Writers: On Your Day Job

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Confession: when I first started writing *for real*, I honestly believed I only had a year or two of left of having to work a day job. “I’ll just stick it out until I finish this book,” I thought confidently. “I can deal with this until my glamorous writing career starts.”

Yes, I’d read the stats that only something around five percent of novelists make a living off writing novels–but I was a good writer. I thought I’d be in that five percent. Right off the bat.

Hahahahaha! Eight-years-ago me was so preciously naive.

So I kept writing. And I kept day-jobbing. I settled for minor raises over the years and even though I was bored and complacent, I didn’t do much to change my day job situation. I told myself that my real passion was writing; I might as well stay at a comfortable, well-paying, undemanding 9-5 job while I worked toward my real goals.

But eventually, the day job went from “This is okay,” to “I really, truly hate this.” Getting up to go somewhere that you hate every day, no matter how well-paying and easy it is, is not good for you.

So I ramped up my job search, which to that point I’d been somewhat half-assing (I really hate writing cover letters). But this time, it actually paid off. I got a new job.

I was worried, of course. It was risky, of course. What if I hate my new day job, too? Or conversely, what if I like it so much I start neglecting my writing? What if it sucks away all my free time? What if it sucks away my brainpower and creativity so I have no more left at the end of the day with which to write?

So what actually happened?

There was an adjustment period, to be sure. Hours were longer. I had to rearrange my writing schedule (as well as my yoga schedule, sleeping schedule, etc.) And having actual interesting work to do at work meant I did have less time to sit at my desk and daydream about becoming a full-time writer.

But then a funny thing happened. My life got better. And now, weirdly enough, I find myself writing more–even though I have less free time. Puzzle that one out.

I think it’s this:

I think creativity begets creativity. At the job I’m at now, I’m getting to use my brain for what feels like the first time in years, coming up with strategy, talking to smart, like-minded colleagues who like working here as well, actually writing things I’m proud of for work. So at the end of the day, when I sit down to write my novel, it doesn’t feel like Oh thank God this is the only good thing I have going on in my professional life. It feels like Wow I’ve had a great day where lots of interesting things happened and now I’m excited to make interesting things happen in this manuscript as well.

My point is, day jobs do not have to be the evil soul-sucking monsters we aspiring writers/artists/what-have yous make them out to be. They can be experiences on which to draw our art. Places where we get to talk to other interesting people.

And, perhaps most importantly, they are necessary things. So that we don’t rely on our art to feed us. Our art can remain just that: art. Not the thing that pays our bills. Some people are fortunate enough to have their art be both and I don’t mean to say that these people don’t work hard for their full-time novelist titles; I am sure that (at least most of them) do.

What I mean to say is that conversely, those of us who don’t have the means to write full-time should not feel shitty about that fact. That we should not treat our day jobs as necessary evils, but instead, find a day job that you like enough to enjoy spending time there every day. It may take you some time, but don’t do what I did. Don’t be complacent. Keep looking for the right place for you. And above all, keep writing.

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8 thoughts on “Writers: On Your Day Job

  1. I’m self-employed, I love being able to stay home to work, and I really don’t mind reality dictating I will have to work — whether writing or doing what I’m doing now (or a combination of both) — till the day I die. I’m just hoping I’ll be able to figure out an acceptable way to take that last week off. 😉

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      1. It has its own advantages and challenges, but, like parenting, I think there may not be such a thing as being “ready”. Yes, get all your ducks in a line, but then jump in! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for writing this! I have a lot of feelings about getting up every morning to go somewhere I hate and a lot of fear about not having any energy left for writing, so it was lovely to hear such a positive take on those things 🙂 I’m glad things are working out so well for you!

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