Don’t Give Up the Day Job

There are a few daydreams we writers allow ourselves as we languish in a nice deep, foamy - mostly metaphorical - bath; letting our imaginations roam wild until they start to border on dangerously prune-y. And one of mine has always been that once I get the elusive Agent, Contract, four-book (six figure *) deal I will drop my nice little part-time job like the hot noose around my creative neck I’ve always assumed it… well, just is.

For up ‘til now I’ve always bemoaned the six thirty alarm and the Eight o’clock School drive and then the additional 45 minute slog to my own school (I don’t mean I run it – I’m not the Head or anything, just another cog in the educational wheel). And then having to spend the next four hours trying to make sense of stuff I’m supposed to be doing and getting paid for doing there, whilst I’m actually writing the next scene of my book in my head.
Y'see, I know I have to have the ‘paid’ job and without it I wouldn’t be able to afford to pay bills and eat food or buy paper and ink cartridges and belong to wonderful online writing sites like WriteWords. But all I want to do whilst I’m there is be back  home with my eyes firmly fixed on the screen and my fingers flying like crazy (on a good day) across the keyboard creating a whole Other World.
I’ve been exasperated to the point of distraction at times; that I’m tethered to this ridiculous worker’s treadmill all for the sake of having some paper on which to churn out chapters of the next dream I’m working on so that I can post them off to a handful of carefully selected Agents to then shred on my behalf before they’ve even properly read them.
Because that’s how it feels at times, right?
Of course, I’ve always managed to cheer myself up with the fact that my ‘paid’ job is not without its merits i.e the lovely warm printer which sits happily beside me. And a keyboard and screen. Oh, and the kettle and biscuits are well within reach too. However printer, screen, kettle and chocolate Digestives do not a contented writer make. Very close, granted - but still no cigar.
Lately though, with the enthusiastic responses from the latest wave of Agent-subbing, I’ve found this part of my daydream morphing into something strangely different. And I've let myself get sucked further into my 'dream'.  I even waltzed down one of the corridors the other day chanting (under my breath of course) *"I have an Agent".  I have an Agent" - just to see what it would feel like.  But I was unprepared for the feelings this incantation induced.
No longer do I see myself running like a hairy banshee into the main hall during full school assembly with a cry of “That’s it, I’m published – I’m OUTTA HERE!” Then setting of all the fire alarms, turning on all the Bunsen burners and blocking the year 8 loos with reams of sugar paper. Oh no, I seem to somehow have risen above all that nonsense (although now I read that back, it does look like fun). Because strangely enough – and even though I know that most published authors still need to keep the day job going to support their literary urges, I would miss the social interaction. The happy little faces of the quirky assortment of people I work with. Their eager enquiries into how my writing endeavours are going; their enthusiasm at my excitement of being asked for chapters and their continued support of this Other Job I have when I get home from the first.
And anyway – whether they know it or not – they are also the source of some of the best material that one day may lead to that other … *Pine/Hollywood-based dream!

* These ideas are brought to you as part of my subliminal visualisation technique!


Roderic Vincent said...

Interesting, Debs. My partner has argued against me writing full-time, not because she doesn't want to pay for everything, but because she thinks I'd go mad without the social contact. But surely leaving comments on your blog post counts???

I guess, as in most things, it's a question of balance. My own view is £$%^$ balance. But as I spend most of my writing time, not writing, it's a scary thought too, having to fill all those hours. You've got me rambling.

Susie Nott-Bower said...

YAY, Debs, for a great inaugural post!!!
I think it's really important to keep hold of an element of worldly interaction, even if you're the writer of a blockbuster. I gave up my career in order to write and paint, both of which are solitary, and, together with a move away from everyone and everything I knew, life became very isolated. Getting a very part-time job in a gallery did make a difference. But large swathes of 'open' time aren't all they're cracked up to be, I can promise you - particularly without the agent! So no, don't give up that day job.

Old Kitty said...


What a wonderful post! I'm followinig a few writer-ly blogs who also blog about their part-time/day jobs - and the one thing they all seem to agree upon is the potential for inspiration for their next writing project!

It's also like these lottery winners - the ones that say they won't give up their day job just because they've won millions. I never used to understand that. Now I'd like to think it's because it keeps them grounded, keeps their social life normal.

Oh it's like watching a romcom film really. You hope and pray that your relationship(s) would end up like when Harry met Sally but you forget it's darned hard work really! LOL!

Saying all that it's lovely to dream and lovelier to have your daydreams will soon be reality!!!

As I know yours will soon.

Take care

Phillipa said...

Great post, Debs and I agree - don't give up the day job. My day job also involves writing, also at home - and these days, times are so tough, clients and publications rarely pay you to go out and do research and features so it can be very isolating. Even if I ever earned a lot from my books, I'd always keep my commercial writing business if only to keep a fingerhold on reality!

Fionnuala said...

See Debs?!! Great thought provoking post. I agree with you and the comments already made. Writing can be such a solitary thing and wonderful as the internet is in that it has opened up effective and interesting writers forums - other commitments/interests help keep us grounded.

Helen Black said...

Welcome Debs.

I think it's right that once you write full time, you do lose a lot of contact with people.
I wrote book one whilst working full time, and I know that much of my work life made its way into that book.
That said, once I got a contract it became fairly clear, fairly soon, that I wouldn't be able to meet my deadlines and continue with my job, particularly as I have young twins and a husband who is abroad with his work a lot of the time. There simply weren't enough hours in the day.

