Want An Escape Route From Your Day Job? Your Book Won't Provide That
Probably. No matter much you want it to
It was another stressful day in the office. One of our systems had broken, yet again. I had to come up with a solution to get it going. All I wanted was a calm day where I could catch up on the work I was supposed to be doing.
After flailing around doing all the initial things I could think off, I took a much-needed bathroom break. As I went into the cubicle and locked the door, I sighed.
If only I could get my book finished and published, and sell lots of it. Then I wouldn’t have to put up with all this shit. I could write, be my true self and live a much happier life.
Have you ever had a moment like that? Do you want your book to be your redeemer and offer you a parachute out of your day job?
Many writers think that their novel can be their salvation and get them out of a job they hate. Yes, there are authors who crank out enough books and generate enough sales to leave the job behind. Author entrepreneurs Joanna Penn and Mark Dawson spring to mind but they each have in excess of 20 books to their name and a writing related business.
For most people, even if you get to the point where you publish a book, it isn’t going to create enough sales for you to retire on.
I’ve always had huge plans for my Tales of the Countess series. I published the first book to great fanfare in 2020 after a twenty year on/off writing process. But it has sold less than 200 copies and has not yet recovered the direct cost of editing and cover design, let alone all my other indirect writing expense and opportunity cost over the years.
Yes, it’s had great reviews. Everyone loved it.
Yes, I still believe in its potential. When I have the subsequent books in the trilogy completed, I can chuck more into advertising and try to shift more copies.
Yes, I’m so proud that I finally got it published. People have it on their bookshelves and have enjoyed reading it.
But it is not yet the great financial saviour that I would love it to be.
I have managed to escape, for the time being, from my day job as a software consultant. But I’ve achieved that because I’ve created rental income from an investment property, I have savings, I have a husband that works and I’m thinking about getting a part-time job in a coffee shop.
I might also be seriously screwing my retirement fund.
Advantages of having a job
You have to make peace with your day job. It has always been the case that writers and artists wish they had more time and resources.
In Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert talks about the 19th century novelist, Herman Melville:
I once read a heart-breaking letter that Herman Melville wrote to his good friend Nathaniel Hawthorne, complaining that he simply could not find time to work on his book about that whale, because “I am so pulled hither and thither by circumstances.” Melville said that he longed for a big, wide-open stretch of time in which to create… but that sort of luxuriousness simply did not exist for him.
But Moby Dick did get written and over 150 years later, it is still being read.
Let’s look at some of the advantages of having a job:
It provides money, not just for living, but for being a writer. It can pay for writing courses, conferences, a shiny new laptop as well as editing and cover design for your book.
Demanding money from your creativity might crush it. Having money from other sources frees you to follow your creative whims irrespective of whether they will ever provide a roof over your head. Elizabeth Gilbert said that, prior to the success of Eat Pray Love, she was willing to work hard in a day job so her creativity could play lightly.
Going to work is a gold mine for inspiration. The setting for Tales of the Countess came directly from my business jet-setting days of the late 1990s. I also built a life-coaching philosophy by figuring out how to combine creative pursuits with a day job and encouraging other people to the same. This spawned a book which I published in 2011 – Don’t Give Up Your Day Job.
Most of the topics for my Gentle Creative blogs come from the reality of combining what I have to do with what I want to do.
Without my work in the software industry, none of this would have happened.
Work provides routine and discipline. It is often easier to write in small segments around other pillars in your day than have endless time to stare at a blank page. (I wrote about this recently: Would You Really Write More If You Didn’t Have A Day Job)
Your colleagues can help you. With both of my books, my colleagues gave invaluable help with feedback on cover design and the blurb that sells the book. They also rushed out and bought my book and then shared it with others on social media. Sitting at home writing is a much smaller life than going out to a job. It doesn’t bring you into contact with as many helpful people.
Challenges make you stronger. In those horrid moments at work, I used to rebrand them as training me to be able to withstand pressure and strengthen my life. Then, if my dreams of fame, fortune and being asked to be a panellist on my favourite current affairs TV show do ever come to fruition – I will have the fortitude to ride this wave.
Your writing matters
I'm not saying that you'll never escape the job or never make decent money with your writing. But that one novel (like mine) is probably not going to be the parachute that you would love it to be
However, just because you aren’t able to write as your main occupation and it is squeezed around other responsibilities – it is still worth writing.
You have something to say. You can see your words in print or on the internet. Your words can go out into the world. Over time, your efforts will accumulate.
You have a unique take on life because of what you do for work.
As Elizabeth Gilbert says:
Most individuals have never had enough time, and they’ve never had enough resources, and they’ve never had enough support or patronage or reward… and yet still they persist in creating. They persist because they care. They persist because they are called to be makers, by any means necessary.
How to you manage to combine writing with your day job? How do you feel about what I have written in this article?
Look out for the new Monday discussion thread. It’s based on this post and will give you a chance to commit to three realistic things you can do towards your creative project each week. Subscribe now to receive it, if you haven’t already.
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