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EPISODE 61: Creating Balance in Your Creative & Professional Writing Life

by Nov 23, 2021Podcast

In this episode we will cover:

  • Context switching from creative to professional writing
  • Combating writer’s guilt with time management 
  • Maintaining productivity in both realms—professional and creative
  • How copywriting can lend to your creative writing {and vice versa!}

Most copywriters choose this line of work because they love writing, but most of us probably didn’t discover this love through writing copy. If you’re anything like us, you likely grew up reading and writing fiction and continued to develop your writing skills, eventually making it into a profession. 

Getting paid to do what you love sounds like the ultimate dream, but how do you achieve work-life balance when the practice you’re most passionate about is ALSO your job? 

Many writers feel guilty when we devote creative energy to our own projects, because that could be time spent on projects that bring income. We also have to honor our commitment to our clients. 

So, how do you maintain productivity in both realms—professional and creative? 

Here’s a few tips shared in this episode:

  • Try creative practices that don’t require any actual writing. For example, mental practices, such as meditation, journaling, mind mapping, or vision boarding, can help boost creativity. Take time to discover what inspires you. 
  • Make more time for movement. Feeling stagnant? Try a standing desk, take an afternoon walk, or do a quick yoga flow. This can help you switch between professional and personal writing, achieve balance, and increase energy. 
  • Don’t rush your masterpiece. Be kind to yourself! It took James Joyce 17 years to write Finnegans Wake. Art takes time, even in a world that tells us to go fast. 
  • Time management is key. We have an entire episode dedicated to this topic, so we encourage you to listen for tons of tips. Ultimately, time management can help you complete your “work writing” tasks within dedicated hours, so you won’t feel guilty about the time you spend on your passion projects. 
  • Apply your professional writing practices to your creative process. Believe it or not, deadlines have a place in creative writing too! You can use a lot of professional strategies in your personal writing to help you push through feelings of non-creativity and just write. For example, set a timer for 25 minutes and commit to writing for those 25 minutes, no matter what. 

 

Services/Products/Offers/Freebies Referenced (for affiliate links or list growth):

  • Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones
  • Stephen King, On Writing 

 

Homework: 

What are you working on? Share links to your recent work or notes on what you’re working on in the Polaris Writers Lounge. We’d love to support you in your creative or professional writing process.

TRANSCRIPT

Jessi:
Welcome to the Brand Your Voice Podcast, where we’re digging into how you can create personality-driven content that connects and converts. I’m Jessi…

Marie:
…and I’m Marie. We’re the co-founders of North Star Messaging + Strategy, where we support business owners in outsourcing content without sacrificing authenticity.

Jessi:
Every brand has a unique voice that sets it apart. We're digging into how to capture the way your brand communicates from the words you use to the stories you tell. So you can create more compelling content that strategically helps you meet your business goals.

Marie:
And if you choose to outsource that content, you'll be able to do so with confidence, knowing your brand voice is in good hands and you can reclaim your time. We're so glad you're here and hope you enjoy this episode.

Maggie:
All right. Hello everyone. And welcome back to another Brand Your Voice Podcast episode. This is Maggie and Madeline reporting for duty as Jessi and Marie are still out of the office. And today we are talking about, I think an issue that's probably at the top of many writers minds when they come to their work, and that is how to strike a balance between your professional writing life and your creative writing life.

Madeline:
Absolutely. It's the blessing and a curse to be able to say that you get paid to do your passion.

Maggie:
Totally, totally. And I think that like many of us who are copywriters today probably grew up or sort of got our sea legs, if you will, by writing creatively. Whether we started doing that as a kid or when we were a little bit older or whatever, they may be, most of us probably loved reading and as such sort of started a creative writing practice. And eventually that led to a professional opportunity. That's certainly been my case. I don't know how things went for you Madeline.

