Day jobs and writing

“Day jobs and writing” was the subject of a recent thread on a writing mailing list I subscribe to. It was interesting reading about how a lot of people struggle with a job that lets them pay the bills, but takes them away from their first love, writing. There was a lot of dreaming of the day when they could chuck the day job and write full time. I threw my $0.02 in, and I thought I might repeat some of the sentiments here.

I love my day job. I work in the public sector (government work), and get a great sense of satisfaction out of serving the society I live in. My day job does not involve large amounts of writing, and what writing there is takes the form of briefing notes etc. The job is very demanding in terms of hours which makes it hard to fit in writing. I also have chosen to live within walking distance of my work, so no commute time to do writing (but with an hour and a half of walking each day, plenty of time to think about writing!). I have a young family – so difficult to fit writing around family activities. I do wish I had more time for writing.

However, I do not aspire to be a full time writer.

I’ve only been writing for a couple of years (late starter – I blame the mid life crisis) and I always felt obscurely guilty about the fact I didn’t want to be a full time writer. I went to a few writing courses and conventions, and there was a lot of attitude that translated to “if you are serious about your craft, your goal has to be to be a full time writer. Therefore if you don’t aspire to full time writer status, you can’t be a ‘real’ writer”. It was a bit depressing – I began to feel that I didn’t “belong” in the writing community.

Then I went to a panel session at the excellent GenreCon in Sydney Australia late last year and there was a writer that I admire saying that he loves writing, that he is absolutely serious about his craft, that he always wants to improve, that he loves being published but that he didn’t want to be a full time writer.

He loved his day job. He loved not feeling commercial pressure to make money from writing and the creative freedom that offered him. That he hoped to “break even” on his writing, but that his writing business plan had at its goal being a part time writer.

I felt good after that session, let me tell you.

So, I love my day job. I love writing. Long may they both live!

What about you?

Author: mark

A writer of speculative fiction and all round good egg. Well, mostly good. OK, sometimes good.

9 thoughts on “Day jobs and writing”

    1. Yes, that's the flaw in my plan. While I don't necessarily want to be a full time writer, a busy job and family life doesn't leave me a lot of time to write at all. Still trying to find the right balance!


        1. Yes, I envy her that skill. My best writing time seems to occur when I spend about 1/2 hour faffing about first. Unfortunately with two young kids, I never actually get through that 1/2 hour of faffing without being interrupted, let alone making it to the actual writing zone!

          I've taken to carrying around a pen and notebook, and scribbling whenever I get the chance. I've also found that I don't tend to self edit as much when writing longhand, which is handy for getting first draft material down.

          Ah the joys of parenthood!


          1. That's something Margo does, write longhand that is. I often wonder how it affects the transmission of thought to page. I participated in a poetry exercise in February and part of that was writing/printing the poems before transferring them to typed text. I think it can be good to stifle/chain that self editor up and let things flow.

            My recent post Ditmars 2013 – Best Novel Comments

          2. I agree, the editor part of my brain can be a right bastard. I often wince when I'm typing up my handwritten stuff (my use of cliches is particularly bad), but I do seem to find it easier to get into a rhythm and pump out a much higher volume of work without stopping. When I type I tend to go back and line edit previous sentences until the cows come home (or the kids interrupt, whichever comes first).


          3. I think that this is a product of everyday non fiction writing (the bastard editor). I managed to write about 60,00 words in 2 months by not allowing myself to edit. There's probably 30000 words of utter shite but its more workable material than I would have had if the editor had been peering over my shoulder
            My recent post Ditmars 2013 – Best Novel Comments

          4. Ha! I have about 70k of a WIP novel that I'm scared to go back and read because a. no editing as I went b. the likelihood that a high proportion of those words form a misshapen steaming pile of poo.

            But as you say, if I edited as I went I'd still be tinkering with the first chapter!


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