Spend any time around writers, and you’ll hear us joking—well, half-joking—about wanting to make enough money on our next book to quit our day job. But the truth is, I wouldn’t give up my day job even if my next book brought in six figures.
I say this having tried both sides of the writing life. For a year and a half, I opted out of the mainstream workforce, focusing solely on writing my book (and living with my parents so I could afford it). Now I’m back at nine-to-five, working as a journalist and writing on evenings and weekends. Here are five reasons why I’m a fan of working a full-time job and writing on the side:
writing a travel memoir about backpacking solo
through Africa. She blogs at The Traveling Writer
and tweets as @alexisgrant.
1. A job helps you generate ideas. Having a day job gives you the opportunity to get out and about, talk with smart people and learn new things. You can do all of that without a day job, of course – but we often don’t make it a priority. The daily interactions I have through my job often lead to ideas for ebooks and blog posts and freelance pieces. Without that stimulation, I wouldn’t be the same writer.
2. A job can make you a better writer. While some creative minds prefer to get away from writing during the day so they can enjoy it on evenings and weekends, a day job that involves writing can help us improve our skills. If your day job includes stringing sentences together, conveying information and telling stories in interesting ways, that practice will help you when it comes time to write your book. Even if your day job includes a different kind of writing than your book project, working with words on a regular basis will help you take it to the next level.
3. Working both a day job and a side gig forces you to be productive. When we’re short on time, we tend to get things done a lot faster. If I had all day tomorrow to finish this post, you can bet I’d procrastinate. But I have to work tomorrow, so instead, I’m pumping it out. Most of us are more productive when our writing time is limited, when our schedule is structured.
4. A day job means a steady paycheck and health insurance. And when we’re at ease on those fronts, we can enjoy working on our creative projects without worrying about money. I once thought I preferred freedom over stability, but now I know that I’m a happier person—and happier writer—when I can expect a paycheck each month, even if it means less time working on my own projects. There’s less pressure to bring in money with your creative pursuits when you have a stable income elsewhere. And when there’s less pressure, creative writing is more enjoyable.
5. A day job can serve as a platform. If you can find a way to marry the two, your day job can become a platform for the work you create on the side. A career coach recently admitted to me that one of the reasons she continued to work as a recruiter was because it gave her credibility, a platform from which to grow her career as a coach. My job as a journalist has that same benefit, giving me credibility as an individual and the backing of a news organization. A day job can also give you access to people you wouldn’t otherwise know, connections that benefit a book-writing career.
Of course, there’s a major drawback to working a full-time job and writing on the side: a lack of time. In a perfect world, I’d work four days a week in my day job—even if that meant a pay cut—which would give me an extra day to work on my book-in-progress and build an audience online around my blog.
But that’s not an option yet. So for now, I compensate by working – a lot. Which is why I won’t hold myself to this column in the years to come. Because right now I can afford to work a lot; I enjoy working a lot. But if you have other interests competing for your time—a family, a hobby or perhaps a day job that demands more than 40 hours a week—that might not be the case.
Yet for now, I know my writing wouldn’t be what it is without my day job—and the same could probably be said for many of you. So before you take every opportunity to ditch that job, consider the benefits. And if your day job doesn’t offer these perks, look for one that does. When it comes to your writing career, it’s likely to pay off in the long run.
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