Madeline:
Oh yeah, no, that's right on. I mean, I've been writing stories for literally as long as I can remember since I was a little kid. And writing is something that I've always loved and something that I've always been extremely good at, and I've always known I wanted it to be a part of my life, but it wasn't until a couple of years ago when I found out about the profession of copywriting that I was like, oh, I could actually make this a job. Like not some just, looming in the future. I'm going to write a book and maybe make some money off of it, but this can be an actual day job that I get paid for.

Maggie:
Yeah, yeah, totally. It's like, yes, that is the plan. Right. But it's like, what do you do in the meantime? How do you make a living?

Madeline:
Yes, yes, absolutely. Yeah. So it was super exciting to find that out and to figure out that copywriting was a way to kind of do the practical part of life, meaning getting paid and being able to pay my bills. But it's also doing something that I really, really enjoy and especially, I think that some, I don't know, like creative writing and copywriting are so different and I love both of them. And I feel very lucky because I think there's a chance that writers especially who are super creative writers can get kind of, I don't know, maybe jaded or something by copywriting and being like, I don't know, maybe like there's a feeling of being a sellout or something, but I don't know. It's something that I legitimately enjoy doing. So I feel very lucky about that.

Maggie:
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I definitely feel like there's a lot of creativity that goes into writing copy. And a lot of like similar skillsets that are put to use outside of just, like we're communicating, we're writing whether that's like learning to be more succinct or like having a little bit more precision with your word choice, that sort of thing. I think that they speak to each other really nicely, but I certainly feel like my struggle is that it's really hard for me after a day of sitting in front of my laptop, writing in a Google doc or a word doc or whatever the thing is to then, try to put away that part of my life and start working on something that is just for my own edification for my own like creative outlet, whatever the thing is. I find that to be a huge challenge.

Madeline:
Right? No, absolutely. And you know, I think all those, we did an episode on time management a couple of weeks ago, and a lot of the tips that you read about time management working from home, avoiding burnout and stuff are like, oh, make sure to make time for your passions and new your hobbies. And, it's a little weird, it's a little different when your passion and your hobby is also what you do for your job.

Maggie:
Yeah, yeah, exactly. It's like, where do you can draw the line?

Madeline:
Yeah, Exactly. And, you were talking about, it and the burnout is real, the writing burnout, your creativity, you only have so much creative battery in a day, you know? But I know that I also struggle with when I switch over into my creative writing and working on my personal projects. Sometimes I feel guilty for working on them because I think, and this also has to do with working from home and not having super clear work-life boundaries, but I think there's this feeling of well you're spending time writing, so it should be the writing that you're getting paid for. And that is currently actively making money. And I know that that's just a symptom of, again, bad work-life boundaries and capitalism and all that.
But, it's still there and it's still a voice in my head that I have to silence. And then it's also challenging when, you know, I was having this experience this past month because I've been working on a short story. And when I'm working on something personal that I'm super into, and I want to just devote a hundred percent of my creative energy and my creative battery to that project. But at the same time I need to get paid. And also, I have a commitment to my clients who I really love and care about, and to North Star and everything. So I don't know, it's definitely a challenge kind of giving up your creative energy between the writing that is getting you paid and that you've made a commitment to. And the writing that brings you a lot of personal joy and fulfillment.

Maggie:
Yeah. Yeah. It's funny to hear you talking to about the guilt over working on something creative when he could be tying up some loose ends at work or whatever, and it works the other way too. Right. It's like, if you're only doing your professional writing work, then you start to feel guilty about, you know, like what you're neglecting in your creative life.

Madeline:
Absolutely. Yeah.

Maggie:
Yeah, yeah. And I think it's a work in progress, but wouldn't it be nice to have some kind of consistency across both practices, right. To feel good about the momentum that you have in both arenas.

