Business Writing 2019-04-22 00:00

Is it Time to Get a Day Job to Support Your Writing?

Do you ever wonder if it’s time to get a day job? Is the daily struggle to publish and the need to pay the bills slowly crushing you to death?

Every writer at some point wonders whether to get the dreaded day job. Famous writers tell you, "A published author is one who never gave up." That’s easy for them to say because they’re getting royalties and advances. In the meantime, your situation might be completely different.

  1. Do Any of These Sound Familiar?
  2. 1. Less Pressure to Publish
  3. 2. Enhance Your Writing with Real-Life Situations
  4. 3. Earn a Steady Paycheck
  5. 4. Gain Additional Experience
  6. 5. Learn Time Management
  7. 6. Sharpen Your Writing Skills
  8. Final Thoughts

Do Any of These Sound Familiar?

  • I need better insurance coverage. My self-employed insurance costs a fortune and doesn’t cover what I need it to.
  • I hate the business side of writing, but I don’t have a traditional publisher who’ll do it for me. How can I make money?
  • I need the safety net of a large organization. I can’t go another day without the structure and stability of a day job.

Inc. Magazine reported those who kept a day job while pursuing their dreams were 33 percent less likely to fail.

Don’t risk bankruptcy or skimp on the important things like food and shelter to follow your dream. You need a Plan B.

Plenty of famous authors worked throughout their writing careers, some because they needed a steady paycheck and others because it dovetailed nicely with what they wrote. For example, Inc. Magazine lists the following seven famous authors who kept their day jobs:

  • Anthony Trollope: Post office surveyor
  • Franz Kafka: Insurance clerk
  • Harper Lee: Airline ticketing agent
  • Wallace Stevens: Insurance executive
  • Vladimir Nabokov: English professor, butterfly researcher
  • Kurt Vonnegut: Journalist, PR executive, car dealer, teacher
  • Agatha Christie: Pharmacy assistant

There’s no shame in a day job. "But wouldn’t that be giving up?" you ask. Not at all. In fact, here are six benefits a day job can bring you:

1. Less Pressure to Publish

A day job gives you stability and security while also offering more time to work on your novel. You’re not desperate to make a sale, so you’re not rushing the process and cranking out something less than your best effort because you need paid. You also have time to build your email list and author platform, which is essential whether you traditionally or self-publish.

2. Enhance Your Writing with Real-Life Situations

The social aspect of a day job can bolster your writing with more vivid descriptions of people, places, and things. You can develop somewhat intimate relationships with people depending on the day job you have. For example, if you’re a bartender and get to know the regulars, you’ll learn all about their past, their problems, their health, and so much more. This is all great input you can use in a novel someday. Consider Jack Kerouac’s On the Road that depicts the main character (fashioned after Kerouac himself) working odd jobs to fund his dream.

3. Earn a Steady Paycheck

Let’s be real. Unless you’re a big-name author or have a successful indie publishing career, you’re not earning a steady paycheck. There’s comfort in the stability and security of a reliable income source every week or so. It makes planning much easier, gives you room to breathe a bit, and keeps bread on the table and a roof over your head.

4. Gain Additional Experience

Whether your day job is waitressing or spent in an operating room, you can gain outside experience that will flavor your writing. If you grew up in an upper-middle-class neighborhood, went to a good college and got your MFA, you need experience in the working world to write with authority. A day job gives you the opportunity to learn a trade while interacting with and observing people in various settings. It gets you out of your writer’s cave and exposes you to new ideas and thoughts. And think how your day job can parlay into a new genre (e.g. Michael Crichton, John Grisham, etc.).

5. Learn Time Management

If you juggle a day job, a family, a writing career, and more, you’re pretty much forced to learn time management skills. In fact, juggling a lot of responsibilities means you have a short timeframe in which to write which, in turn, means you can’t afford writer's block. You’ve got to write because you only get so many hours a week to pursue your dream. It makes you much more focused and aware of how you spend your time.

6. Sharpen Your Writing Skills

Some day jobs help you hone your skills. For example, a copywriter by day learns how to write for an audience and how to tell an engaging story that compels someone to act. A creative writing teacher must understand the process to teach it to his or her students. Consider how a translator takes someone else’s words and translates them into another language while keeping the flavor of their meaning. And an editor learns to quickly gauge what’s good and bad writing. These day jobs and many more can help you work on your writing skills and reduce the learning curve from an amateur writer to a professional.

Final Thoughts

After juggling a day job, a writing career, and all your other responsibilities, think about how grateful you’ll be when you finally write that best-seller. Once you have a solid author platform or a traditional publishing contract, quitting your day job to be a full-time writer will be a cakewalk. Right?

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