April 25, 2021: The Power of a Day-Job
I am once again grateful that I am not a full-time author.
I know- that seems to be in conflict with the goal of most people who want a career as a writer. For many aspiring writers, the indicator of whether or not they are a real writer, is if they support themselves through their writing. Does their writing pay the bills?
However, there is something to be said for the power of a day job. Elizabeth Gilbert has often talked about how she purposefully kept her early years as a writer free of economic demands by always having another job that paid the bills. She said this was to protect her creativity and her art. It wasn’t until her fourth book was published, (Eat, Pray, Love -which was also made into a movie) that she says she had the courage to be a full-time writer.
I was recently attending (virtually) a panel discussion with several Children’s Book Agents, and one specifically talked about how she loved working with writers who were not full-time authors. She said they often had a passion and joy in the work that those who wrote full-time did not have. Not because they were any more talented, but because they did not have the added pressure of forcing their work to pay the bills. Their writing was the “fun” part of their life.
The reality is that writing books is not typically a lucrative career for the vast majority of authors anyway. Yes, there are the glamorous success stories of the authors who constantly and consistently grace the best-seller lists with everything they write, but they are truly only a fraction of the published authors out there.
For most of us, the income from our writing alone, will never reach the levels of the giants in the field. That however, does not mean our writing is any less valuable. And not being a full-time writer, does not make us any less a real writer. And personally, I find there are several benefits to not being a full-time writer.
The benefits of not forcing your writing to pay your bills:
- I can be more patient- with both myself and my projects.
Writing takes time. Quality writing takes even more time. And the wheels of the publishing world move slowly. It is much less stressful to endure the long and winding journey when buying my groceries or paying my mortgage is not hinging on my writing sales.
- The joy does not get overshadowed by the day-to-day realities of economics.
I love writing. Every single stage, from the idea taking hold, to the planning, research, drafting, revising, and submitting. Watching each project grow and shift is a constant thrill. Since I do not have to constantly think about the economic impact of each project, I can savor and enjoy every part of the project and let it move at its own pace.
- I do not have to ever settle or compromise.
I have known professional writers who have taken on free-lance work or agreed to specific projects, not because the work excited them, but because they needed the paycheck. I do not want my writing to become something I have to do. It is something I get to do!
- My writing career has grown organically.
When something grows in a natural way, the effort is not forced, the result is a thing of beauty. It grows to fit perfectly into its surroundings. My writing is a perfect fit for my life, my passions, and the other things that fill my life. It is complimentary to my other responsibilities and not in conflict with other aspects of my life. And it has grown this way over my adult life, as I have grown in my skill, passion, and prowess as a writer.
As Elizabeth Gilbert said, “Most of the things of beauty and value that were made in this world were made by people who are not landed gentry, they were people who had to get by other ways. They were farmers, they were businessmen, they were Melville – when he was writing Moby Dick he was working in the customs office. He had a job his whole entire life, he was never able to just be a novelist.”