C h a z z W r i t e s . c o m

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Writing and the Day Job: When dreams don’t come true on schedule

Let’s get a myth out of the way immediately.

Some writers say it’s a rule that a day job keeps writers in touch with the real world and, to be good, writers need real world interactions to draw upon for their fiction. Maybe that’s true for them and their process. I had enough drama to draw from before I left home as a teenager. I deal in fiction. Imagination and Google are more useful to me than interactions with actual humans in Meat Space.

Meat Space humans are difficult for me to deal with. I see the world differently and they don’t all get my sense of humor. I’m a little weird and sometimes I have to make myself shut up so all the weirdness doesn’t escape at once and scare people away. In books, it’s easier. I’m supposed to be strange when I write. If you’re reading this blog, there’s a good chance you relate to that. When we go corporate, no one’s supposed to suspect our minds are active.

Even when I’m lying, I try to tell the truth.

I lie to myself about a few things, but I’m honest for readers, sometimes painfully so. That’s why I’m unveiling some vulnerability and complexity here. I wrote a post last night about going back to a day job. Fourteen years ago, I was in the same office, doing sort of the same thing. (Long story.) The point is, in the post I wrote to readers, I was emphasizing the positive. It wasn’t a lie when I wrote it. It’s not a lie as I type this.

However, sometimes my enthusiasm for my return to the real world is a lie. Starting up yet another business is creative and exciting and stressful. When my enthusiasm is down and my pride is butt-hurt, there’s a reason for that. It’s called Entitlement. As in “False sense of”. I have that affliction sometimes. I’m not proud of it. In down moments, I do feel bad about needing to return to work.

But I feel worse about the sacrifices my family has had to make to support my dream. There’s tension when the bills come in. We don’t talk about it, but we know. We don’t take vacations like all the kids’ friends do. Every purchase feels like a commitment to a serious investment. How long will this coat last? Is the van’s muffler a ghost yet? The living room rug absolutely must be burned and replaced. As mentioned in my previous post, poverty sucks.

The Revealing Question

I ran into a friend and former client who got the news I was returning to my old workplace. “Are you okay with that?” he asked.

The question was gentle and well-meaning. He knows that, for me, the last two years dedicated to writing have been the best two years of my life. When I’m at the keyboard, I’m home and having fun creating chaos. I’ve used those two years (mostly) wisely. Ah, but the question. “Are you okay with that?” Depending on my mood, it’s loaded with should haves and what ifs and worries about dealing with an unknown public.

If This Plague of Days wasn’t taking off, I’d have a huge problem with my return. It would feel like capitulation and a backwards step. I’d feel like a loser if not for the seeds of success very slowly budding. I’ve also published ten books in two years. My readership is growing. The timing would have been ideal if the growth I see now happened a year or so ago. But having a hit isn’t like that and hits don’t last, either. There are too many variables and they aren’t all under my control. To pay the bills, I have to do what I did two years ago. I’m risking starting another business.

I’m not quitting writing.

To take things to the next level, I need to have more money coming in to support my family and my imprint, Ex Parte Press. The schools seem to request more cash for projects, school trips and class support almost weekly. Bookbub promotions are not cheap. And yeah, that living room rug is a bio-hazard that no carpet cleaner can cure. Back to work I go.

The Good News

The day job isn’t so demanding in the number of hours it takes.

I can write between clients and still be very productive. In many ways, my day job will be an ideal complement. I can control my time and I still work for myself. I’ll have two businesses. That will undoubtedly diminish some book productivity, but I’ll still have more time than most writers so I should not, must not, whine.

It must also be said that in my other, newer business, I’m really good at it. There are much worse things to be doing with my time.Β It’s noble work that helps people and yes, I am expert. If not for that expertise and writing, I’d be looking on Monster.com for “Hired assassin”. I’ve considered dog-walking, but only if it was 1980 when nobody had to pick up after their dogs.