Madeline:
Totally, totally. And, you know, I think for me, I think I tend to err more on the side of neglecting my personal projects and my personal craft, which is fine. It's actually interesting because, I've been working with North Star for about a year now and for a long time for probably, I don't know, the first nine months or something, I really wasn't doing any personal writing at all. And so then recently I went back and started working again on this story that I had started, like before I had started at North Star. And it was really cool because I got to see, oh my gosh, working as a copywriter and having this professional writing job has, and this might sound obvious, but it's made me a lot of like a way better writer.
Like I can see my writing from before I started making money off of this and see how far I've come and how much I've learned. And so thinking about those skills that lend themselves, the copywriting skills lend themselves to your creative writing as well.
The other thing is, beyond just creative skills, like again, we talked about time management strategies, and those actually really informed my creative process. Cause I was always someone who didn't write unless I felt like, okay, I'm inspired to write right now, which usually meant that I just never did it at all. But working in a job where I have hard and fast deadlines for writing have helped me work out this process for myself where I'm like, okay, it doesn't matter if I'm not feeling inspired, but I got to write it. So, I can use some of those skills, like setting a timer for 25 minutes and just saying like, okay, I am committing to writing for these 25 minutes, no matter what. And once those 25 minutes are up, I can stop or I think, keep going. And most times I'm, I get into the swing of things. So yeah, some of those practical skills from copywriting have helped me refine my creative process as well.

Maggie:
Totally. Yeah. And I think that's something that writing professionally has also given me, is that, I'm just not intimidated the way I was in the past, by a blank page.

Madeline:
Yes.

Maggie:
Almost every single day. I am sitting down to a blank page and creating something out of nothing. And just having a greater degree of comfort with that I think is really useful. And also you mentioning the time management strategies that we've talked about before on the podcast, I think is another thing that's been really helpful for me and that I really do like time-blocking and especially since, I mean, you and I work from home, not everybody can do this, but especially since I work remotely. If I time block it out, then I can just put an hour of creative writing into my afternoon. So it's not like, oh, I'm logging out of the quote unquote digital office. And then in my free time, I am going to, at 7:00 PM, sit down and work on something creative. I can actually just schedule it into the times when I'm being productive and I'm going to be at my computer anyway. Which is for me a really useful strategy.

Madeline:
No, definitely. That's a great idea. Yeah. And, for me, I want to try that for sure. Especially like on the days when, cause in copy writing, especially in our jobs specifically, you go through periods of having a lot of projects and then you go through some periods of having not as many projects and you can then devote some of that time to your own projects.
But yeah, something that helps me too is again, using those time management skills, because if I can get my like quote unquote work writing tasks done within my dedicated working hours, then I won't feel as guilty for working on my own stuff afterwards because I know that I got, okay, I already got done what I need to get done for my job. And now it's okay to switch into my own stuff.

Maggie:
Yeah. That's a really good point. And you can, especially if you're not, for lack of a better word wasting any time, work hours, you kind of get stuff done a little bit faster and more easily and you have extra brain space and energy and time to work on something else. And something else that occurred to me when I was putting together some thoughts for this episode is that, at least for me, and I think this is probably true of most people, the creative process, isn't just actually the writing. And I realized that so much more goes into that, whether it's just giving myself to be time to be bored and to wonder about things and generate new ideas or if it's finding some way to move my body that generates more ideas, you know?
So like with us taking a walk, taking around whatever the thing may be, I realized that that's also an essential part of the creative process and it's nice to make time for those things that are part of your process, but aren't the actual writing, you know? And I feel actually naming those things as part of your process and honoring them as such is a really nice way to give yourself a little bit of grace and be like, I'm still being creative, even if I'm not actually putting words to paper in this moment.

Madeline:
Absolutely. Yeah. And walking my dog taking walks in general a lot of times with my dog because she gets very sad if I go to walk and they don't take her. But, going on walks is I feel like I get half my ideas while I'm just walking outside or in the shower. I feel like that's kind of a cliche at this point, but I definitely do get a lot of ideas in the shower and I get, I'm like writing it down.

