Non-Fiction, Writer Stuff

Don’t Quit the Day Job

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Why Fiction Writers Shouldn’t Give Up the 9 to 5, and It’s Not the Reason You Think

Anyone who’s ever heard me sing has undoubtedly uttered the phrase, “Don’t quit the day job.” Meaning, in a somewhat nicely packaged nutshell, you’re not good enough to make a living at it. Not by a long shot. I’ll be the first to admit I can’t sing worth a lick.
The same can be said of fiction writers. The advice, I mean. I would never imply you’re not good enough to make a living at story telling. (Likewise for your singing ability.) And, someday, quitting the sometimes dreaded J-O-B might just be in the cards. But there are a few good reasons to hold off turning in your resignation, at least for awhile.
Here’s why:
  • Interesting people — Even if your day job is fairly solitary work, chances are you run across at least a couple people in the course of your employ who are characters in their own right. Maybe the dissatisfied customer looks exactly how you pictured your antagonist. Or, the caller on the other end of the line coins a phrase that sticks with you and becomes the inspiration for your next story. You never know when or where inspiration will strike. But it’s sure as hell a lot less likely to strike if you’re shackled to your keyboard with no human interaction for days on end.


  • Peace of mind — Any sort of steady income can help alleviate stress. And, let’s face it, if we writers are under an enormous amount of pressure to bring in a paycheck, the writing muse may just decide to cash out her chips and head to higher ground.
    Helps relieve the dreaded writer’s block — Sometimes we all need a change of pace. Maybe you’ve come to a fork in your story and you’re just not sure where to go next. Oftentimes, a change of scenery may mean the jumping off point for your next few scenes.


  • Motivation — I’ll be honest. If I didn’t have a day job, I wouldn’t likely get out of bed until the early afternoon. I’m a morning person by nature. But given the opportunity to snooze, I’ll do it. My intentions may be honorable at first: wake up at the crack of dawn, write until after the kids have gone off to school and into the late afternoon. But sooner or later I’m bound to pound that snooze button with the best of ’em. Once I’m up and going though, I’m a force to be reckoned with.


  • Investment funds— Starting a writing career is like launching any other business. It takes capital. In this day in age, you can’t necessarily expect a publisher to front all the startup costs for a new author. Even if you get a publishing contract out of the gate, you may find extra costs you didn’t anticipate: website costs, travel expenses, professional fees (tax advisors, legal advice). And if you decide to go the self-publishing route, you’re looking at securing an editor and cover designer in the least.
Don’t get me wrong. I would love to make writing my full time career. I’ve dreamt of being a professional author for years. But until I’m completely comfortable with that level of accomplishment, I will happily take all the extra advantages my day job can offer.
This article was originally published on Medium.

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