Welcome to Writing Tip Wednesdays, where I post (you guessed it) tips on writing every Wednesday at 5:00 PM ET. This week’s topic:
Happy Wednesday! Is it really March already?! How did this happen?? Regardless, a happy first day of the month to you; I’m excited that it happens to fall on Writing Tip Wednesday! So I thought I would make today’s post a little extra special.
Today I am going to be talking about the possibility of quitting your day job in order to become a real writer. But here’s the kicker: I just lied to you.
You are, if you write, already a “real” writer; there is no magic moment when you become a “real” one. Sure, your personal definition might be “when you make it big” or “when I can live off my writing,” but the truth is, even some of the best authors have other jobs.
Patrick Rothfuss, author of The Kingkiller Chronicles, is a professor at the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point. Brandon Sanderson, author of The Mistborn trilogy, among many other fantasy novels, is an adjunct professor at Brigham Young University. Below is an excerpt from his About page, which you can read in full here.
Brandon began writing in earnest, taking a job as the night desk clerk at a hotel because they allowed him to write while at work. During this era he went to school full time during the day, worked nights to pay for his schooling, and wrote as much as he could. He says it made for a rather dismal social life, but he finished seven novels during his undergraduate years. Brandon submitted many manuscripts for publication . . . and accumulated quite a pile of rejection letters. In spite of this he continued to be a dedicated writer.
My first encouragement to you is this:
There is, in fact, largely no point in which one feels they have become a “real” writer; there is, however, a point when you feel you have become a professional, and even then, it is likely to feel like a dream for some time. Why? Because the world tells and has told us that being a “real writer,” is a dream. And it may seem that way for a while—which is why I encourage you to strive to be a “professional” writer so that you may realize that right now—RIGHT NOW—you ARE a real writer.
Professional writers continue to have jobs for multiple reasons: to keep themselves sharp, to keep a fresh resume (what if anything should happen to their ability to sell their books?), and most of all, to learn from others. If there’s anything true about being a teacher, it is that it is the surest way to learn a subject. In fact, I’d argue you oftentimes learn more as the teacher than as the student.
But this does not mean you need a teaching job in order to do the things listed above. It is remarkable what you can learn about yourself, and others, when working a job you don’t like. (Amazing what villain material you can conjure up, perhaps, as well…)
The Realistic Side of Things
I’m gonna get really real with you. Like, really real.
We all need money to live. Money for food, rent, mortgage, car insurance, health insurance, and a little bit to go see a movie or go to a convention—just a little for something fun every once in a while. (Remember: rest is important, otherwise you’ll burn out. Check out HOW TO WRITE OFTEN AND NOT BURN OUT.)
If you aren’t worrying about all of those things yet, don’t worry—you’ll get there. And if you’re not, it means someone else is. And it’s hard. Unbelieveably hard to adult. So I’m not going to tell you to quit your job and become a writer; in fact, I’m going to encourage you to stick with it and use it as material for your writing. Inspiration. Something you can draw from.
I am also going to tell you, however, that the only time I, personally, believe it is okay to quit your job before having made any money as a writer is if you have reached some sort of agreement with either a parent, guardian, or spouse, that will allow you to quit your job while they provide the income.
I am NOT encouraging this; however, if you believe that it is possible, it might be worth having the discussion.
A writer friend of mine, Robert J. Crane, who I had the pleasure to meet at a writing conference this past September, quit his job to write professionally. He sells e-copies of his books, and all the profits go to him. He came to the agreement with his wife that he was going to write professionally (note that word again!), and he now has a daily discipline of writing 10,000 words a day, usually by 3:00 PM. This man is on fire! And this means he puts out books ridiculously fast. Seriously, you should go check him out. You’ll have enough material to read for the rest of your life, hahaha.
This being said, the decision was reached mutually. My advice to you is to continue on in your day job, persevere, and, especially if you don’t like it, don’t let it define you.
~You are already a real writer.~
You just have a day job on the side. =)
What are your thoughts on having a day job while you’re working on your novel? Let me know in the comments below!
Alyssa Grace Moore
You can also find Alyssa on Twitter: @alyssagracem
Use #writetipwed for all Writing Tip Wednesday posts