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Writers Who Made the Leap

Don’t wait until the next Leap Year to take your leap of faith. If you’ve been harboring a secret dream of being a writer, there is no better time than right now to get started. Whether you want to freelance for travel magazines or write the next bestselling novel, there are more opportunities now for professional writers than ever before.

Jeff Goins, whose blog on writing and creativity garnered an audience of over 100,000 readers in 18 months, put off his dream because he didn’t believe he could be successful. “For years, I read blogs, bought books, and watched videos about ordinary, everyday people making the colossal shift from day job to living their dream,” said Goins. “I seethed with envy and bitterness as I saw friends skyrocket to success, living out their passions.”

The Magical Story of J.K. Rowling

Perhaps the most famous rags-to-riches story (and favorite fairytale of struggling writers everywhere) is that of J.K. Rowling, the single mom from Scotland who went from living on welfare to a multimillionaire. After her divorce, Rowling returned home jobless and with a young daughter to support. While she looked for work, she was secretly writing a children’s book about a boy wizard.

“I had imagined that I would be back at work fast,” recalls Rowling in an essay for Gingerbread, a non-profit for single parents. “Indeed, it was because I expected to be employed outside of the home again that I was working so hard to finish the children’s novel I never told anyone I was writing (not wishing to be told that I was deluded). As it turned out, my belief I would shortly be back in paid work turned out to be a much bigger delusion than the hope that the novel might be published.”

Beyond the Fear of Falling

Martha Beck, writing for Oprah Magazine, recommends visualizing a life lived without fear: “You can gain more clarity by getting into the habit of imagining the choices you'd make if you had no fear—of failing, of losing, of being alone, of disapproval.” She encourages readers to make a habit of practicing fear-free decision making in small ways at first—choosing an outfit, for example—until it becomes second nature.

For many frustrated writers who feel trapped in their unrewarding day jobs, the idea of being successful is almost as scary as failing. Aubre Andrus, who now makes her living as a freelance writer, believes that many writers are scared of success. “What if life went exactly your way? What if you had a dream job and got to work on exciting projects that you loved?” she asked. “The thought is so overwhelming that it’s just easier to dream about it instead of laying the groundwork for it.”

Don’t Quit Your Day Job…Yet

If your day job feels as though its stifling your creativity, it may be a time for a change, but many artists have managed to balance traditional careers and creative pursuits. In addition to providing a paycheck, a day job can also provide valuable experiences to write about later.

Winston Groom, the author of Forrest Gump, held down many odd jobs before he started writing full-time, and he doesn’t regret what he learned from them. According to an interview on NPR, “His first job as a newsboy taught him he wasn't an early riser; his work in construction taught him he didn't like hard, manual labor; and the Army gave him enough experience to write a book about — his first novel, in fact, Better Times Than These.”

A Starter Kit for Writers

The good news is that a writer requires relatively little in terms of equipment and paraphernalia to start working. If you’re reading this, then chances are you already have a computer with Internet access, but here are three free or low-cost tools for writers.

  • Word processing software (Scrivener and Open Office are great alternatives to Microsoft Word)
  • An automated proofreader, such as Grammarly, to polish your prose – and a subscription to The Chicago Manual of Style Online. Grammar matters!
  • While not exactly essential, coffee helps. Many writers choose to work in coffee shops because of the free Wi-Fi and caffeine, but it also helps to get out of the house and people-watch.

Beyond that, there really isn’t much you need to get started, so close this window and start writing!

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