Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Quitting the Day Job - What Could You Do If You Really Tried?

I'm having internet issues, which wasted most of my posting time, so tonight's post will be short. And what I'll do right now is throw out some thoughts which I'll follow up on later:

Every writer just wants to write. If only we had more time. If only we didn't have to work at the day job and do this and that. If wishes were horses then beggars would ride.

Today I wasted much of the day. I got scribbles on paper, and I argued with people on the internet, I dutifully went to the Bored of Trustees, er I mean the Board of Trustees meeting to support my union, and I got some shopping done....

At the same time, I was really jazzed about what very well may be some very nice sales numbers going on at Barnes and Noble, and very good returns on some article writing I did two years ago for eHow. And how these are both the kind of success which comes of slow and steady work.

And on getting home I thought about the following: what if I really could put into writing that I did on the day job? You can't ever know for real until after you've quit that you can do it, because as long as the day job is there, it's taking energy, and you're writing in the time you'd normally rest.

And, of course day jobs are different than writing. My day job is a customer service type job, and I don't have to self motivate all that much. Problems come to me. When things are slow, of course, I go out looking for trouble, but generally I never have to worry about getting "Instructional Lab Faculty's Block." Pretty much all day what needs to be done is right there in front of me. And much of it is in the form of questions. (Which sets me up for these low productivity days -- if someone asks me a question I answer it.)

Right now, a giant snow storm is headed our way, and the timing may well be just right to give us a snow day on Wednesday. That would normally be my long day at work. If I get that day off, what do I do with that free gift of time? What would YOU do?

Think about it on a larger scale too. Imagine that you did that exercise I gave you a week or so ago -- the one where you were supposed to write for a half hour of concentrated effort to find out how much you can write ina half hour. You did that one, right? You know what you can do in a half hour? So what happens if you are handed 6-10 hours? Or 40 hours a week?

What can you do?


Jack Badelaire said...

Funny - I've been contemplating this very question for about a week now.

I've got some job finagling in the works, but if that doesn't pan out into a transfer and promotion, I am seriously considering taking six months, really slimming down my expenses, and then taking a year off to write full time.

While it's a scary prospect, I feel that having that motivation (i.e., paying the bills) behind me may push me to write (a lot) more, write well, promote myself, and start making money doing what I want to do with my life.

The Daring Novelist said...

Yeah, I made a decision a while ago to try to split my time -- have a part time job which leaves more time for writing. That works until the wolf is at the door and then suddenly the day job gets more important....

I would think if you didn't have an option, though, hard times and stressful times might actually HELP focus the mind beautifully.

I call it making the leap from the lions mouth, and I'll probably post on it later. IMHO, indie publishing gives us a little more safety net for that than traditional publishing did -- because of the speed of the process.

a said...

Camille, your suggestion about measuring output is an excellent one. Everyone should do it. My opportunity was during NaNoWriMo, though I only had 20 days. However, it's a real eye opener to find out how many words you're capable of, when you have your nose to the grindstone.

The Daring Novelist said...


Thanks for posting! Yes, one of the great things you can take from activities like NaNo is a sense of what you can do. The big problem is that it so often doesn't hit at a time when you can actually test your endurance properly -- you may have other commitments which interfere.

I think everybody should try to find their own best time to try their endurance.

a said...

Hey, there's never a good time! LOL

Danyl said...

I don't recommend quitting the day job to write. I've done that for a year and a half. While, your writing could improve significantly in quality (if you stick to it) - you'll always feel this massive weight on your shoulders.

Between debts, dwindling funds, addictions (we all have one of some kind be it alcohol, media or whatever your preferred escapism) - it's a constant mental battle. You also must realize early on, what your limits are.

Some people can write fourteen hours. I personally, can only handle eight. Only on rare occasions, can I write twelve hours.

Ideally, when I work a day job I shoot for 2-4 hours for writing.

I would recommend, that you only take a month off. If you've got the determination, it's easy to get a hundred pages done in a week.

But, editing is another matter entirely. And, to get a well polished manuscript you may even want to consider paying a professional editor to go over it.

Oh, in regards to the mentioned assignment - My average, is 4-6 pages on a great hour. On a good hour, it's 3-4. On a bad hour, 1-2. I imagine that's pretty average? Or slightly below?

Anyways, that's my two cents on keeping the day job to write. I do apologize for the length of my comment. lol.

The Daring Novelist said...

Daryl -

Thanks for posting. Yes, you have to know what you're doing. I've been an entrepreneur, and come from an entrepreneurial family. I know what you talk of. (I've also been in writing for 30 years, I know about that one too.)

The thing about writing for a living is that time is so incredibly important. Indie publishing allows us to create a career in a part-time way before taking the leap from the lion's mouth. You have to know know what you can hack and what you can't.