There are several benefits to being a writer with a day job. At least, that’s what I remind myself when my regular work gets hectic and my writing is pushed to the bottom of the list. Unfortunately, the thing I am most passionate about is often set aside for career and family life considerations, leaving me frustrated at my inability get words on the page as regularly as I’d like. That’s when I have to remind myself of the reasons why having a day job while being an indie author has rewards worth remembering.
Because much of the writing I do is not for financial rewards, but rather publishing credits, free copies of journals, or some small recognition of my work, a steady income is essential. There is freedom in knowing that I don’t have to make my living from my writing. I can pay my mortgage and hydro bills without worrying when the next publisher will accept my latest piece. There is less pressure to produce work at a quick rate or send stories only to paying sources. I submit when I choose and consider it all a kind of practice, a stepping-stone towards my ultimate goal: to be a better writer. Publishing is just one step in that process instead of an end. With that in mind, I can write for the pleasure of it, sharing my stories with others who might have an interest while continuing to learn about my chosen craft.
I’m fortunate in that my day job lets me discuss my love of books and writing to (usually) willing listeners. A real win-win! Even better, the more I learn about writing and publishing, the more knowledge I can share with my students, especially those who are studying the craft of writing themselves. Their enthusiasm is electric; it motivates and inspires me
Does that mean I don’t dream of being a full-time writer? Of course I do. What writer doesn’t? But I’m realistic. I take pleasure in smaller accomplishments that others might not consider important. In fact, the most exciting paycheque I ever received was for an article I wrote that was published in a local magazine – it was the most satisfying $150 dollars I ever earned. Unfortunately, it was in the form of a direct deposit, so I missed the opportunity to hold the cheque in my hands. It wasn’t about the dollar amount, but the fact that someone outside my family and friends acknowledged my work and felt it was worthy for their readership.
The downside of being a writer with a day job is feeling the need to defend my choices. Many people think writing is a hobby, a phase that will pass when a new interest emerges. Those who are committed writers understand the challenge of protecting their writing time from constant interruptions: phone calls, emails, invitations. In the early days, I even left the house to “go to work” in order to get my writing done. Now, my husband and children rarely interfere when I’m in my office, my fingers tapping on the keyboard, my imagination racing to the next plot point. When my first review came out my mother said, “Wow! You’re really a writer.” It was nice to hear, but long coming.
Sometimes I wish I had become serious about writing twenty years ago. By now, I would be pretty good, I think. Instead, I started when I turned forty. Something about that milestone was freeing for me, a realization that I didn’t need anyone’s permission or acknowledgement. I no longer worried about somebody else’s idea of what my life should look like, so I started writing, again. By the time I am well into retirement, I hope to have developed a stronger voice, a more polished style, and a plethora of ideas that just demand to be written. And then I will write to my heart’s content. Not for money, but for the love of it. Until then, I’m living, teaching, writing and learning. What could be better than that?