5 Ways Writing Fiction On The Side Has Helped Me Succeed In My Day Job


Life is full of unintended and unexpected consequences. For instance, I was so excited at the notion of potty training our son, I did’t think about how it could make life harder. What could be bad about no more diapers? What no one told me is that any trip with a small potty-trained child has as many bathroom stops as a bachelorette party. (My wife is really really smart so we waited until after we took a trip overseas to potty train my son, thus avoiding repeated trips to the aft lavatory.) What are you talking about, man? Potty training?


A few years ago I started treating writing as my second job. At the same time, I was cognizant that writing should not take away from my paying gig, so I did all of my writing at night – not even a quick peak at lunch. I’m in sales, so stealing time from my work is stealing from my own wallet. A funny thing happened. My numbers have risen sharply. Nearly record levels in the company. Writing has had a huge impact on my day job and here’s why: 

1. Writing is exercise for the mind. Words are important, and in sales they are critical. Success depends upon choosing the right words, reading the customer, and understanding their position. I sometimes have an hour or more drive before a meeting. Since I started writing regularly, my brain fires up faster. I never have enough time to write, so when I get the opportunity to open the laptop, I need to start writing right away. I don’t have 15 minutes to “figure out where I left off.” My brain is ready, I’m better at choosing what to say, and when to not say anything.

2. I’m faster at communicating effectively via email with customers. Duh. Writing 50,000 words in 30 days and editing a 65,000 word manuscript has made me faster. I am better at saying what I want to say more succinctly. Effective writing only comes with practice and having written over 200,000 words in the last two years is damned good practice. I’m communicating better with my customers.

3. Grad School in my car. I love music. But working from my car-office, I need more than good music to get me through the day. I discovered some great podcasts – all free. An hour spent driving and not learning something is a missed opportunity. I’m on a path to independent publishing so I’ve listened to probably 100 hours of podcasts on self publishing. I’ve mentioned them on this blog before (https://selfpublishingpodcast.com/ and http://rockingselfpublishing.com/  are two, but there are other good ones as well. I also like Yo Pro Wealth (http://yoprowealth.com/) and Side Hustle (http://www.sidehustlenation.com/) for the entrepreneurial side of things. If I could take all of the time I spend in my car and get an MBA, I might, but using this dormant time to learn has made working more fun. And like #1, it keeps my wheels turning so my mind is quick during the sales call.

4. Motivation? No problem. I used to manage a telemarketing operation. 24 calling stations, 75-100 young employees asking for donations. Keeping a bunch of college students motivated to get told “no” 90% of the the time isn’t easy. The same goes for being an outside sales rep. Once the kids are fed and dressed in the morning, there’s no one there to tell me to get to work, and no one to notice if I slack off. Since I’ve been writing, I’ve become more effective at using my time. I need to get the most out of every hour. I’ve developed better habits during the day, because I want my work to be done so that I can spend the night writing. I hate logging in to the office database at night. I never think about my motivation level anymore. It’s a given. When I’m working, I’m working smart.

5. Creativity. When I write, I have a tendency to fold myself up inside my head, bouncing around ideas. I not only think about what happens in the story, I think about what the reader knows and when. In truth, I’m selling the reader on the plot. My editor is always saying, “Show, don’t tell.” The same goes for sales. I was working with a supplier rep recently and one of the selling points in our presentation was an up-front signing bonus. I had a strong suspicion that the customer didn’t want to be bought. I said to the rep, “Let’s not mention the signing bonus. We’ll sell him on the product and the service. We use the signing bonus later when he’s on the verge.” In sales we want the customer to know ALL the great things about our product, and we bombard them with selling points. We call it “Show up and throw up.” Honing my communication skills through writing has helped me understand how to think about the narrative in the customer’s mind. He only knows what I tell him, when I tell him, and the timing and sequence is HUGE. Like a good book, you hook them, then you spend some time developing the idea, and then you make a great close. Every customer is different, so why use the same approach over and over? It takes creativity to make an impression.

As soon as my son was reliably using the toilet we had our daughter. I don’t think it was two weeks between his last “accident” when we were back into diapers. As with writing and selling, practice makes perfect. I’m the Peyton Manning of diaper changing. I can change a diaper on a running child, blindfolded. My first book is coming out soon (very soon). My daughter is 20 months old. By the time she’s 3, I expect to have 3 books out. I’m saying this because it’s good to set goals and make them public. So… next year, remind me when I declare our house to be diaper-free, that I should have 3 books out too.

Thanks for reading. You know the routine: sign up at the left to get blog notifications. If you like this post, forward it to your friends. Email me at jkilewrites@gmail.com. A proof of my novel The Grandfather Clock is on its way to me. Final final edits and formatting, then it will be DONE. Stay tuned.


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