Thursday, September 15, 2005

Working. Writing. Full Time. Hmmm.

A lot of people ask me how is it possible that I keep a full-time job, while being able to write on a regular basis. Why not write full time, they often ask.

A number of reasons. Bills, like student loans and car payments... oh, and rent. And also feeling pretty fulfilled career-wise with my full-time job. It's fun, keeps me energized, and boy, are there tons of situations in my day job that provide jump-off points for writing. It also keeps me working in the midst of social justice issues, ethnicity, class, gender... all that stuff.

But for me, it's mainly a financial thing. And that's a decision not to be taken lightly in my case. With only one book published, and with one currently in the publishing pipeline, my track record and royalties (which won't roll in for a few months, if warranted) aren't even close to matching what my full-time job provides. And not just financially.

We're talking benefits. And we're talking about the support that comes from people you work with, and the fulfillment that comes from being employed. My workplace is completely supportive and encouraging of my writing and book work. I get summers off... well, I have a reduced summer schedule and reduced obligations. I get to travel. I get plenty of down time. And, well... I won't go on. Let's just say that even if I didn't work full time, the most I can sit in front of a computer in one sitting is like two hours. That's not much of a full-time writing job schedule... even though I'm very productive in my two hour sitting.

The important thing: don't quit your day job until you've actually written and sold a manuscript; or written and self-published and the sales are supporting your day-to-day life; or have side gigs such as teaching, speaking, consulting, and facilitating that supplement what you'd earn while not working. Or you've saved tons of money and are disciplined to live a simple and frugal life. Or if you're lucky enough to have a trust fund you're about to inherit. Or you've talked it over with your higher power, family, significant other, and those you may call on for support or meals. The starving artist thing, while admirable and provides for great success stories down the road, isn't always what it's cracked up to be.

Still have questions? Check out what some other published authors have said in their own blogs and sites on the question of Writing and/or Working Full-Time:

Tayari Jones provides her insight on writing full time or writing while keeping a full-time job.
Holly Lisle shares some steps to consider when quitting the full-time gig for writing.
Donna Hill talks about her leap of faith into full-time writing... and this is after more than a dozen novels while working a full-time job.

Others... feel free to chime in...


prodigalsun said...

I feel you... its a constant hustle when you work for yourself... And its not easy. I get asked that too when people see that I run a freelance business, go to school full time and work full time... I got bills to pay. And the consistent job provides security. Maybe my other endeavors will take off one day soon and I can quit... but until then... I gotta get my azz to work e'ry day.

~^^~Elsie~^^~ said...

Fred: I am relate so well to what you're saying about not being able to sit in front a computer that long. I don't know how I survive workin in an office - part-time. I get up and file etc etc. I plan to be a college professor and write, too. I am pretty sure I"ll have enough time to write. Right now, though sadly to say, I haven't had as much time as I'd like to write w/ the hustle of school, work, and community activities. I gotta slow down and write because the inspiriation is there.

Your full-time job sounds great, summers off? Uh huh, that's what I'm talking about!

~^^~Elsie~^^~ said...

And, yes the financial side of things is looking good, my bills are paid. :)

Wow "prodigalson"! You sure do a lot! I thought I had a lot on my plate! More power to you!

CydneyR said...

Do not quit your day job. Getting checks from publishers are not something you can depend on in a timely fashion; your hair will turn gray worrying and fretting about that stuff. And you'll be grateful and happy to get your regular check from your 9 to 5.

ByeBye said...

I've been blessed on most end of the spectrum... I really like this entry (sort of inspiring).

What route would you recommend to take once you have your manuscript written... self publishing vs a publisher (your personal perference if money wasn't a concern)? just really curious.

Frederick Smith said...

The big secret about writers. Most, unless you're one of the big-name bestsellers (and you know who they are), have a day job or a side gig. Having a book published isn't always enough to sustain a household.

Envizable... self-publishing or traditional route? Tough question. Depends on a lot. Your patience level. Your confidence level. If you're willing to work in partnership with a traditional publisher or if you want 100% control. A lot. We'll talk. Future blog entry :-)