Writers and Day Jobs

Let’s face it – writing isn’t the most lucrative of professions. You can spend years working on a book to have it sell only a few hundred copies. It doesn’t take a business whiz to understand that’s not exactly a profitable return on your investment. My advice? Don’t quit the day job. Not yet, anyway.

I used to think that having a day job meant I wasn’t a good writer. And while it’s still sometimes easy to fall into the trap of believing that I should, in theory, be able to support myself fully on my fiction writing (after all, there are writers who do that quite well), I need to remind myself that my day job isn’t a hindrance, but a blessing. Here’s why:

I don’t have to rush.
Having a day job means that I’m not publishing out of necessity. My last book took me seven years to write. And while I’m not exactly proud of that, my day job gives me the luxury to publish something when I feel it’s ready, not when the bills are piling up.

I write the stories I want to write.
At some point in every writer’s career, you have to reconcile the types of stories you’re compelled to write. And while those stories might be interesting to you, they may not be interesting to the vast majority of readers. So understand that there can be financial limitations to your writing – especially if your books aren’t about life in the 18th century or teenage virgins in love with vampires, or don’t contain the words “wife,” “mistress” or “daughter” in the title.

You get to lead a secret life.
There are people at work who don’t know about my writing life. They never see me in that capacity. And that’s kind of cool in a Clark Kent sort-of-way.

You inspire others.
Most of us, hopefully, have dreams that help us make it through the day. And while I’m not saying I’m doing everything right, I am saying that if I can do it, you can, too. Writers with day jobs are proof that there are, in fact, enough hours in the day, that dedication pays off and that dreams don’t have to die if you don’t allow them to.

Granted, there are downsides. Whatever vacation time I get is allocated to writing, which results in, er, no vacation time. It can be tough juggling the demands of your two worlds. And you’ll always be plagued by the question, “Would I be a better writer if it was my full time job?” But there’s no point asking. That’s not your reality. Not right now, anyway. And while that may change down the road, it’s best to hunker down, stay focused and write – every chance you get.

This post originally appeared on the Brockton Writers Series blog.