Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about this interesting notion that the ultimate goal of being a writer is to quit your day job. The extreme busy-ness and stress of my day job has brought the idea to mind, but not for obvious reasons (as in: can’t I quit yet?).
I’ve watched as writers of my acquaintance announce that they are being forced to give up their dreams and get a job, as if that’s the worst thing in the world. They’ve found that book sales aren’t paying the rent, or they can’t get a second- or third- (or any) book deal, or other writing-related work is falling off.
As a woman who has worked steadily/hard for three decades, I take offense that all this effort during the work day is somehow not as noble as that of the penniless scribbler, who gives up everything to pursue his or her art.
On the contrary.
It is very noble to roll up your sleeves and do what it takes to pay the bills.
Kahlil Gibran wrote about this very thing. And while there are many days that it’s hard to think that my day job is “love made visible,” I can totally agree with Gibran that ” if you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of those who work with joy.”
“For if you bake bread with indifference, you bake a bitter bread that feeds but half man’s hunger.
And if you grudge the crushing of the grapes, your grudge distils a poison in the wine.
And if you sing though as angels, and love not the singing, you muffle man’s ears to the voices of the day and the voices of the night.”
Okay, my job doesn’t involve any baking, grape-crushing, or singing, but I do get the occasional joy of having given someone exactly what they needed — a helping hand, an answer, some advice — and in that way get the kind of fulfillment out of it that Gibran speaks of.
The business side of writing is work and it’s a tougher business than you’d think — promoting your work, keeping a website going, having a thick-enough skin so that criticism doesn’t sink you — these kinds of non-writing related tasks take up a lot of energy and time. Just like a day job. And somehow you need to scrape up the time and energy to write the next book or article or poem or story.
So what’s the difference really? The job of novelist doesn’t typically provide a steady, reliable income and the employer (you) can’t afford benefits. Every vacation is a working vacation. You might as well work, in an honest-to-god day job, and get paid for the toiling. You’ll still have time to write. If you really want to.
So there’s my piece about day jobs and writing. If you are keeping or getting a day job to pay the bills, it’s a good thing. Be okay with it. Everyone has to work. That’s why it’s called work. That’s why it’s hard, not every day, but most days.
Speaking of working vacations, in three weeks, I’ll have some time off to finish revising the next Arvo Thorson mystery. I’m hanging in there to make it through, envious of friends and family who are NaNoWriMo-ing this year. Washed Up started out that way.
In the meantime, I’ve made good on my promise to donate Dakota County honorarium to the Crisis Nursery. It was easy. The work they do is not so easy, but I’m hoping my contribution, and others I’ve sent their way, somehow help.
Finally a plug: the list of upcoming events. Come on out and support a hard working business woman, mother, wife, friend, and sometime philosopher, who manages to write novels in her spare time. You’ll be glad ya did!
Washed Up Events
November 14, 7:00 pm
607 East Lake Street
Washed Up reading and book signing at Minnesota’s oldest independent book store.
November 19, 9:00 am – 2:00 pm
WEST ST. PAUL, MN
St. Stephen’s Holiday Boutique
1575 Charlton Street
West St. Paul, MN 55118
December 22, 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
12530 Fremont Ave. #200
Zimmerman, MN 55398
Looking forward to seeing friends and signing books at Minnesota’s newest book store. Just a few days before Christmas!
February 15, 4:30 pm – 6:00 pm
Totally Criminal Cocktail Hour
The Dock Cafe
425 East Nelson Street
Stillwater, MN 55082
This monthly event for local mystery writers and fans always includes lively discussion and a great time. Reservations are required; call Valley Bookseller at 651-430-3385. Appetizers are included in the cost of $10.00. A cash bar will also be available.