Do you dream of earning a great living as full-time writer, author or novelist—but blame your day job for holding you back? Do you resent all the hours you spend commuting to and from work and toiling away at the office when you could be writing instead? Do you tell yourself, as so many writers do, that if only you didn’t have to hold down a full-time job, you could become the bestselling author you really want to be? If so, consider this:
Learning to love your day job could be the best thing that ever happened to your writing career.
The author of an article in a recent newsletter for writers brought up a very interesting phenomenon that I’ve seen happen to a number of writers. The writer pointed out that after an initial success—getting her first novel published—she quit her day job to devote herself to writing full-time. But soon she found herself in writing limbo. Luck turned against her. Her ideas for future projects were rejected. Her editor moved; her publisher shut down. Things beyond her control worked against her.
After a number of years of struggling, with more time than ever to devote to her writing but without any major accomplishments or successes, she gave up on her writing career and went back to work. Suddenly, things started to click again. Within months, she got a new book deal.
Was it a coincidence, she wondered, that her writing life came together as soon as she went back to work? She didn’t think so, and neither do I. A similar thing happened to me.
My wife and I had just had our second child. We’d outgrown our house, so we sold it and moved into a rental while we looked for a new place we could afford. We were both working part-time. We had no health insurance, the rental was expensive—more than we could comfortably afford—and our normal expenses were quickly draining the nest-egg we got from the sale of our house. My wife worried that we’d burn through our savings before we could buy a new place.
I’d been writing a novel on the side, but considering our financial condition, I could no longer justify spending time writing a book that might or might not pay off. I needed a sure thing. I knew that for nonfiction books, authors collected advances before writing the book. I decided that was the answer. A nonfiction book deal would solve my money problems and allow me to keep writing.
I started going about getting a book deal via the usual route—developing a proposal and snail-mailing it to a list of agents gleaned from marketplace directories. But time passed, the bills kept coming, and it became clear that I couldn’t afford to wait months and months while snail-mailed proposals circulated. A quick, miracle book deal was not going to save the day.
So I switched gears and put my efforts toward getting a full-time job that would pay the bills and provide health benefits and life insurance in case I dropped dead of stress. I’d long avoided this kind of full-on job commitment because I thought it would leave me no time to write. But now, with a family to take care of and dire financial straits looming, I realized I had to put my beloved writing on hold.
I made peace with this, and soon after got a good job in advertising, helping to craft pitches for multimillion-dollar product accounts. Seeing firsthand how effective the advertising approach could be, I decided over a Thanksgiving weekend to apply the principles I was learning on the job to the task of getting a publishing deal. It worked. A short time later, I had a book deal. It never would’ve happened if I hadn’t embraced the day-job life.
The point of all this is that no matter what you have going on in your life, you can still achieve your writing goals. It doesn’t matter if your life is busy, and in fact, it’s probably better to be busy than to have all the time in the world. Time and money pressures will force you to be more focused with your available hours. As uncomfortable as this can be, you’ll learn to work smarter, not harder, as they say. You’ll become more creative in your approach than someone who is facing less pressure.
Holding down a full-time job may actually put you in your optimal state of mind for achieving writing success, as it did for the newsletter writer above. Or, something you learned on the job may be the thing you need to catapult your writing aspirations, like it was for me. The thing to keep in mind is that it’s not how much time you have to devote to achieving your writing dreams. It’s to believe that somehow you will achieve what you want, and then to do what you can in the time available to you to make it happen.
So give it a try. Learn to love your day job. For the paycheck. For the measure of security it brings. Look around you at work. See what effective marketing or business practices used there might be applied to your writing career. See what it is that makes people productive and capable of meeting deadlines with professional quality work. Try instituting some of these practices in your writing. Give it a shot. Stop blaming your day job. Try loving it for a change. I think you’ll be very surprised at the results.
John Kearney is a writing mentor and author of the true crime thriller “Lipstick And Blood. " His crime writing program 90 Days To Crime Writing That Pays outlines an innovate approach to getting a contract for a crime book in record time. He also offers the free online writing course Ripped From the Headlines: A Crash Course in Crime Writing. For information, visit http://www.johnkkearney.com/90days.htm