Is the day-job vital?

Follycon (Eastercon 2018)

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Marc Joan

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Aug 26, 2014
I've often wished I could give up the day-job and write full-time, instead of painfully squeezing in a couple of hours in the early morning. Imagine, I say to myself, the peace, the productivity that would come from the knowledge that one had a leisurely 8 or, hey why not, 10 or 12 hours to just simply write. But at the same time, I sometimes have a sneaking suspicion that I wouldn't be quite so efficient -- that is to say, I'd be even less efficient, i.e. less output per unit time -- if I did nothing except write (which is not to say that I wouldn't jump at the chance if given the opportunity). And behind that is the thought that maybe, just maybe, the day-job has a vital function in clearing the mind and preparing it to secrete the next aliquot of writerly neurotransmitters. If it wasn't there, perhaps I'd need something else in order to write anything worth reading. Related to this is the idea that the day-job is a source of inspiration, and may even trigger the writing career in the first place:
Don’t Quit the Day Job: Chris Ord
Yes, probably all true. But I'd still give up the day-job tomorrow if circumstances permitted!
 
I've known others do it, and it seemed like a wonderful idea, but it was probably a mistake. Financial stability is a liberation. It eats time. Yes, but you know the saying about giving a job to the busiest person. I know a poet for example, who was a roofer but then gave up the roofing. That roofing job gave him an anchor and also his unique poetic angle.
 
I had to quit my day job. Had to. Couldn't walk to physically do it any more. Worked 2 years after a doctor told me to stop. The day job's vital if you need the money. It was a huge shock, not that I always liked my last day job. I was teaching in college at that point. Teaching business studies and Design Theory. I liked teaching, and I liked my students very much, by and large, and heck, there were some naughty ones, but not other aspects of the job necessarily. When I was able to, I started working in a new way from home. But it was a great shock, stopping. I couldn't not work, whatever form it took. I can see it from both sides. You work extremely hard, as do others, and I wish you more ease and rest and respite than you currently enjoy.
 
I imagine what's vital is a source of income, intellectual stimulation, and interaction with other people. The need for those things varies from person to person and also I think, changes a little with age. A twenty-year old person looks for a mate much more intensely than a forty year old might and not only because of hormones. Around thirty people seem to be really interested in career -- maybe late twenties. While nothing is carved in stone, these things have been generally true from my observation.
 
There are pros and cons to writing full time. It was a bit of a leap when I closed my interpretation business to write (no, that's not right--it was like chewing my own arm off, as the career was the only thing I'd ever wanted out of life). My husband was very supportive, but I insisted on a better life insurance policy for him before I agreed to essentially become unemployable. The idea of relying on someone else for my financial stability is, frankly, terrifying.

But I found I really enjoyed the writing, and my ability to work anywhere has come in quite handy, with kids who go to school (and after-school activities) an hour from home--I can make good use of the random hours waiting for kids, and I am almost always free to address the inevitable teenage crises. In fact, the other stuff I do (gardening, kids, livestock, hobbies, hiking, etc) are all very important to the writing. I can tell when I have been writing solidly for weeks on end, without a break--the writing loses something. I need a balance between doing things in the 'real world' and writing. If and when I need to go back to a real job for financial reasons, I expect I'll be looking for something relatively mindless that still allows me to write. Running a business took all my emotional and creative energy--I couldn't write while doing that full time.
 
I've managed to achieve a compromise.
Last year I decided to partially retire. I have funds enough to be able to and only about 5 or so years before I can fully retire.
So now I work Wednesday to Friday and have a four day weekend.
At the moment it is working out perfectly, although Wednesday has now become the new Monday:confused:
 
Modern society is not geared to helping you achieve happiness. That is a life choice you have to make, if you get the opportunity.
Giving up the day job (and a stale marriage!) made me destitute.
It took me years to find myself... And now I have a clue who I am that is reflected in my writing.
For many years writing was hard work. Now it's not work, it's who I am.
 
Being who you are, however you express it, whatever avenues you go, so long as you have at least the vital basics, I think that's the nature of happiness. Unless of course, one is a natural born constitutional swine or just a misery-guts.

I can tell when I have been writing solidly for weeks on end, without a break--the writing loses something

I notice that too @Robinne Weiss.
 
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I would... but I worry that it would be a mistake. I write for children, and I work in a primary school which means I'm working with my target audience five days a week. When I read class novels to them, I can gauge what parts bore them and what pulls them in. Another advantage of working in a school is the holidays, which gives you a taste of what writing full time would be like, and the reality is that most days, I'm just killing time, not using it as I should. On the other hand, when it comes to major edits and deadlines, if you've got work the next day, it can feel like you've got two full-time jobs, and that's exhausting.

But given the opportunity...? Yeah, I'd take the plunge.
 
When I started writing this, I included a little too much detail about the state of our finances. Suffice it to say, JK Rowling didn't have it as bad :) So I deleted the sob story part and now will try to keep on topic.

