Friday, January 13, 2012

Writing and The Day Job: Choices and Aspirations

So often in the world of blogging, one finds that someone else has made one's points better than one.

That sentence sounds clumsy. Let me try again.

So often in the world of blogging, I find that someone else has made my points better than me.

That's better.

Claire Hennessy has a great series of posts on day jobs and writers, which can be found here.  The final post has a great series of questions about choosing a day job that works for you, both as a writer and as a person, which is worth reading.

There is another question about writing and day jobs that I want to address, though, and it's a big one. Especially for those of us in our twenties and thirties, not long out of education and still building a career rather than riding the wave.

That question is where to direct your priorities - towards the day job? Or towards writing?

When I was in college, a salary of 16,000 a year sounded like more money than I could ever spend. I now know that for a young professional in Dublin, it's a challenge to live well on that. It means public transport, it means cheaper food, it means nights out in the local pub on Student Night rather than a going to a restaurant with your friends.

As I get older, I know that my needs will increase more and more. At the moment I don't own a home, for example. My healthcare costs are minimal. These things will change, and my income needs to change with it. I don't want to live like a twenty-year-old when I'm forty (although obviously I will still resemble one. AHEM).

And the question arises of whether it makes more sense to prioritise writing (with the knowledge that it may always remain a second income, but nevertheless with the intention of turning it into an income), or to prioritse advancement in the day job. Free time is precious - should it be spent writing or taking a night class in Accountacy, or Marketing, or Advanced German for Unadvanced Students?

I don't know the answer, but I'd be interested to hear how some of you guys have made your decisions, or tried to.


  1. Hi Ellen: I got married young, went to college after our wedding, worked for 3 years then had a baby at 31. I haven't worked since but now that she's graduating, I contemplate getting a part-time flexible job. Or I nag the Physicist to take early retirement, walk across the hall to sign up with another company and make a good income there with his retirement money. That seems more likely in our case as the chances of me even coming close to making that income is next to nothing LOL. But in your case, I would recommend focusing on career options that maximize your earning potential while allowing you freedom to grow as a writer and/or working in a field that complements the writing and adds to your knowledge. That's just my two cents. I can tell you that doing something you hate won't help you as a writer no matter how much $$ you make. As for that it would be yucky even if you weren't a writer. The thing is if you are unhappy at work then that will permeate into the writing.


  2. I was a workaholic throughout my 20s. I'm now 36 and I prefer a more relaxed life-style. I've got a part-time job that I can do from home and all my other time is spent on writing. If only I'd applied my twenty-something workaholic attitude to creating novels, I'd have a lot more than 2 published by now!

  3. I think that it should be a balance. Writing shouldn't take up all of your free time, so you can learn something else too. :-)

  4. Thanks for linking to those, Ellen. :) Loved this post - the writing-vs-day-job thing is something that continually fascinates me.

    So much of it is about lifestyle and what you're prepared to sacrifice. (Did you see SRB's post over on tumblr about writerly income, by the way? I know a few people who hate their jobs but love the money; it's not a situation that would suit me but at the same time it does definitely allow them to afford many things that are important to them, like the ability to travel frequently or go to different kinds of events. I don't necessarily want a jetsetter lifestyle, but a step above starving-artist would be nice. :) What I've found over the last couple of years is that there is a crazy amount of admin involved in running any kind of organisation, which consumes time and energy but is also essential. In an ideal week there's a balance between that, plus my teaching, plus my writing, but in practice... not always the case!

  5. There should definitely be a balance. It's a choice for everyone to make on their own, and I've found there's a lot of trial and error in finding the right fit. I think I'd definitely rather be making a little less money, but in a job I liked and that gave me time to write, than a high-paying job that made me dread getting up in the morning.

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  7. I think it's the balance between the two that's essential.


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