When my readers commented about how much they enjoyed my blogs, I decided to combine the best of my nonfiction—including all the posts I wrote about my journey to become a full-time novelist—into a book. I thought my readers would like to know more about me, and authors would find the writing, editing, and promotion advice helpful and inspiring. Read more →
I read a blog post recently that claimed having a day job is good for your writing career and it made me wonder. She supported the claim with several points, the first being that having a steady income is a good thing. No argument there. If your novels are not paying the mortgage, something has to. But putting aside the money/necessity issue, I’m not sure most day jobs are good for a fiction writing career. In fact, I’d bet most novelists would give up their day jobs in a heartbeat if they didn’t need the money. (The exception being doctors and lawyers.)
The blogger’s second point—that it “gives you the urgency to write when you do have time”— may be true if you’re a receptionist in a chiropractor’s office who spends most of the day reading magazines. But if your day job is, say, editorial project coordinator for an educational publisher, and you spend your day writing copy, editing galleys, generating ideas, tracking documents, planning and attending meetings, etc., then it’s very likely your brain power will be spent by the end of the day and no matter how much you want to work on your novel after dinner, it probably won’t happen. Or you’ll try and get very little done. On the other hand, a job that leaves you physically exhausted but requires no real brain energy (pulling green chain) might allow you to be more creatively productive in your free time. Having done both jobs, I speak from experience. (The chiropractor receptionist job I just made up. )
Another supporting point was that it “provides material for your writing.” Again, it depends on the job. The green chain job offers little in the way of stimulus for characters or scenarios, but it will give you that “urgency” to write. That sense of “I must finish this novel and get it published so I can quit this hellish job before I go insane.” Then of course, some writers get whole novels out of their day jobs (The Devil Wears Prada). Most jobs fall some where in the middle of the continuum as far being a source.
My own situation is that I work three days a week for a newspaper, which provides a steady paycheck. But on those days, after writing copy all day, I don’t write novels when I get home. I also do freelance editing and manuscript evaluations. But I do those projects on nights and weekends after I work on my novel. So most days, my personal writing gets the biggest surge of my creative juices. And this is why I’ve been able to write two novels in the last fourteen months. Not because I have more free time, but because I have more focus.
What do you think? Is your day job good for your writing career? Would you give it up if money wasn’t an issue?
I must start by saying 2008 was the best year I’ve ever had! I wrote and sold a novel in the space of ten months. I garnered great reviews for my published novel. I established a significant online presence and attended a major mystery convention where I met and networked with others in the industry. Just to name some highlights. Some people would look back and say it was also the worst year we’ve ever had, with both of us unexpectedly laid off in March and our 401Ks devastated.
So at the beginning of 2009, I’m struggling with a weighty decision. I just found out that the health insurance I was counting on through my husband’s new job will cost $575 a month—and who the hell can afford that? So I have to rethink my strategy going forward. Is having health insurance important enough to make me change directions and get an outside job?
The thought breaks my heart. The best thing about 2008 was that I was able to focus on my novels—to put writing at the top of my to-do list for the first time in my life. Even the freelance work I did moved me closer to my goal of working exclusively in the fiction writing/editing industry. I believe a job, even a part-time one, will move me away from that goal. And looking for a job will be a major time suck.
So I’m vacillating. My mother wants me to get a job with insurance and security. My sons say to follow my dream—that I’m healthy and I’ll be fine. My husband is smart enough to stay out of it, accept as a good sounding board.
My thinking (at this moment) is to give myself more time and keep the momentum going. To finish the novel I’m writing (March is my goal), put it on the market, then reassess the situation at that point. I also plan to look into joining writers’ associations that offer insurance. (Does anyone have any experience with these policies and their cost?)
Meanwhile, here are my writing goals for 2009:
- Write 1500 words a day, 5 days a week until my new novel is completed.
- Outline the next (fourth!) Jackson novel between now and March.
- Sign a publishing contract for this novel (the third in the Jackson series).
- Sign a contract for my standalone thriller, The Baby Thief.
- Write the fourth Jackson story before the end of the year.
- Attend Bouchercon and possibly ThrillerFest (if my credit card mileage points allow).
- Blog twice a week, write/develop a speaker’s presentation, and write three magazine articles (among other things).
Now that I’ve put that all down in writing, I realize that achieving those goals depends on having the freedom to write first, edit/clean later.
What are your goals? Any opinions on my dilemma?