Friday, November 24, 2017

Quitting Your Job to Write Full Time

A few years ago I wrote a blog called, “Why I Will Probably Never Be a Full Time Writer,”  Before you jump to conclusions, let me say it had nothing to do with sucking.

The realization came to me that when I had a routine, and somewhat of a “morning deadline,” I would be far more motivated to get things done. When I knew that I had all day, I’d have greater tendency to procrastinate, dink around, and wait until I got too tired to do it. Moreover, forcing myself into social settings is a lot of work into itself, and having a place where I am obligated to get out of the house and talk to be people saves me from being stir crazy and talking to myself.

Even if I did have the time and money to be a full time writer, would I really want it?

Well, yeah.

But I bring this up due to the interesting dependence being a writer has on being full-time. Many beginning authors want to know, “When can I quit my day job?”

I overheard a girl complaining about her boyfriend quitting his job (without telling her) to write his novel, claiming that he would sell it and be in the big bucks soon. Her bigger concern seemed to be how he stole all his ideas from her and then coldly reply with, “Writers draw from life!” whenever she pointed it out. She bemoaned how he would lie about her being the source at times, how he copied a character she’d proudly written in college, and even if he did admit it to her, he’d lie to his friends. He demanded that she read through it for content and copy editing, so it made it impossible for her to just ignore it.

When she threatened to break it off with him, he yelled at the that he was SO CLOSE to the big time.

Online, I had a discussion with someone who wanted to know how to find an editor. He wasn’t sure if he wanted to go into self-publishing or traditional publishing, but the truth was he just “simply didn’t have the time” to edit it himself. He wanted to get the book out there so he could make some money to quit his job and therefore write more.

When I pointed out that self-publishing takes a lot of effort and money and traditional publication requires you to do a lot of edits yourself (outside of the ones you should be doing before you get accepted) he said, “I didn’t know that!” He ended up deciding on hiring an editor and going the traditional route.

Back when Dean Koontz was first starting out, he and his wife made a deal. She gave him a deadline in which she would support him financially giving him time to make a career out of writing. He did it.

A friend of mine complains when her aspiring writer of a husband asks for alone time to go write, sticking her with the baby for an extra hour after her shift. When she approaches him, he’s online looking at Youtube. I said, “Well, to be fair, that’s what writing looks like for me too.”

Authors are approached by hordes of people claiming, “You know, I want to be a writer, but I just don’t have the time. When I retire, I’ll get around to it!” and then find ourselves in writers groups with sixty-year-olds who will only offer the same first three pages every meeting.

How much of us actually need the time to write? Most of us don’t need more of it, we need to use what we have better. We need dedication. We need will power, motivation, diligence.

I try to write five pages a day. If I don’t get it done, I have to make up for it later. My own caveat, however, is that if I genuinely did not have any time to do it, I can exempt myself from the daily dose. I have only exempted myself on four occasions in the last six years. One was for a holiday because I told myself to ease up more. Another was when I lost a day when I moved to Australia. Another was an entire day dedicated to collaborating with a musician for a musical with only one lunch break out of the waking hours.

I don’t recommend being this strict on yourself. Sometimes it is more detrimental than good (other days, it works very well) and I think forgiveness and flexibility is key to achieving your goals. My point is, more so, that when I have a day that I didn’t write, there were a lot of times I could have been writing.

I know people who have several children, a full time job, and still manage to get in some work. I know times where I had all the hours of the day assigned to nothing… and nothing is exactly what I did.

Quitting our jobs to write full time is a great castle in the sky. Sometimes it’s just an excuse. Sometimes it’s exactly what you need. Sometimes it’s the goal the continues you forward even when you’re more interested in sending the manuscript and the computer it’s attached to through the window.

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