Don’t Quit Your Day Job

This blog is for those beginning writers who think they absolutely must quit their day job in order to succeed at their future writing career.

Don’t.

Need I say more?

Oh, you want to know why. Well, let me use personal experience.

When I first started writing my novel, I wanted to quit my job so that I could focus entirely on my “writing career” that I didn’t even have yet. I wanted to be able to wake up every morning and write eight hours a day. That way, I could focus all my attention on my writing and not worry about anything else except getting dinner on the table for hubby. I would finish my novel three times as fast, thus, entering the business world as a published author three times as quickly. What a dream!

Unfortunately, my husband and I couldn’t afford that kind of lifestyle on his paycheck alone. So I HAD to work. Now, looking back, I’m further along in my writing journey than I would have been had I never acquired a job.

Let me explain.

With a job, I can afford things that will help me hone my writing skills, such as writing classes, books on the art of writing, conferences, and someday- a book editor. Without a job, I could have written all day long, every day. But what is a story if it’s not written well? If it’s filled with passive verbs, predictable dialogue, cardboard characters, and horrible plots, (all of which I was guilty of at one point or another,) who will want to read it? (Other than your parents?)

If you’re wanting to begin a career as a novelist, you need to learn the craft. And in order to learn the craft, you need to learn from the masters of the craft. Classes are good. Most creative writing courses only spend maybe one or two weeks on the area you’re writing in, (fiction, non-fiction, poetry, etc.) but they allow personal attention and critique on your work while also teaching new things you need to know.

Books on writing are brilliant. There are so  many of them are out there that you can choose from. Pick a book that covers an area you need to work on. The book I’m reading right now is called Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell, because I  know my plot is weak.

Conferences are great (and probably the most expensive- but well worth the price.) You can take multiple intensive workshops, and you can choose whichever workshop best suits where you are in your writing journey. Some conferences offer critiques from professionals, (like the Mount Hermon conference I’m attending in three weeks!) They also offer one-on-one consultations with editors and agents, so you get to meet people in the business world of writing.

Basically, if I wasn’t working, I wouldn’t be able to pay for all these amazing things that have REALLY helped me learn the craft. I would be stuck in my office, living off rice and hope, wondering in vain how I could make my manuscript sell and what I need to work on to make it interesting.

Now, I’m not published. But there are so many things I learned about writing from classes, books, and conferences that I wouldn’t know now if I couldn’t afford those things in the first place. And even if I never get published, I still want to be a good writer for my own sake.

I think some people quit their jobs when they write their first book in hopes
that they will quickly find a publisher and sell enough of their novels to make up for the money they lost when they didn’t have a job. And maybe it does work that way for some writers. But it’s probably not a good idea for a first novel.

So, unless you can afford to pay for these things without a job, work. Use your job as motivation to pay for conferences and editors, to make you a better writer, so that in the long run you can make your dream as a novelist come to life.

Oh, and one more thing. They say you’re most creative when you’re taken out of your comfort zone. I find that to be incredibly true. I’ve come up with my best ideas for my story while I was at work. So, even if you don’t NEED the money, it might be a good idea to get a job just to force yourself out of your comfort zone. Just be sure to take a notepad so you can write your ideas down!

-Sarala

 

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2 thoughts on “Don’t Quit Your Day Job

  1. Cool Sara. Good advice! I’m a writer too, though I look at it as more of a hobby. Reading The Hunger Games has intensified my desire to write fiction.

    Getting “real world” exposure at work can only help a writer. Sometimes I’m amazed at the depth of knowledge and research of some of these writers. There are a lot of details that need to be correct. For example, in the Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins had to come up with a great number of different, interesting foods and meaningful combinations as she (vividly) described the meals they ate.

    I didn’t realize how impressive this was in books until I started writing myself and thought, “hmm, I don’t understand that well enough to describe it properly in my story.”

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