So now I write. And spend far too much time on the internet. Not ideal, but what is really?

Ellen Brickley said...

My day job motivates me to write - because I want to be more than it. No little girl dreams of being an administrator when she grows up.

I also have a long trip to and from work, so practically speaking, if I was contracted for a book my job would have to go. But it would have to go in favour of one closer to home with shorter hours. I think some kind of job would still be a good idea.

Karen said...

Somebody said to me at the library recently, "Oh I suppose you'll be leaving if your book gets published" and I was quite surprised. I like my job there, primarily, as has already been said, because of the interaction adn the feeling of belonging to a little gang that knows me quite well. I'd procrastinate even more if I was at home all the time!

Mind you, I'm only part-time - might be different if I wasn't :o)

Caroline Green said...

Welcome Debs! Yay for being part of SW!
Great post and wise words, I think. I am self employed and when I have the odd bit of free time, which I've longed for as writing time, there is a bit of me that thinks, 'Gawd, a whole day?'

Luisa Plaja said...

Great post, Debs! I love your dreams, but your job also sounds lovely and full of supportive people. (And material!)

Brian Keaney said...

I did give up the day job when I got my first contract (before I'd even found out how much of an advance I was going to get. Life was very hard for several years. But it was the best decision I ever made.

Sandra Ulbrich Almazan said...

I used to love my job (I work in a lab), but when I was transferred to QC from R&D, it became much more stressful and less interesting. But my family needs the benefits, and I really am needed there.

Several years ago at a convention, I heard a few professional full-time writers tell us what their jobs were like. It wasn't as easy as we dream it is. I wrote an essay about it; hope you don't mind me sharing the link:

Gillian McDade said...

Great post, Debs - really enjoyable. Working full-time really gets in the way of writing, but there's no way I would ever leave a paid job, partly because I like the money and also because it gives me the chance to meet weird and wonderful people. These encounters can be developed into short stories, twisting the scenarios, or inserted into novels.

Deb said...

Congratulations on a first great post, Debs. As you know, I write full-time from home, and yes, it does get isolated and yes I do procrastinate - a lot, but I've tried normal jobs and think I must just be unemployable because I just can't stick with them! Besides, bearing in mind some of the people I've had to work for, I think I prefer working with made up characters. At least if I don't like them I can bump them off without getting in to trouble:)

Debs Riccio said...

wow - what a lot of lovely comments - thanks everyone! (just back from the 'paid job' right now) and I think what you've all said is right. It's the social thing that I would miss the most (the money is handy too obviously)I know when I've been off work in the past with The Girl, that after 2 days of solitary confinement, I even forget how to converse with the cashier at Sainsbury's let alone pick up the phone and know what to say! And the trick is probably to not choose rocket science as the day-job. There has to be some head-space left for the creative stuff too. Thanks again for such a lovely welcome to Strictly... now where's that Anton du Bueke I was promised...?

Michele said...

Well done, Debs! It must be a common dream for us, writers. But I, too, often thought how sad I would be to leave the people I work with (getting a little ahead of myself aren't I? But it does keep me going). You're very close now.

Lydia said...

I did give up the day job (teaching) because it was just too demanding and all I wanted was to be at home writing. I have 2 other part time day jobs now, one of which involves social contact which I love and which has benefited my writing no end. I think you're right: it's all about balance. Teaching took away too much of my creativity and energy, so there wasn't enough left over. It works if the day job demands different skills and I also think that once your writing is supposed to be your sole income provider you can lose your complete love of it.Working at something else for a living frees you to write!
Welcome to Strictly Debs and well done on perceptive first post.

Ann said...

A wonderful and totally enjoyable post. I understand exactly how you feel too. Where would we be without the people we interact with in our paying jobs. They are so often the inspiration for our characters.

Debs Riccio said...

Thanks ladies - and thank you all once again for such a lovely warm welcome to the world of Strictly!

Sheila Norton said...

This is a subject I find very interesting, Debs - great post. In fact I wrote a feature for 'Writers' Forum' about this last year! I know a little bit about it, as I worked at my day-job right up till my sixth novel was published. Apart from anything else, I couldn't afford not to! It amazes me that people assume we're going to make a living out of writing! I've read (and often quoted!) a figure that the average professional author in the UK (ie one who spends at least 50% of their working time on their writing) earns £4000 per annum. I hope I haven't burst anyone's bubble! - there are, of course, exceptions.

I'm only now a 'full-time writer' because I now get my pension. And yes, I do miss my day job - not the work, but my colleagues, and being surrounded by live material for my books!! But as someone else has pointed out: nothing is ideal, there's no perfect world. For me, though, this is as close to perfect as I'm ever going to get - doing what I love best, whenever I want - so I'm certainly not complaining. I wouldn't go back to work, but then, I think I've 'done my time'! xx

E.G. said...

Debs, I really enjoyed this - can you just be really creative and think of a way to do all those mad things with Bunsen burners and sugar paper but KEEP your job? That image is just too good to go to waste.

Jacqueline Christodoulou-Ward said...

Sorry I'm late to this Debs, what a great post!
I am completely addicted to my day job so I couldn't leave. I am lucky because I can write at work in my lunch hour and my employers don't mind social networking within reason. I think becasue my day job is actaully not so much like a job to me as a calling, I use writing as an escape from the inevibable stress of it.
So goodness know what I will do when I get the six figure advance. Probably wake up :-)