5 Ways to Tell if Your Side Hustles are Really Procrastination in Disguise

You’re always doing something, but is it what you should be doing?

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Writers throughout the ages have had side hustles. Shakespeare acted and managed a theater. Arthur Conan Doyle was a surgeon. John Grisham was a lawyer who also served a term in the House of Representatives. Emily Dickenson was a recluse. Okay, that’s not exactly a job, but you get where I’m going.

Writing, particularly creative writing, as I’m sure most of you are aware, rarely generates enough income to pay the bills. So, many writers look for additional sources of income. There’s nothing wrong with that. For some, it’s an absolute necessity. For others, however, it’s something else. How do you know if your side hustle is not just an excuse to avoid the blank page? Read on, and I’ll tell you.

1 - You devote more time to your side hustle than you have to

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Whether you sell things on eBay or Etsy or walk other people’s dogs, you can usually find side hustles where you can set your own hours. So, if you are in the oft-recommended habit of devoting your first hours of the day to writing, you have plenty of time in the afternoon to do other things to generate income.

If you ditch your daily writing session to work your side hustle, it may be a red flag. If it becomes a habit, it most certainly is. Don’t let your sideline become your job.

PRO TIP: If you’re gigging on OnlyFans, be careful it doesn’t come back to haunt you. (Unless that’s the brand you want to build, of course!) You don’t want some hotshot morning host bringing it up when you’re plugging your latest children’s book.)

2 - You have too many side hustles

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The more jobs you take on, the less energy you will have to put into your writing. Additional jobs mean additional time doing and managing them. If you’re promoting your Disney Princess party appearances, working the late shift at DoorDash, and organizing other people’s closets for cash, it’s too much. Too many gigs will cut into your time, energy, and motivation to write. If this sounds like you, it’s time to reassess.

Maybe you’d rather be doing something, anything, other than writing if that’s the case, fine. That’s one less thing you’ll have to worry about. You can bury that dream in a trench with a backhoe and never look back.

If you want to be celebrated and well-compensated for your writing, you have to ask yourself why you aren’t focusing on that. Are you afraid you’ll put forth a lot of effort, and your writing won’t be good enough? Maybe it won’t, but you’ll never find out if you fill up your schedule with competing activities. When it comes to side hustles, less is more.

3 - You spend more time writing about writing than working on other writing projects

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If you want to know how to make it as a writer, there are legions of people ready and willing to tell you how to do just that. There is ample advice online, in bookstores, and on YouTube for your edification. You’re reading some right now.

If your side hustle is writing about being a writer, you have plenty of company. You might teach writing workshops or host a writing how-to channel on YouTube. That’s great, but you know what that makes you? An educator. A fine profession, but it won’t win you a Pulitzer.

4- You write things you don’t want to avoid writing the things you do

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More years ago than I care to remember, I attended a writer’s convention in Los Angeles. One of the speakers was Ronald D. Moore, a writer/producer on the television series Star Trek: The Next Generation. He was in his twenties at the time, and I was in my early thirties.

Meeting Ronald was inspiring. If he could do it, so could I! Afterward, I wrote a couple of spec scripts for TV shows and two screenplays. I got encouraging feedback from a literary agent and Phoef Sutton, the executive producer for Cheers. And then, I chickened out.

I still wrote professionally, mostly in corporate communications and journalism, but I didn’t try my hand at creative writing again until about a year ago. In the meantime, Ronald has gone on to a distinguished career and is currently employed in my dream job producing my favorite TV show. He got busy young and stayed that way.

PRO TIP: If you’re hesitant to start a novel, try a short story or a short form piece. If you want to be a poet, start with a haiku. If you have dreams of winning the Oscar for best original screenplay, start with a one-act play or the script for a short film. Build up your confidence with baby steps.

I knew the kind of writing I wanted to do as soon as I got out of high school, but I wasn’t confident I could convince anyone to hire me to do it. I continued writing and taking jobs that required writing, so I could still call myself a writer, but I really wasn’t writing the stuff that excited me and filled me with pride.

I’m still struggling with this. You keep telling yourself you have time, but eventually, you’re going to run out. There’s no time like now time and all our days are numbered. Please do yourself a favor and do it now.

5 - You tell yourself you’re just keeping busy while waiting for inspiration to strike

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We all do it, and we all know that claiming you’re not writing because you’re not inspired is a big fat lie. You don’t have to be. Inspiration occasionally strikes like lightning, but like lightning, it doesn’t happen very often. You won’t write much if you’re waiting for it, but you know that already, don’t you?

At the heart of all great writing is the search for truth. To start on the path to greatness, we must first stop lying to ourselves. We have to stop looking for excuses. The truth hurts, so it’s natural to shy away from it, but if we do, we’ll never write well. Be brave, and if you’re not brave, fake it ’til you make it.

I’ll let some of the greats make the rest of my argument for me. Remember, you can’t order a muse from Amazon. (Possibly Craigslist, but I wouldn’t advise it.)

Maugham (Public domain image.)

“I write only when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp.”

― W. Somerset Maugham

Yeats (Public domain image)

“Do not wait to strike till the iron is hot; but make it hot by striking.”

— William Butler Yeats

Plath (Source: Wikipedia)

The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”

— Sylvia Plath

©2021, Denise Shelton. All rights reserved.

Limited time offer: A Haiku for You! Now through April, if you sign up for my free monthly newsletter What’s Denise Shelton Writing Now? I will send you a haiku I’ll write especially for you. You can even let me know if there’s a particular word you’d like me to include (no more than three syllables, please).

I write for fun and profit! Available for freelance assignments. Visit me at denisesheltonwrites.com.

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