If you grew up loving to write, you might have studied English at the undergraduate or even graduate level. From there, maybe you found yourself in a writing or writing-related career, like copywriting, editing, or content strategy.
While it can feel rewarding to work in a field you love, it can also be creatively draining. When you write during the day, how can you find inspiration to also work on personal writing projects like poetry? If you’ve ever asked yourself that question, here are six strategies for setting boundaries and carving out literary space.
1. Experiment with a wildly different voice.
During the day, you might be a technical writer trying to master a concise, instructional tone, a blogger writing with SEO in mind, or a social media copywriter trying to incorporate mention of all the latest trends. No matter your day job, chances are you’re not harnessing the poetic voice that feels truest to you at your 9-to-5—so leaning into it during your personal writing time can be the fun and refreshing approach you need to keep going.
If you rarely get to be funny when writing for work, consider exploring humor in your poetry. If you rarely get to be personal, opt for soul-searching confessional poetry. And if you want to create even more distance between work writing and personal writing, step into persona poetry and try out a different character altogether.
2. Go on a research deep-dive into topics you find interesting.
Similarly, most corporate writers find a niche and continue to build expertise in that specific field or topic, such as tech writing, sports writing, or food writing. Break up the monotony by delving into a completely separate, fascinating subject matter. It doesn’t matter whether it’s visual art, roller skating, vintage shopping, or another unexpected interest—write about your obsessions or extracurriculars to express another side of yourself on the page.
3. Plan special writing dates for yourself.
Writing is a special ritual, and treating it as such can help poets give themselves more fully to their practice. Escape from your corporate-minded desk and spend time crafting poetry at a coffee shop, in a park, or in another peaceful place that has special significance to you. Changing your scenery could be exactly what you need to change your mindset.
4. Confide in others going through the same situation.
Though this problem might feel specific, it’s something many writers go through. If you feel comfortable, consider opening up to your creative coworkers and seeing how they’ve dealt with it, or reach out to writerly friends. Take this support system one step further by finding or starting your own writing workshop.
5. Set radically personal goals.
At work, you’re likely motivated by how many clicks you get on an article, how many people buy a product as a result of your copy, or how a piece of yours is ranking on Google. Personal creative work is rarely that straightforward or numbers-driven. Identifying your own reasons for writing outside of work can help you stay passionate. Do you want to resonate with what you write emotionally? Do you want to get more confident trying out different poetic forms? Outside of work, it’s all up to you.
6. Recognize that writing for yourself is valid and important.
This one goes hand-in-hand with number 5: Respect and value your own creative work. Though society places emphasis on how much money or attention writing generates, the art form is above that. Start getting more comfortable taking pride in your writing even if no one else reads it and even if it’s not yet publication-worthy—it absolutely still matters.
Struggling to balance writing for work and writing for yourself can be an easy way to fall into burnout. Check out our more general tips for beating writing burnout and feeling inspired again.
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