Monday, October 17, 2011

Don't Quit Your Day Job

As many of you may know, the next ACFW Webniar is, How to Write More and Work Less. I’ve been talking with writers who have another job as well as their writing to see how they juggle doing both. I was a social worker before my daughter was born and started writing soon after, but now that my youngest is off to college I’ve thought about getting back into the work force. I just don’t know how I’d balance the two yet.

The first thing I thought of was that I’d have to do some serious time management to get everything done that I do now plus working. Getting my family used to the idea that I wouldn’t be as available would be the biggest undertaking, and having others do some of the tasks that I’ve always done. In having less time for writing I’d be spending less time with my imaginary friends, meaning my characters of course (If I were writing this to anyone other than fellow authors I’d worry they would question my sanity) along with a number of activities and groups I belong to. I suppose it’s all about prioritizing.

I did a little research about authors who didn’t give up their day jobs, or at least not right away after they were published. Some of these might surprise you.

-Michael Blake, author of Dances with Wolves, had just been fired from his job as a dishwasher in a Chinese restaurant when Kevin Costner called him to ask if he would be interested in writing a screen play of his book.

-Steven King was a high school history teacher and used to write in the furnace room closet of his trailer.

-Both C.S. Lewis and Tolkien served in WWI and then taught at Universities

-John Grisham was a lawyer and member of the State Legislature of Mississippi

-Jack London was an oyster pirate and then a gold prospector.

-Nicolas Sparks applied at Law school but was not accepted, so he tried doing real estate appraisals, waiting tables, selling dental products and starting a manufacturing business

-J.K. Rowling got her postgraduate degree and taught in Scotland. She had a baby and then was divorced. She completed her first novel while on welfare

-Francine Rivers wrote obituaries for the town paper

-Zane Gray was finally published after many years of rejections and quit his job as a dentist to write full time.

-William Faulkner was a post master

This group of writers is a tough comparison, but were the most interesting. I know many writers on this blog manage doing both very well, so help me out with some ideas…how do you create the necessary balance working two jobs?


Greg Mitchell said...

If I'm in a really good flow, my family is totally supportive and I'll sometimes write starting at 5 (when I get off work) on through the night. But, usually, it's writing at lunch breaks and after the kids go to bed--sometimes I even have to wait until the wife goes to bed.

Some nights I don't even get started on my second job until 10, then I write til 2 in the morn and it's up at 7 to be at work by 8.

Jillian Kent said...

IF you don't have to go to work at a day job, don't do it. Of course that advice is coming from someone who has worked as a social worker for 31 years. It hasn't been easy and I don't recommend it but that's been the way my life went for better or worse.

You are in a great position to take on more writing. So think about that before you go looking for another job. I do love my job but I'm frequently exhausted and push through when I probably shouldn't.

If I was in your position I'd take better care of myself, exercise more, clean the house once in a while, and learn how to write faster. :) However, I do believe that working outside the home is stimulating and provides fodder for stories.

If you don't really need the job you can always quit if it doesn't work out. And I'd recommend part-time rather than full-time.

Let us know what you do.

Jillian Kent said...

Oh Greg,
I wish I could stay awake at night like you do. The good old days. :)

Beth Shriver said...

Wow, Greg! You are a hard worker! I admire that. You have to be committed to your writing to make that kind of sacrifice!

Thanks for the thoughts and ideas, Jullian. Interesting that you are also a social worker! I'd llike to hear more about what you do. You have to have a real passion for the job to do social work.I will heed your advice, this job just sort of fell into my lap and it is p/t so it might work. My first committment is my writing though.

Bruce Hennigan said...

My day job is a radiologist, you know one of those doctors with Xray vision. My practice allows me to take entire weeks off at a time so I spend a week at a time writing from 8 to 430 with an hour break for lunch. After 5, I try and spend with my wife, my daughter (still at home at 24) and our dog, Romeo.

When I don't have a week off, I try and find little snippets of time here and there. Sometimes, I can grab ten minutes at work in between patients or an hour at night right before bedtime. I'm not much of a night owl. I don't think very creatively at 11 PM but my mind is up and at 'em at 7 AM (My wife hates that I am a morning person). My goal is to eventually retire from medicine and write full time. But, that is not in the near future.

Beth Shriver said...

Bruce, that's great that you can take such long periods off work to write. I don't know how you write when you only have ten minutes or so. It would take me that long to figure out what to write when jumping in like that. It must come with time and knowing you're limited to get a few words down. Making time for the family is a must, especially for Romeo:)

Bruce Hennigan said...

Beth for me, I'm waiting for that ten minutes. My mind is always going, unfortunately, and I'm always writing something in my head. I am constantly stopping in the middle of my "job" to make a note of an idea so I don't forget it and when that ten minutes comes up, I grab it and write furiously.
My wife tells me all the time "You think too much!"

Beth Shriver said...

Bruce, I do have ideas pop into my head all of the time too. You're good about writing them down, that's probably why you know what to write when you have those precious few minutes.

As writers, we can never think too much:)

Mike Dellosso said...

Beth, great post. Really. And something that resonates with a lot of writers. It's tough balancing the two. My biggest priority is to not let my writing interfere with my family time. I get up at 4:40 and start writing while everyone else is asleep. I do that 7 days a week. I write for about an hour to an hour and a half then get ready for my "real" job. I don't mind getting up that early because I love what I do at that hour. If I had to get up that early and go to a dentist appointment that would be a different story entirely.

You're right, though, it's about prioritizing and time management. Once you get those two down you'll find the time is there, it's just a matter of recognizing it.

Beth Shriver said...

Mike, thanks for sharing how you juggle both. I'm an early riser too so I think a routine like yours would work for me. Also, I'm hoping for p/t which would be a perfect blanace. I think you appreciate your writing time more if it's cherished, as you mentioned that hour is for you each morning.