Why I’m Keeping My Day Job

Spend any time around writers, and you’ll hear us jokingwell, half-jokingabout 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:

 


Guest column by Alexis Grant, a journalist who’s
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 personand happier writerwhen 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 jobeven if that meant a pay cutwhich 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 timea family, a hobby or perhaps a day job that demands more than 40 hours a weekthat might not be the case.

Yet for now, I know my writing wouldn’t be what it is without my day joband 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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7 thoughts on “Why I’m Keeping My Day Job

  1. Misti

    I’ve tried the regular "day job", and the one that I enjoyed was at a company that closed. It was full-time proofreading, with required overtime twice a month, but also with good pay and benefits.

    "Day job" ≠ "steady paycheck", in my experience. It doesn’t even mean "health insurance". I’ve been essentially laid off from 3 "day jobs" in the past 4 years. Only the first one even provided health insurance (or sick pay), so I’ve already been on an independent health insurance plan for the past 3 years.

    I like self-employment, and from what my friends say, I must be more enjoyable company when I’m freelancing. That’s the only "day job" I have, now.

    My freelance skills benefit from my novel writing, and my novel writing benefits from my freelance skills.

    I do think writers should do *something* with themselves other than writing that novel, but I don’t think it need be a day job. Regular volunteer hours at the local shelter could provide the same benefits as a day job.

  2. Jan

    I retired from the practice of medicine solely to write a novel, my lifelong dream. While a day job generates ideas, so does thirty years of experience and memory.
    Does a day job make you a better writer? When is the last time you tried to read anything your doctor wrote??
    Does it make one more productive?? "Productivity quotients" just about did me in–the exhaustion, frustration, and disillusionment.
    I say, quit your day job as soon as you can! But first–SAVE ALOT OF MONEY! I worked for thirty years before I felt safe.
    My platform is a done deal! Patients and colleagues are lined up to read my novel…now if only I could interest a publisher!

  3. Lisa von Lempke

    I can´t imagine what it would be like to work that many hours – and then write on evenings and weekends…

    Where is the time to linger, to hang out, to lie on a sofa and do absolutely <i>nothing</i>?

    And…aren’t you exhausted after a full day of work? How come some of you dear people have such abundant energy?

    I get tired just thinking about it…

  4. Kristan

    I think, as you said, it all depends on the person, their personality, and their circumstances. There is no right or wrong way to pursue a writing career; we each have to find what works for us.

    I did work full-time for a while, then part-time, and now finally I have left the workforce to pursue writing full-speed. So far I’m loving it, and it feels like the right decision for me, but I wouldn’t have been ready for this 3 years ago. And who knows where I’ll be 3 years from now. Things change.

    That’s the other thing about life: it’s not static. So what is right for one phase might not be right for the next. As long as we can adapt, we can succeed.

    Great post, and good luck to you!

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