lot from doing them.

  2. Rob F. Post author

    That’s a good idea, Cheryl. I wonder where I’d find those around here – I’m used to seeing novels and cookbooks at the thrift shops, not so much school textbooks. Where do you get yours? Do you buy online?

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