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Find day job. Then, don’t quit day job.

20 January 2012

The door to my office. It ensures the real world can't find me.

Earlier in the week, I wrote about working through distractions, but these were distractions of the type that, frankly, were easy to work through — those that one kind of puts on themselves, like wanting to watch TV or go take a road trip rather than work on art or writing.

What about those distractions you have to deal with? Writing may be all well and good, but once the power gets shut off because you’ve been unemployed for three months, it seems like less and less of a priority. You may want to paint, but that broken water heater is an issue that isn’t going to be fixed with a liberal dose of watercolors and canvas.

Life likes to find a way to intrude on whatever it is we’d rather be doing. And surprisingly, I’m not going to advise just pushing through and writing anyway, mostly because that would be a completely irresponsible and unrealistic thing to advise. No, unless you’re Stephen King or Tom Clancy, you have to deal with real life before you can deal with writing. (I’d imagine those two never have to deal with much in the way of real life — Tom Clancy might have to deal with stealth bomber attacks on his private island, though.)

I’m one of those people who thinks you shouldn’t quit your day job if you’re not making an equal amount of money writing. First off, it always helps to have… you know… money. For when things break, or for when you need to pay the power bill. But secondly, if you’re a novice or unpublished writer, withdrawing from the working world also withdraws you quite a lot from the real world… and then you have nothing to write about.

No, before you convince yourself you’re going to be a writer or a painter for a living, take care of the real world stuff first. It’ll make the creating part a lot easier, trust me.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. 20 January 2012 1302

    I’ve heard people say, “If I got a $50,000 advance, I’d quit my job in a heartbeat!”

    I don’t think those people would get a $50,000 advance because they don’t seem to understand that after an agent and taxes take their cuts, you’re left with maybe a little over half of that. Then it’s paid out in 3 – 4 payments, over the course of publishing (which can be a slog).

    Going the traditional route, I don’t even think I’ve quit my job for a $100,000 advance, since I’m the sole income in my household. (But damn, I’d be happy having supplemental income like that!)

    I’ve accepted that the best it may ever get for me is where I’m at right now: self-publishing e-books and working a day job. Maybe the e-books will become more of a supplemental income over time, but I don’t see myself quitting my day job to become a full time novelist. Because, as you mentioned, there’s that nutty little thing called the real world out there.

    And you just never know when it will rear its ugly head and decide, “Today is the day Chris will have to buy a new water pump for his car, and upon closer inspection, a new timing belt.”

    Day jobs are good for that kind of thing. Thirty-thousand dollars paid out over the course of a year or two in chunks (unless you’re incredibly frugal and good with money), would make me wish I had a day job.

    It’s nice knowing that even if the emergency fund is devoured by life, I’m never more than two weeks away from more money. That’s not been the case when I’ve written full time.

    • 20 January 2012 1457

      Too true. And, quite honestly, having all of the mundane real-world crap taken care of takes a lot of stress off of my shoulders and allows me to do some of my best work writing.

      Some people will say they put out their best work when they’re stressed about bills, but to me, that’s like writers who say they put out their best work when they’re drinking. I don’t want to say it’s bullshit, but it does smell suspiciously like it.

  2. 23 January 2012 0612

    I’m with you guys, would MUCH rather be a fulltime writer but oh, those bills! And the unexpected problems….I think you have a good point as well, Shawn, about not retiring from the real world too soon. Being online is great (says me, the twitter addict) BUT nothing like interaction at the day job to bring you in contact with *all* kinds of people. Besides, without my long commute, when would I do all my thinking about plots? Nice post!

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