Don’t Forget the Day Job!!

Now, unless you’re J.K. Rowling, the world’s first billionaire author, or one of the lucky few writers who earn enough from advances and royalties to make writing their full-time job, then another PAID job is a necessity.

But, as I’ve realised in the past three years, finding the ideal job to keep you from becoming a starving artist can be a tough feat.

I WAS planning on starting this post with a little bit of information about the new job I’ve just started, but in the eleventh hour, after I Tweeted asking other authors what jobs they currently do, one of my best friends (who also recruited me to said new job!) messaged me to underline I wasn’t to talk about said new job!!!

Hmm … Ok, well first of all, please let me assure you that my current job is NOTHING to do with MI5 or MI6! Cool as that would obviously be!! Am pretty sure my tattoos and tongue piercing prevent me from ever working for them … that and my inherent inability to take orders from people!!!

What I CAN tell you about my new job, is that it’s actually what inspired me to take on the topic of ‘day jobs’. Because as an aspiring author, you tread an awkward tightrope.

You have a career goal in mind, something which you’re slowly working your way towards, however, until others start believing in you, you really have very little to show for your ‘career path’.

I’ve talked frequently about the different hurdles along the way to ‘becoming an author’ – having an idea for a book, starting a novel, finishing a novel, finding an agent, finding a publisher, getting a publishing date, getting a following … and all the other stuff in between.  But as you’ll all know, a lot of those hurdles are mounted out of sight.  Successes are predominantly personal.  You don’t get CV points, or cash bonuses for them.  And yet for many of us, we’ve worked at this career path harder than we’ve worked for anything else in our lives!

But very few people see that.  Very few people understand all the work going on in the background.  The edits, the revisions, the blogging, the tweeting, the endless queries to agents, the rejections … It all goes unseen until you have something physical to show for all the work.  A tangible book!

And until that moment, and for the majority of people for a long time after that first tangible book is published, to the outside world, you’re still NOT following a career path.  Because to the outside world, starter steps in a career are as an intern or as an office junior, not sending letter after letter to agencies, and not receiving a penny for it!

Which means, as a starving artist, the pressure to start a paid career of some description comes not just from your purse strings! Unfortunately, for many people, ‘I’m trying to get a book published’ isn’t an acceptable answer to the ‘what are you doing with yourself these days?’ question! It’s like replying ‘I’ve been doing some painting’ or ‘I’m trying to get into acting.’   Until you can show them actual signs of success, it’s almost judged as laziness.  Which is ironic, knowing how many hours I’ve put into writing over the past three years!

I guess one of the major issues I have, is that I have a very good degree, from a very good University, and because that degree was in Law, people expect me to want to be a lawyer.  To sit behind a desk for the rest of my life, and make far more money that way than I probably ever will from Young Adult fiction!

But anyone who knows me, knows I was never meant to be a lawyer.  I’m a traveller at heart, a people person.  Someone who wants to see the world, experience everything it has to offer, and inspire others to do the same through my writing.

So, if I’m not becoming a lawyer, what can I possibly do to make myself a well-fed artist?!

When I first started writing I was travelling.  I had nine months away from work, and all the time in the world to put electronic pen to paper.  But back in the real world, I soon realised writing is a lot harder when you’re also working 9-5.  When I lived in Canada, I worked as a nanny, probably the best job I could recommend to any aspiring author (if you like kids!!!).  The kids slept 2 hours during the day, and I often babysat in the evening, so there was lots of time to write and edit ‘on the job’, and the very nature of the job, where you are essentially being paid to be a good human being, meant I was never too mentally exhausted at the end of the day to put pen to paper.

However, unfortunately the judgmental eyes of the world (well not really, but probably my own sense of propriety) means I can’t really be a nanny back in my home country!  I’ve spent five long years at university, so I may as well do a day job which represents my educational history.  But what should I do?

Because I don’t need a career!  I don’t want to put my foot on a career ladder, because, at least in my mind, I’m already a couple of steps up another career ladder, and ok, that career hasn’t progressed far enough for me to support myself doing it, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have goals and an aim in mind.

So how do I support myself in a way which uses my brain and capabilities, but that doesn’t distract me from my career target, which is becoming a successful published author?!

My answer appears to be working as a CONTRACTOR!! (I don’t think I’m going to get into trouble with my friend for telling you guys that much! 😉 )

I’m in a well-paid job, where I use my brain, and need my degree (apparently!) but where I don’t feel mentally-drained at the end of the day, and am still inspired enough to write.  And the great thing is, I’m not expected to be in the job long-term.  As a contractor, I’m not expected to be pursuing a career path, and seeking promotion. In fact, I’m not even expected to be there in five months time!  I just go in, do my job each day, and at the end of the day, leave it in the office!

