Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Part-Time Writers ... Don't hate your day job

I've spent years stealing hours from my life trying to finish books and get them published and noticed and read. All the while I've resented anything or anyone who stood in my way of accomplishing that. The biggest 'offender' for me is the dreaded 'day job.'

Anyone who writes part-time or writes secretively so as not to be found out and thrust into the unwelcome limelight will know what I mean. You go through this day-job drudgery day after day, year after year, and it begins to wear on your psyche like a ball and chain slowing you down, dragging you down. The hours you spend cooped up in a small windowless office or packing crap you don't care about on an assembly line seem like wasted time sucked from your life by a faceless, thankless corporate monster that is sucking the very life energy from you.

All those hours wasted that could be spent doing what you love - writing.

Well, after years of harboring this resentment in a 'bite the hand that feeds you' attitude, I've finally come to terms with reality. First, I'm not every going to make enough money at any job I'm qualified for that will allow me to exceed my spending needs to the extent that I will become independently wealthy and be able to quit working. Heck, I may not even be able to afford retirement in this economy!

Meanwhile I've been putting my writing career on hold, thinking all those familiar thoughts everyone dreams of with wistful 'if only I could...' reminiscing. Those thoughts go something like this...

"If only I could write THE book that I know is inside me, that I know big publishers will fight to grab, that I know will make me a household name in the writing world and shoot me to bestseller stardom."

"If only I could work like a fiend for maybe five years and save a boatload of money, I could quit my stupid day job and write full-time."

"If only my family would let me have the 'alone' time I need, I could finish my books and get them published."

Yes, I could go on and on, and all those "if only" phrases would keep sounding like I'm blaming something else, someone else, for my own indecisiveness and failure to achieve my dreams. But I've decided to stop blamestorming and simply accept reality...

Yes, family obligations do take time and effort away from writing. But at least I have family. There are some who don't. I know what it's like to feel all alone, and it is not fun. So I am dedicated to cherishing the time I have to spend with family and friends.

Yes, I love to write, and yes it takes me a long time to complete a novel, but I find the time somehow to do it. I may not keep house like June Cleaver, but at least I am finding a little time to realize my dream. I can ignore the dust on the coffee table to get another chapter done. In a hundred years, who's going to care whether I dusted my furniture every week or just once a year? I certainly won't.

Yes, I've submitted to larger publishers, and no I have not had any of my manuscripts accepted. But I HAVE been able to get published, and I am learning to be satisfied with that. Just finally getting my books IN PRINT is a HUGE THRILL for me. I know if I do the necessary footwork, those books will be read by others. It may take a while, but I'm committed to seeing it through.

I have stopped looking at other authors and wondering why I can't be successful like them. And I have stopped looking at my day job as a curse I'd like to be rid of. The truth is, maybe all those other 'successful' authors are struggling too. Maybe they put on a better happy face than I do, and accept family and work obligations more graciously than I have learned to. OK, so maybe that makes them better at the little things in life than I am. But does that mean I have to give up and quit trying?

NO!!! And neither should you!

As long as I'm breathing, I will continue to become a better writer and a better person. It's a tall order, but I know my first step toward success is to become a POSITIVE THINKER. I CAN do this. It may take me longer than someone else, it may take me several attempts. But I CAN do it.

And what about my cursed day job? Hey, without that stupid job, I wouldn't have extra money to pay for fun things like going to conferences where I can meet readers and other writers and spend quality time getting to know new and interesting people. And more importantly it helps pay for food and a roof over my head. So hate it? Nah ... I have simply learned to accept it for what it is, a necessary evil that is populated with interesting people. That's right. Right here, under my nose, are real live folks I can use as fodder for character traits. I have become quite an amateur psychologist, worming motivation from the interactions I observe that can then be translated directly to the books I write. And anyway, without that personal interaction everyday, who knows what kind of weirdo hermit I would become?

So writers, don't hate your day job. Embrace it and use it for whatever writing fodder it's worth. Your coworkers are idiots? Embrace the fact and use them for characters in your next book. Meanwhile, be glad you have a steady paycheck, because in the world of the writer, your next paycheck may only be as good as your next book.

Keep working, keep writing. And be happy with whatever you're doing.


  1. This is an excellent post. You're right. The secret is to find contentment with what you are doing instead of thinking that the grass is always greener on the other side. And I've come across authors who have books in bookstores but also have to keep their day job. I don't think writing is as lucrative as some people make it seem.

  2. Thanks Ruth. I hope you are content with what you are doing, no matter what it is. That's the real secret to happiness. :-)



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