How to be an Adult Writer Person

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Author photo-2Being an adult is hard. Being an adult in charge of a creative career can be even harder. Artists are often told to “release their inner child,” but that child is going to eat candy and wander away to watch cartoons unless you’re willing to play bad cop and set some boundaries.

  •   Plan Ahead. Invest in a planner or other organizational tool. Month-at-a-glance sheets for your fridge door, Google calendar in your email, or a pocket organizer for your bag—make it accessible, and then make it impossible to ignore. Actively managing your submission and revision deadlines will make you a hit with any editor, and you can keep track of upcoming projects and budget time accordingly. If 80% of life is showing up, then 90% of adulthood is showing up on time.
  • Day By Day. Your to-do list is a mile long, and even if you cross everything off, all you want to do at the end of the day is watch Firefly and forget about tomorrow. This is where your self- motivation skills come into play. Figure out a daily writing schedule that’s compatible with your life, and then follow it. Rearrange your morning if necessary, or forgo that extra hour of TV before bed. Being good at something means making sacrifices elsewhere—but they’re definitely worth it.
  • Taking Care of Business. Two things are guaranteed to show up in your adult life: taxes and death. Learn the ins and outs of any contract you’re signing, whether or not you retain your rights, and all the percentages from royalties and advances. Managing your own taxes as a freelance writer can be complicated, so visit a CPA or ask questions online if you start getting confused. You may have already drafted a will, but have you considered what will happen to your unpublished manuscripts, your royalty rights, and any revenue your books generate after your death? Now’s the time to set up a creative property estate plan. Contact your lawyer or go online to find basic templates.

A little adulting can go a long way. Don’t feel you have to rush out and fix everything about your life right now—that can only lead to frustration and burnout. Tackle projects week to week, month to month, and remember to focus on the day to day. Being an adult is (mostly) about time management, and finding a balance between work and play gives you more freedom to be the artist you always wanted to be when you grew up.


Leah Merrill is a Kansas City native and author of more than six impossible things. She is the facilitator of QUILTBAG, a LGBT+ writers group, and can be found on Twitter @la_mer92.

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