I keep thinking that I'd be a better or more successful writer if I didn't have to work or spend so much time worrying about bills, but the truth is, I probably wouldn't. Knowing me I'd assume that I had all the time in the world to write and in the end, I'd fritter away the day and never achieve anything. Frittering involves going on the Internet ie Facebook, Google, etc (even... hush... Litopia) and having cups of tea with whoever happens to drop in.

So I'll keep my day job (by necessity), but if I could have a wish granted, it would be to have a room with a door. How wonderful it would be to be able to shut a door to keep out the noise of the kids, husband, 4 cats and a dog. (Our house is open plan, which felt like a good idea at the time, but is actually a curse).

Oh, who am I kidding? I want a door and I want to be able to stop working, but as the only bread winner that isn't going to happen any time soon.

Anyway a storm is about to hit, so I might need to unplug this infernal machine :)
 
Mmmm. Back in a previous life, I had the perfect day-job for a would be writer and barely wrote a word. Then, when that particular centre decided to suffer a major structural fault, I was catapulted into an odd, twilight world of zero hours contracts, barely much above minimum wage employment, 12 hour shifts and nights.

And I wrote bundles.

Now I would not recommend it to anybody, and I am desperately trying (or rather that is what I keep telling myself) to start another day-job career but for me there is a nagging worry at the back of my confused old crust that if I join the real world again, the writing goes out of the window. I know I should be back out there, swinging the metaphorical sock full of pennies again in the commercial world but I do wonder....

And if a sudden financial windfall were to present itself, enabling me to turn my back on the world of work for ever, again I hesitate to assume that all would be well on the writing front.

Living as I do now, many of the previous distractions that hampered my word count are simply not available. But, and here I am using you lot as a confessional, my family have suffered due to my no longer being available for a slew of events that I know I should be showing up at.
 
Another issue is -- if one were to become successful enough at writing to be able to give up the day-job, i.e. such that the writing itself became the day-job, would the pleasure of it be poisoned by commercial obligations? Imagine circumstances such that you had to go and do the round of conferences, readings, and signings, whether you wanted to or not; that you had to put up with editorial decisions that you disagreed with; that you had to accept the cover that you really dislike because your publisher insists on it; that your contract obliges you to write book x when you really want write book y; etc etc. Suddenly, it's just another job. Perhaps that's me seeing a half-empty glass?
 
Another issue is -- if one were to become successful enough at writing to be able to give up the day-job, i.e. such that the writing itself became the day-job, would the pleasure of it be poisoned by commercial obligations? Imagine circumstances such that you had to go and do the round of conferences, readings, and signings, whether you wanted to or not; that you had to put up with editorial decisions that you disagreed with; that you had to accept the cover that you really dislike because your publisher insists on it; that your contract obliges you to write book x when you really want write book y; etc etc. Suddenly, it's just another job. Perhaps that's me seeing a half-empty glass?

Because I'm content with what I have and don't think of writing as a way to earn a living, I'm not sure that the problem really exists for me. Sure it would be nice if something I wrote made me millions (or just thousands) but that's not the aim for me. I'm writing because I like writing The more time I can spend doing it the better for my well being. I'll never see it as "a job" that I have to do. Perhaps I'm very lucky in that respect.
 
Another issue is -- if one were to become successful enough at writing to be able to give up the day-job, i.e. such that the writing itself became the day-job, would the pleasure of it be poisoned by commercial obligations? Imagine circumstances such that you had to go and do the round of conferences, readings, and signings, whether you wanted to or not; that you had to put up with editorial decisions that you disagreed with; that you had to accept the cover that you really dislike because your publisher insists on it; that your contract obliges you to write book x when you really want write book y; etc etc. Suddenly, it's just another job. Perhaps that's me seeing a half-empty glass?

I am not sure I have it in me to put up with all the froth that professional novelists have to seemingly endure these days. Now of course, it would be a perfectly valid observation to make that I stand little chance of having that problem in the first place but knowing me as I do, then I suspect that I would be, as I have alluded to before, in real 'Frog and the Scorpion' territory.

Yes, I understand why an ambitious author has to get out there and meet not only the expecations of the paying public in terms of out put, along with pressing the flesh but also listen to those who know the markets, and whose advice can only be seen as beneficial but I would wake up one morning with a cobb on (not sure where that expression comes from but it is what my old nan used to berate me for) and I would offend any and everybody who crossed my path, for the sheer hell of it. One of my many, and varied, defects of character. :(
 
Because I'm content with what I have and don't think of writing as a way to earn a living, I'm not sure that the problem really exists for me. Sure it would be nice if something I wrote made me millions (or just thousands) but that's not the aim for me. I'm writing because I like writing The more time I can spend doing it the better for my well being. I'll never see it as "a job" that I have to do. Perhaps I'm very lucky in that respect.

