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Writer's Notes: Jobs

I've been following a fascinating discussion on a mailing list I belong where full-time fiction writers discuss their output and productivity, as well as the pitfalls of working from home. It's made me re-think my "dream" of being a full-time writer, something I've already been chipping away at in the past year and a half (being unemployed for two three-month periods had a lot to do with that!). I'm wondering if being a full-time fiction writer is what I should be shooting for.

What I found most interesting about the descriptions of the full-timers' output and productivity is that they didn't really write a WHOLE lot more than they did while juggling a full-time job (plus family and other activities, like, um having a life). I can relate to that -- when I was off work, home alone, I had trouble getting started some days. Of course, for me, part of the problem was that I was job-hunting at the same time. But ultimately that's just an excuse -- I had a ton of time last October through December, and I didn't do much writing. I read a lot, which was great, but no significant writing.

One thing having a Day Job does is force a writer to manage his or her time. I know this is probably blatantly obvious to most people reading this journal, but it's leading to another point I'm trying to make. I think that unless you're a hugely disciplined writer who thrives on deadlines and can handle the uncertainty and stress of a non-steady income (I'm the first 2 of those three, but not the last, no, not at all! I can't stand financial insecurity), writing fiction full-time may not be the end-all be-all of writing.

Which, for me, makes me think -- I'd better get to liking the fact that I'll always have a Day Job. I pretty much enjoy my current job, and I think if I put my energy into it more (and not try to sneak in work on my fiction projects while I'm there!), I could really enjoy it. Anything to make my 8-hour stints there go by faster. Especially given the fact that most advances paid to first-time novelists are tiny at best, and I have yet to sell a novel, and with a baby on the way, well, financially it's not possible for me to quit the Day Job any time soon. (I think I'm just trying to get okay with that fact, so bear with me!)

For me, it's helpful hearing the stories of the full-timers out there. Hearing that they have to struggle to stay focused, that there's only so much you can write in a single day before your brain starts to crap out on you, that everyone struggles -- well, it helps me to realize my own situation isn't all that bad. I just need to learn patience and enjoy the process of creation (even if it means dragging my ass out of bed at 4:30 a.m. again, and not checking email or surfing the Net 'til I get my fiction-writing out of the way for the day).

I'd be curious to hear from other writers, people from all points on the writerly spectrum -- how do you juggle the Day Job and the "real job" of writing fiction? Do you like your Day Job? What jobs seem to be most conducive to fiction writers? Any tips or anecdotes would be greatly appreciated! Later!

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