I’ve mentioned before, most recently in my post about managing the expectations of non-writers, that Write with Phil and my novel are not making me millions. It would be nice if they did. I could buy a little house in the country and spend my days with a laptop and a view and no financial worries. However, for better or worse I have a day job and I do most of my writing on the way to and from the office.
I am still commuting into London and I am spending the majority of my time working on things that aren’t my writing. It can be frustrating, especially in those days when I’m on a roll with a particular story, or I’m writing to meet a deadline. You probably recognise the situation, because I know I’m not alone – most writers also have a day job to pay the bills.
Writers who are able to get by just by writing are few and far between. Lucky fella’s.
Writers generally see day jobs at best as a necessary evil, and at worse a major frustration. I’m lucky in the fact that I enjoy my day job, and get a lot out of it. When I started to think about this blog post, I realised something else – my day job has also helped my writing. And, with a few small changes, I think most day jobs can help other writers too.
Day job positive 1: A break from writing
When you’re writing full time, as I did during my master’s degree, it can quickly become demoralising. There are few quick wins in writing (although I’ve previously explained why you should try and create some) and it can at worst seem like a real slog to get anything done. It’s easy to get caught in a continuing cycle of bad moods and self-defeating thoughts.
A day job, even if it’s only for a few hours, gives your brain some time away from the world of writing. Thinking about something else will allow you to sub-consciously work through the problems that you’re having with your latest piece of work.
If you work in a customer facing job, you can use your time to observe people’s mannerisms and idiosyncrasies (not with a notebook, I’m not advocating using customers like test subjects or suspects). Put these observations into your characters, and you’ll be able to build a much more believable world.
A day job also gets you out of the house! Fresh air, remember that?
Day job positive 2: Structure
For some writers, their jobs will not give them much structure and this won’t apply to them. But even if your job isn’t on a specific day or time, you can build habits and routines around it. If you get to work on a bus, take a notebook and brainstorm some ideas as you go. You can do that no matter what the time!
I’ve spoken about structure and routine before, and how I’ve used it to increase my productivity. I’m a big believer in this, and most day jobs will force you into it. Instead of pushing back, embrace it and build it into your writing day.
Day job positive 3: It’s not life or death
You know how to put yourself under a lot of pressure when you’re writing? Simple – need to earn a living from it. Writing should be enjoyable, but if you have no other source of income other than your writing, you’re creating a situation that will lead to nothing but stress for you!
Have you ever worked in sales? I have, and know that you have to make sales in order to bring in the money you’re relying on can be stressful. Those types of jobs are built around commission, but the rest of life isn’t. You can’t tell the credit card companies that you can’t pay them because you didn’t hit target this month. And I’d be really surprised if they accepted the same excuse about book sales…
A day job gives you that bit of money that allows you to stop worrying about making money, and instead enjoy your writing.
Remember to make time for writing
Of course, some day jobs can become all-consuming. You can end up with no energy for writing, or no time. I think in those situations you have to make a difficult decision. Or, you could really look at your time and find those moments, those precious moments, for writing.
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