We do what we must. We move forward. We make what fun we can from whatever we do. That sense of entitlement with which I am sometimes afflicted? It doesn’t serve me. It doesn’t help any of us. I’m earning my readers, one at a time. Though it is deep and dark, we are finding each other in the forest. It’s going to be fine.

~ These are my books. This is the new business. Tonight, as I write this, I feel no chagrin.

Filed under: author platform, authors and money, book marketing, getting it done, self-publishing, Writers, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

10 Responses

  1. Megan says:

    I tend to dream about quitting my job so I could write and do other creative things all day. But I’m the kind who needs to work in order to get out into the world (aside from making money, of course). I get too lost in my head when I’m alone too much so I need to get into reality by having a full time job.

  2. An honest and insightful observation about a new stage in your life as provider and writer. Life is always flux. We keep wanting to believe there is a place of rest, a place where inertia serves us. It just doesn’t happen to be so. The more of life we allow ourselves to experience, the more depth we can bring to our work. Onward-that’s a good direction. You’ve found it.

  3. It’s really hard having a full-time job and trying to be a writer at the same time. I struggle with it sometimes, but I’ve had to focus on what I want to achieve. I write during my lunch hour every day and when I get home at night. It’s hard, but I keep plugging away at it. Who knows what will happen?

  4. Wishing you every success – it’s a shame that all your online friends do not live close by as we all could surely benefit from your second business too!

  5. acflory says:

    I’m in much the same position as you, and I’ll be going back into training in the IT area. Here’s hoping we both manage to combine business and passion. πŸ™‚

  6. mazielane says:

    I so entirely appreciate this message. Your candor and openness is refreshing and rich. This human condition of having to perform and maintain myriad ‘personas’ in the meat people world is something we can all relate to, and also empathize with. I tend to refrain as much as possible from lots of actively-peopled events, preferring my own exciting version of solitude. I am lucky that after having experienced mind-bogglingly incredible life-experiences I can remain behind the lines of unenviable activity in the working and walking-amongst-others world-place. It’s an honor to be a sharing part of, however small, your world. Your writing has given so much delight to us, your readers. I look eagerly forward to much more to come. What you write in the blogs and pods and what-have-you, it’s also such a lift to be privy to this ongoing writing. Your sense of humor is too marvelous for words! I wish you all the best. Also, just in case, at http://www.overstock.com they have amazingly affordable rugs for sale. Really nice ones, too. My Granny used to weave rugs from old pieces of clothing. They were amazingly utile and beautiful. Just a thought, my friend.

  7. Mary Maddox says:

    I worked for over 30 years teaching at a university. It was a decent job for a writer some discretionary time and no work in the summer. But since I had no tenure, I carried a heavy teaching load and got no sabbaticals. A new prof and talented writer, hearing about those 30 years, said, “If I had to do that I’d kill myself.”

    Lucky for me I didn’t. I practiced my craft as much as possible and became the best teacher I could. Now I’m retired with a pension and some money in the bank. Finally I can write full time.

    You’re a good man and a talented writer, Robert. You’ll persevere.

  8. Your transparency and honesty about the topic is humbling, Robert. Writing for a living sure looks doable when you hear other writers talk about it but there’s a steep uphill when you’re doing it (with pockets of sweet relief but still an uphill.) I am there too, and putting more work in it each day, learning and hoping, and making good use of that thick skin I never knew I had. Thank you for this post πŸ™‚

  9. Chazz says:

    Thanks for reading and all your kind words. This is an issue I’m sure I’ll continue to go back and forth on as we all do, trying to find the balance of work, bills, more work, play and family. I really appreciate all the warmth.

    And Mazie, thanks for the thought. I have my heart set on cork or bamboo tile so the kids can’t destroy it and we’ll never have to replace it again. Also good if we ever go insane and decide to learn tap.

  10. […] Writing and the Day Job: When dreams don’t come true on schedule (chazzwrites.com) […]

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