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Writing Advice: How to Bring Writing into Your Day Job

Self-published author Sarah Dale, an occupational psychologist, provides an inspiring example of how to combine your love of writing with your day-job: she writes about her work.

Dale 159I love writing. But I also have a business to run, and children to bring up. I’m not superwoman either. I need my sleep and my down time.

For several years, I fitted fiction writing in when I could. I undertook a successful Nanowrimo, writing a (terrible) 50,000 word novel one November. I completed two Open University creative writing courses. One of these I did for free because I was tutoring for the OU at the time. I was always trying to maximise opportunities.

But I continued to feel guilty about snatching writing time out of the working week – and too tired to write once work and family were seen to.

So, what were my options? Save the writing for retirement? Or integrate it into the day job?

I am an occupational psychologist and coach. I listen to many people in mid-life, who tell me about the varied challenges of having a successful career as well as considerable responsibilities outside of work. I help them find ways to re-discover their motivation and well-being, and to focus their energies effectively.

Cover of Keeping Your Spirits Up by Sarah DaleA reflective coffee break later, I suddenly realised I could indulge my writing urges at the same time as producing something useful. I could bring together much of the research I was reading about with regard to well-being. I could write a book to support my clients. And thus, my first book, Keeping Your Spirits Up, came about.

Not only did this turn out to be helpful for existing clients, but it serves well to introduce people to my work. A kind of extended business card, I can give it to potential clients. Psychology is not as tangible as a business making furniture or knitted hats. A book helps to turn it into something people can grasp.

Cover of Bolder and Wiser by Sarah DaleMy second book, Bolder and Wiser, due out next month, combines the personal and professional even more closely. Based on conversations with twenty women aged 60+, Bolder and Wiser is my reaction to what they’ve told me matters and what doesn’t, as I approach my fiftieth birthday. Now with more than one book, I have shifted my perception. I now think of myself as a psychologist and author, rather than a psychologist who wrote a book. As all writers know, this is a significant (and hard won) shift.

Show, Don’t Tell

The age-old advice for writers to show rather than tell applies, I think. Take Dawn Reeves, an independent author, as an example. Her book, Hard Change, is a British town hall thriller. As a former local government director herself, she uses fiction to demonstrate her deep understanding of the challenges facing many cities. On the back of the book, she has developed workshops which she runs at key conferences. In turn, this has led to being invited to write for The Guardian.

I also hope that I demonstrate some aspects of my work, without spelling it out as if it was a text-book. I hope that my experience of listening, and understanding of psychological theory and research methods, quietly underpin my books.

Applying To Any Job

Cover of Hard Change by Dawn ReevesI don’t think it matters what the day job is. Books could range from Confessions of… to How to manuals to A quirky history of… or A regional guide to… – or, indeed, fiction. Good writing has always been a key way to communicate a business or organisational message. Independent publishing gives us the tools to do this in an easier and more professional way than ever before.

It’s a long game. You have to love writing. There isn’t instant return on the time investment. But I like to think it’s keeping my hand in for returning to the novel one day.

 

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2 Responses to Writing Advice: How to Bring Writing into Your Day Job

  1. Flora Morris Brown October 17, 2013 at 7:51 pm #

    Hi Sarah,

    I found much to love about this post.

    I agree that any day job can be used to create a book with a compelling message and that we shouldn’t save writing until retirement. Best of all I’m delighted that you put what you’ve discovered about well-being into Keeping Your Spirits Up. I’m looking forward to reading it right away.

    Now I’m also looking forward to Bolder and Wise since I also write about happiness/well-being and am a member of that older and wise group.

    Thanks for the encouragement and tips.

    • Sarah Dale October 19, 2013 at 10:29 am #

      Thank you so much for this – delighted that you like it. Very happy to send the preview copy and will do so in the next few days (am away from home right now with limited access to internet and emails). I think the message not to save writing (or any other creative work) until retirement is a good one!
      With best wishes,

      Sarah

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