Writing is hard work. But if you want to become a writer you will become one. Nothing will stop you.

Dorothy Day – Journalist & Social Activist

Most aspiring writers also have a full-time job, which means that writing is their full-time passion but their part-time job.

Ideal writing place
Photo: Gabriel Beaudry (Unsplash)

As enthusiastic writers, we’d all love to get up in the morning, do some yoga stretches (or go out for a run), brew a wonderful cup of coffee (or herbal tea) and sit at our desks in our light-bathed studio facing the beach (or a trendy street in New York or Paris), where we would produce page after page of great prose for three or four hours a day. Then we would go for a walk, spend the afternoon gathering tons of wonderful ideas for new novels or articles and read by the fireplace in the evening enjoying a glass of red wine.

The reality, however, is pretty different. We wake up in the wee hours of the morning, grab a mug of instant coffee and open our laptops praying for an idea, any idea to make writing time worthwhile. We spend the next eight hours working in a job we don’t like very much only to arrive home too tired to do any revision or rewriting at all. We might be passionate writers, but we’re not very happy.

I wonder why do we keep showing up in our day jobs at all.

I keep my day job because…

Dilbert by Scott Adams.
I believe Dilbert is an undercover writer.

There’re many reasons —some would call them excuses—to go to that energy-sapping workplace every day. Losing my financial independence worries me because it means that I’m not able to make a living as a writer. Others are afraid of failing to support their spouses and children or worry about what their family and friends would say if they quitted their day jobs to become full-time writers.

And then, there’s my all-time favorite: I keep on commuting to that ****job because I don’t believe in myself as a writer. After all those articles and posts and books edited and written, I still feel insecure about my writing skills, I still hesitate for a moment before pressing the “send” button. Then I press it and everything turns out all right but that second of doubt is hell.

A dose of reality

bird-flying-from-cage
Fly from the cage…and have a tree nearby.

Dear newbie, amateur, enthusiastic writer, let me give you a dose of reality: writing is hard work, and it’s even harder when you are away from your laptop and your books for ten hours a day.

Am I telling you to resign and go home to write? No. Unless this is what you really want and you’ve analyzed all your options, it might be wise of you to stick to your crappy job and your even crappier boss for a while. Still, while you’re trying to become a full-time writer, you might very well make this transition easier:

  • Create a realistic writing routine: even half an hour a day will do if you show consistently.
  • Embrace a healthy lifestyle: eat well, sleep more, move around a little and don’t push yourself hard.
  • Accept your day job as a necessary evil: thanks to it you have food in the fridge and a roof over your books (you’re a writer —having a roof over your head is not so important).
  • Rest: take a day off your writing routine, take a sabbatical week, declare Saturday a non-laptop day. Go out and enjoy life.
  • Plan your day around your writing, not around your job. Writing comes first; then come pressing customers and demanding bosses.

You should be proud of every page written, every hour spent at your desk, every notebook full of ideas…because you’re doing it the hard way.

Do you have a zombie job? What are your reasons for not quitting? I’d love to hear from you!

 

 

 

 

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