Monday, June 22, 2009

Day job versus writing full time

"You're a writer?" The man I had just met grinned. "And you work full time? So I guess you're just waiting for that big success before you can quit, eh?"

No. Not really. The older I get, the more I realize it's all about balance. I need to keep a good mix of all ingredients in my life in balance if I want to remain happy . . . work, family, writing, sleep, food, sun (not necessarily in that order!). I can't imagine to quit writing because it fills a hole in my soul and gives me a satisfaction nothing else equals. But I can't imagine working from home for weeks and months on end either. If find so much inspiration in my day job as product manager in marketing, so many entertaining things. For example . . . if I didn't work, I would never have met my former boss who started to twirl his eyebrows whenever he was deep in thought. They made a scratchy sound I will never forget, and one day soon, that little habit will crop up somewhere in my novels.

I'll never forget the Italian taxi driver who drove me through the dismal suburbs of Milan on a rainy spring morning and suddenly burst into song. After a few startled moments, I joined him (under my breath!). Or the waiter at the hotel in Paris, who controlled the breakfast room by gliding through it, his glasses pushed high on his short-shorn hair, head thrown back as if he was star-gazing. I'll never forget the international marketing meeting where heads of countries jumped up and stared to shout at each other, emotions raw. So no, I don't want to quit my day job. It's a constant source of inspiration, and I know that I would prowl around the house and make everybody unhappy if I were cooped up too long. Of course I wished it was even better balanced. A little less day job, a little more sun, and a lot more time to write. Right. But all in all, I'm happy.

I just have to pay attention to one thing: Often, when I write down the things I see and hear, just the way they are, people say, "Tone it down. That's way too unrealistic." It happened recently, when I described a migraine I once had. I didn't invent anything; I just wrote down the pain I felt -- of liquid fire sloshing around in my head. But my editor said we didn't want to give readers the feeling that the heroine was about to have a major brain seizure. I blinked when I heard that. It was nothing but the truth . . . But I didn't demur and made it softer. Funny enough, when I invent things, everybody swallows them without batting an eyelid. So now I take life and tone it down . . . or add little things in the plot all around to increase the verisimilitude . . .

How about you? Do you feel that your day job is a burden or an inspiration? Or both?


Jean said...

I've been at my day job too long. It's starting to be a burden. So, I'm seriously looking for ways I can work less at the day job and more at fiction writing.

Kerby Jackson said...

Different strokes for different folks.

I think there are a lot of writers out there who would like to quit their existing day job. There are also just as many who would not quit that job even if a six figure book deal fell in their lap.

Ultimately it comes down to whether or not a person likes their job. Writers who like their jobs or find some inspiration in them typically keep those jobs, where as the ones who detest their job would like nothing more than to quit.

From a personal standpoint, it has been YEARS since I've worked a normal job (ie. I don't work for "the man" or have to punch of a time clock), but what I've been doing for the last ten years is getting "a little old".

Personally, I'd like to quit and split my time between writing and hunting for gold, even though the latter is a lot more physically demanding than what I'm doing now.

Elisabeth Rose said...

I have 3 part time jobs--3 different professions. Musician/music teacher, TaiChi instructor, and writer.

I've never had an office job, only ever been self employed, except I teach Tai Chi classes for an academy. I love the interaction with a large variety of people of all ages and professions. I'll be able to continue doing that for years and years -- into my seventies at least.

Most of my music students are between 10 and 18 which is fun.

Like Beate I enjoy mixing with people and pinching personalities and character quirks for my characters.

Beate Boeker said...

Kerby, I believe you're right. It completely depends on the job you do, and if you like it! I didn't get the part with gold-hunting! Is that a sort of Western-Joke?

Jean, I understand that you feel you wish to quit if it's a burden. I keep my fingers crossed for you that you'll soon find a solution that will make you happy!

Liz, I'm impressed - three jobs. And all so different - plenty of "inspiration-sources" around you!

Kathye Quick said...

We all want that big success story that would help us actually quit our day job, but for right now we all ahevt to pay the bills.

My day job just got more complicated, so I'll try to lose myself in my stories now often.

Burden or inspiration? I guess that depends on the day and time!!!

Zelda Benjamin said...

I would love to make enough money to give up my day job and write full time, but I don't see that happening soon. I do, however like my job as an ER nurse. I always send one of my characters to the hospital.
Working with different generations of nurses enlightens me as to what's important to them. That is a big help since my characters usually are young. So- for now I'll just keep things the way they are or at least until that big contract shows up.

Beate Boeker said...

Zelda, being an ER nurse certainly makes you see many dramas you can use well . . . though I imagine that it's also a draining job.