Beautifully expressed.
 
Another issue is -- if one were to become successful enough at writing to be able to give up the day-job, i.e. such that the writing itself became the day-job, would the pleasure of it be poisoned by commercial obligations? Imagine circumstances such that you had to go and do the round of conferences, readings, and signings, whether you wanted to or not; that you had to put up with editorial decisions that you disagreed with; that you had to accept the cover that you really dislike because your publisher insists on it; that your contract obliges you to write book x when you really want write book y; etc etc. Suddenly, it's just another job. Perhaps that's me seeing a half-empty glass?

I treat writing as my day job now. It's the only way I can justify doing it in my mind. I'm not even covering my costs with it yet, but neither did I cover my costs in my first couple of years running my interp business--takes time to build that up, and I have a steep learning curve on things like marketing. But even treating it as a business, I'm enjoying it. I have deadlines and commitments--self-imposed, but no less real for me. I'm the toughest boss I've ever had, so there's no slacking off and not getting the work done.
 
I am not sure I have it in me to put up with all the froth that professional novelists have to seemingly endure these days. Now of course, it would be a perfectly valid observation to make that I stand little chance of having that problem in the first place but knowing me as I do, then I suspect that I would be, as I have alluded to before, in real 'Frog and the Scorpion' territory.

Yes, I understand why an ambitious author has to get out there and meet not only the expecations of the paying public in terms of out put, along with pressing the flesh but also listen to those who know the markets, and whose advice can only be seen as beneficial but I would wake up one morning with a cobb on (not sure where that expression comes from but it is what my old nan used to berate me for) and I would offend any and everybody who crossed my path, for the sheer hell of it. One of my many, and varied, defects of character. :(
If only we could do a Greta Garbo and get away with it. So, I guess, do everything Pete suggested and then flounce off into our castle and refuse to see everybody except a select few, and hope the mystery is enough to sustain our fame.
 
If only we could do a Greta Garbo and get away with it. So, I guess, do everything Pete suggested and then flounce off into our castle and refuse to see everybody except a select few, and hope the mystery is enough to sustain our fame.

Or find a Doppelgänger. Or anybody who is fame hungry. We write, they do all the public stuff. Plenty of fame hungry folk out there. Actually there might be a novel in that....in fact, so much so that I am sure it has already been done.

.
 
Or find a Doppelgänger. Or anybody who is fame hungry. We write, they do all the public stuff. Plenty of fame hungry folk out there. Actually there might be a novel in that....in fact, so much so that I am sure it has already been done.

.
When my parents first came to England in the 50s they met a Welshman who had been the body double for the Aga Khan. He wanted my mum to ghost write his story. For example, he used to go out on the balcony to wave to the masses while the real Aga Khan was being naughty somewhere else. (I can't remember all the stories). My mum decided she couldn't take the risk of pissing off the Aga Khan and his followers, so never took up the job offer. Shame though.

So are you suggesting that we get naughty with our typewriters, while someone else takes the bullet?.... Cool :)
 
I think it depends on what the day job actually consists of. I have found two things to be anathema to prductive writing: spending significant time commuting and working as a copywriter. After spending all day writing marketing stuff, I hardly ever wanted to to sit down and write. Other jobs (like tutoring) are far more conducive to productive periods of writing fiction.
 
I do think one of the major issues with day-job versus writing as a job, is whether you actually enjoy your day-job and it generates a reasonable income, or whether it is a low-income job you simply have to do to survive. Mine was the latter. It was soul-destroying. That's why i wrote category romance and erotica, hoping it would replace the day job, but of course it never did. Writing might very well become a chore when the market is demanding certain criteria, but all jobs have down-sides. All those barren years I would have welcomed the chance to be doing something imaginative and artistic rather than shuffling paper to make money for others.
 
... I have found two things to be anathema to prductive writing: spending significant time commuting ...

Curiously, I used to commute into London on the train for about an hour and a quarter each way. I found that time was a good time to think about my stories. I came up with quite a few of my plot lines while staring out of the window of a train. I didn't do any actual writing on the train though.
 
I had a stressful job with long hours but managed to squeeze writing into the afternoons at weekends, after the household chores had been done. I loved walking the dog and thinking of my next chapter or plotting future chapters. It meant that by the weekend I was brimming with ideas again.

When I got ill, we had to rethink the job I was doing. I am now working more hours (except winter time) but I'm my own boss. Even better, my current job has given me an idea for a novel. I've been mulling it over for the past couple of years while trying to build up the business and recently I've started putting words onto the page. I'm loving it. It will be interesting to see if summer - our peak season - brings the time to write, but I'm determined to try.

Sadly, I don't think I'll ever have enough money simply to write. I'd love to have the freedom to think about writing and the novel, rather than the varying needs of the business - with writing squeezed into a few hours. So, in answer, if I had the opportunity, I would go for it!
 
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Follycon (Eastercon 2018)

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