Maggie:
That's so funny. I never get ideas in the shower. I don't know what I'm thinking in there. Walking yes. Walking 100%.

Madeline:
Yes. Yeah. But I love Stephen King. He's one of my favorite people. I admire him so much for so many reasons. And I read his memoir called On Writing, which is kind of half a memoir and half a kind of an advice for writers. Highly highly recommend for any writers. Even if you don't like scary things, it's not about the scary things. It's just about his process. But I always hear there's a chapter where he lines out like how he structures his days. And he, I think he said he writes in the mornings and the first thing is he commits to writing six pages every day, which does somebody who's like not a writer that doesn't sound like a lot, but that is...

Maggie:
Is a lot.

Madeline:
Which explains why he can like turn out books so quickly. Cause he's like I write 6 pages every day without fail. Like I think there's three days when he doesn't write. Although, you know, I'm pretty sure he actually says I used to not read on Christmas, but now I can write on Christmas. Like you commit to writing six pages every single day, no matter what. But then once those six pages are done, he's done. And he dedicates time to spending with his family and to reading. I remember being struck by that, that Stephen King set supports several hours every day for reading. Because that's another way you get ideas obviously is to, and a way to improve your own writing is to read other people's writing. So I don't know if I'm not quite at the writing six pages a day level yet, but I hope that someday I can get to that level of commitment to my own craft.

Maggie:
Yeah. And I do think that there's something really useful too, about that. Like a benchmark, just being like, I'm just going to have this amount of output. I'm going to write six pages a day and they don't have to be the best six pages I've ever written. They just have to be six pages. I really liked that.

Madeline:
That's an important piece of it. It doesn't matter if it sucks.

Maggie:
Yeah. And it reminds me of, there's another book in a very similar sort of style, it's instructive about the writing life and how to have a consistent writing process called Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg, who lives in New Mexico like I do. And she talks about even doing that without having cohesion. You're not writing a novel even, she just would talk about how she would carry a notebook with her everywhere she goes and every month she wanted, she would fill a notebook. And so she would write down random thoughts, like describe a scenery, some bits of dialogue ideas. And it's almost like a journal that she carried with her, but she's, the objective being just to fill a notebook every month. And that's another way of being right or too is like, you don't have to write a American masterpiece, you can do creative writing too. And I think thinking of your journal, your wherever you do, your brainstorming, any of that stuff is, as you're writing is also a really nice way to alleviate some of the mental stress around. So, do I have enough balance between these two parts of my life?

Madeline:
Absolutely. Yeah. It's a struggle, but I feel very, very lucky that I get to do what I love most in the world for a living. So, it's made me again, it's writing professionally, even though copywriting is so different from writing a story, or a novel or an essay, like a personal essay. What I've learned in copywriting has absolutely helped my creative writing. So yeah, I just, I feel very lucky even though it's hard.

Maggie:
Yeah. And I love that. I love that. It's all good practice and it's all totally valid.

Madeline:
Yes.

Maggie:
And on that note, I would absolutely love to hear what some of the listeners are working on in your creative life or in your professional life. What are your big projects lately? Please share all the details in our writer's lounge, the Polaris writers, and there's a link in our bio to our website where you can just send us your email address and we will send you an invite and you can join the conversation.

Madeline:
Yes. We'd love to hear what you're working on and to support you in your own creative process.

Maggie:
All right. Well, thank you all so much for listening and we will talk to you next time.

Marie:
Thanks for joining us for this episode of the Brand Your Voice Podcast Make sure to visit our website, northstarmessaging.com, where you can subscribe to the show on iTunes, Spotify, and more.

Jessi:
If you found value in this episode, we'd love for you to leave us a review on iTunes and share it with your friends. Thank you, and happy content creating.

For additional content strategy and branding tips, check out northstarmessaging.com/blog. Also, please tag us on Instagram and let us know you’re out there! @northstarmessaging 


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