And then, I can go home every evening and pursue my career 🙂

So, for now at least, it seems I’ve found my ideal day job, to complement my ideal career!  And hopefully by the time this contract ends, I’ll have conquered at least one more hurdle on my path to a personal feeling of success!

How about you guys?  What jobs do you do to help your writing careers?  What jobs don’t work particularly well with your ‘extra-curricular’ habits?!

As ever, tell me what you think!!! Am I right, am I wrong?  Let’s start a dialogue across the global community of writers 🙂 And please let me know if there’s anything else about writing and being an author which you guys would like me to write about!!

C-C xxx




Filed under C-C Lester, Unsigned Author Commentary, Writing

16 responses to “Don’t Forget the Day Job!!

  1. Right now I manage a store, which is probably one of the worst side jobs for someone pursuing a writing career. Tons of early mornings and late nights on my feet, dealing with people, phone calls, staff and numbers. It leaves me pretty exhausted by the time I get home.

    But at the same time dreams take tenacity. I can’t count how many late nights have turned into early mornings while I sat in front of this computer pushing this manuscript to its fullest potential. While a 9-5 would be a dream, I refuse to put my novel on the back burner. And I think it takes that kind of determination to see goals like publishing a novel come into fruition, no matter what job you work.

  2. Interesting post, and very true. I have a novel out (and a novella), but to most people I’m still just playing. And the tiny amount of royalties supports that LOL. I’m glad you’re doing something that doesn’t use up all your creativity. I’m amazed at the people who take day jobs in writing. Yikes! The last thing I want to do is write all day and then come home and write.

    Me? I’m disabled. I write full time, or as full as my body and energy allows. Writing is what keeps me connected to the world and sane.

    • I think most writers can empathise with writing keeping you sane, and I think these days the great thing about blogs and Twitter and the Internet in general is that these days writing isn’t a one-way street, it really can keep you connected with the outside world.
      Thanks so much for reading and commenting 🙂
      C-C xx

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  4. what a brilliant and thoughtful post, most people doing their day jobs arent doing what they love but i guess its striking the right balance and finding a place that you can sit in and be happy…

  5. This is an amazing post. I feel I would love to chat with you in real life about all this and life and jobs and worries . Wow. Great post. Following your blog from now on.
    By the way…maybe I’m not the brightest bulb…but what is a contractor exactly (I’m assuming its connected with law degree necessity?).

    • J

      oops…not sure how or why that “calmkindpeace” came up…but I’m “J” just commenting….funny little quirk happened there somehow.

  6. Thanks so much for sharing your story. Contract work is good, I’ve worked with a lot of contractors and they love it. They have to pay more taxes and take care of their medical and retirement, but they love the freedom.

    Hearing your thoughts have really given me something to think about.

    Thanks again.

  7. I thought it was great when I saw your message come across twitter because I love the topic. Kafka called them “bread jobs.” That’s what they are for me, and they provide some amazing material for my fiction writing at times.

  8. Tongue piercing? Wow. Sorry – got distracted there for a minute…
    Great thoughts! Really interesting to read this.
    I’ve never had a ‘proper job’ despite having, like you, a good education and degree.
    I was a songwriter before I was a writer and supplemented my income by playing gigs. My most lucrative were a regular slot at a golf club and some very entertaining afternoons at a local branch of McDonald’s where the manager installed a grand piano! I played all the usual functions too.
    It was hard work but well paid and usually a lot of fun. I haven’t done it in a while because I’m lucky enough to make a living from writing, but I like to think I could always go back to it if I wanted to. I always enjoyed the excuse to wear a fancy suit!

  9. Hi CC!

    Thanks for sharing. I’m coming at writing as a career from a different angle, having been in my day job now for over two decades. My original goal when I began writing seriously a year ago was to be well on my way in this new career (writing) by the time I’m eligible to retire from the first. Make sense? Anyway, what I hadn’t planned on was the all-consuming passion I have for writing. I love both my jobs now (and very thankful that the first one pays the bills while I hone my skills in the second). Happier than ever–and learning to function well on six hours sleep. Gotta learn to drink coffee, I guess.

    Best wishes with your writing. Sounds like your day-job will fit your lifestyle perfectly. 🙂

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  11. This got me thinking about my own relationship with writing and what “career” means v. a “calling.” See my blog post here:

  12. An interesting article I enjoyed immensely…perhaps because it reflects much of what I have thought of and strived for myself. My current job does not require more than 37 hours a week, I never take work home, and I get to use flexi-time for those days I really want to devote completely to writing. But it isn’t too boring a job, I’m mentally stimulated without being exhausted. Nevertheless I do sometimes feel pulled in two directions – the level headed engineer by day, the creative writer by night! Like all things, balance is vital.

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