This week, I read a very interesting roundtable article by Liz Entman Harper on The Morning News. In it, seven published writers talk about how they continue writing while still having a full-time, 9-to-5 job. This is a question that has plagued me since I started working: How can I follow my dreams of being an author and still keep the stability of a traditional job with an office and a regular paycheck? For years, I thought my ideal career would be as a full-time novelist, but now I’m not so sure.
“Overall, I love my job, but I also love the writing I do on the side. It can keep me going when things aren’t going well or I’m feeling stuck. My job also directly influences and impacts the content for my personal writing projects and gives me credibility with my audience. I also think my personal writing helps me be a better leader and a better creative at work. In other words, I need both.”
Reading this article reminded me that we don’t all become overnight sensations. Waiting around to become the next J.K. Rowling is impractical. It is far more likely that my writing career will have to coexist with my day-to-day, pay-the-bills career. And that’s okay.
For nearly two months last year, I worked as a freelance writer. I was working from home and it nearly drove me crazy. It turns out that I’m not cut out to be a hermit. I need human interaction. It gives me material for my work and gives me a break from the boredom of sitting at home alone trying to think of something to type.
The upsides of regular work — steady paycheck, ability to hold one’s head up high as a productive member of society — also come with downsides. After a long day at my 9-to-5, I’m often too tired to write when I get home. A lot of my creative energy gets siphoned off at work, leaving little left over for personal projects.
But those limitations can be opportunities. Limited time forces me to skip over writer’s block (there isn’t time to not write when I should be writing) and get straight to work. It forces me to focus my efforts into concentrated ingots of golden prose. It’s what the writers in the article termed “pushing an elephant into a Volkswagen.” This huge and important thing only gets a little bit of space, which gives you the incentive to be creative about how you balance both worlds — the personal and the professional.
In the long-run, I’ll probably always have a day job in addition to my writing. It may not be as glamorous as famous bestselling novelists, but it gives me balance. And even if I breakout and become a bestselling writer someday, I don’t think I’d ever be inclined to give that balance up.
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Jonny Eberle is a writer with a day job that helps support his writing habit. You can follow him on Twitter.