Today I finished Dear Ally, How Do You Write a Book? by Ally Carter. I started reading it back when I was living in Kansas, but I didn’t have time to finish it before I left. So I bought it for Mom’s birthday present. Hehe. Listen, I genuinely thought she would like it too, as she’s currently learning to write fiction books.
Anyway, near the end of the book Carter talks about how most authors also have “day jobs.” Which sounds really discouraging, like having “author” be your real job is almost impossible.
But before I let it get me down, I remembered how much I’d rather be on the combine than in front of a computer right now.
Actually, here’s the truth: Being a full-time writer was never my dream. Don’t get me wrong, I deeply and dearly love writing. But it was never my dream, nor my plan, to do it all the time.
While traveling around working as a writer was a very awesome experience (except for the bad health), all the people who enthusiastically applauded me for living my dream were wrong. I wasn’t living my dream, I was taking a leap of faith.
The dream was to get a cool job like…I don’t know…working at Disneyland, or working for some cool online media company, or working backstage on Broadway shows, or doing PR trips for a mission agency, or becoming a children’s librarian. And then writing on the side, if I felt like it.
Then, I did the “day job” thing for a year. I worked part-time, between 20 and 30 hours a week, as a secretary for our church school. Which should have left me plenty of leftover time to write.
And it did. But I barely wrote at all. Self-motivation is hard, ya’ll. There was nothing forcing me to write, and even if I did get really inspired, my “real job” always came first.
So I stopped having a day job.
Now, I had financial motivation. If I wanted to, you know, buy shampoo and stuff, I’d have to write.
For me, this leap paid off big time. I am now MILES ahead of where I was a year ago in the self-discipline department. If I continue to gain skills in this area, maybe I’ll eventually be able to have a day job as well as be a writer. (Of course, a lot of that depends on my health as well.)
Currently, though, I have a summer job. A harvest job, driving combine. I don’t exactly consider it a “day job,” though. More of a “writing break.” (Although I’m still getting a wee bit of writing done. Hooray for self-discipline!)
But it’s delightful. What I especially love is that this year, I’m working for my Dad’s cousin on the original family farm that was owned by my great-grandfather. So I’m always passing by the businesses of my dad, uncle, cousins, etc…who all built on bits of the original land.
As much as I’m loving this fun little break from writing so much, I’m still uncertain as to the future of day jobs, or lack of them. A big reason writers have day jobs is that it provides a guaranteed income, whereas income from book publishing/sales is very uncertain and fluctuating. I really feel that. I’d love to travel more, and live in more places, but it’s hard to plan when you don’t know how much $$$ you’ll have to work with.
Still, I sorta think that the main reason most book writers have day jobs is that they just want a break from writing books.
Those are my thoughts on the subject. Writers, please tell me your experiences with day jobs! Do you have one? Do you wish you had one? Do you wish you could quit yours?
They are “starving” artists too, as well as musicians. We’re basically in the same category. For now, enjoy the harvest…the future will arrive soon enough. And with answers of its own.
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The day job keeps me sane, writing for a 9 to 5 would drive me 100% bonkers. Now, I wish I could be paid twice as much spend only 50% of the time, but there you go.
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I think being a writer is very similar to being an artist or other craftsman. Your heart is to express ideas through your art/craft, to hone it, perfect it, make an impact with it. The danger of “making a living” off of your craft is that you always face the pressure of doing what the masses like (what sells) versus doing what your soul calls you to do (following your heart, your callling). I supposed there are those few who can be true to themselves AND make a living at it; but I think, rather than fight that battle within ourselves, most people have a job that puts food on the table and a roof over the head…and wheels under the feet….And the compromise then becomes one of, as you have noticed, discipline versus energy/time. In a perfect world, where we didn’t have to battle “weeds”, and we could just pick dinner from the garden, and the climate was comfortable all year, we could spend the bulk of our energy on our “craft”. I think this is what God originally intended for us. The struggle you are facing is the struggle of being who you were created to be in a fallen world. It’s about balance and (being careful not to) compromise… and you constantly feel off-balance. Welcome to adulthood!!!
I definitely don’t have the self-discipline down. But I do think it is easier now to write on the side now that I’ve worked at my day job for 8 years, and I no longer have to put quite as much mental energy into my day job.
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