The Long Haul

I just got back from our company’s annual meetings.

Wait, isn’t this a writing blog?

Yep, I’m a writer, but I’m also a comms professional with the largest building supply company in the country.

You’re writing about your day job?

Not really. That’s not my “day job” or my “please-god-let-writing-take-off-so-I-can-get-out-of-here” job. It is a job that I love, that I focus on, that I sometimes spend time on outside of business hours to the detriment of my writing because I’m passionate about it. And that makes me a better writer. Let’s jump into why.

Happy Writers are Productive

When I finish a day at work, sometimes I’m tired but most of the time I’m happy, feeling fulfilled, and energized for my other activities whether it’s writing, music, or anything else. I’m not tormented by some slight, real or imagined. I’m not worried about whether I’m going to be fired, or whether someone at work is undercutting me.

When you’re carrying that stress around then yes, it may motivate you to pound out the words so you can escape but more than likely, those words aren’t going to be great because your head isn’t in the game; it’s stuck at work, stuck in a whirlwind of anger and resentment and fear and frustration. And even if you can somehow overcome it, put all that aside, you’re generally going to be in a bad headspace. Even if you can somehow battle through to do great writing, the cost to your mental health will be enormous both from being in an unhappy job and from repressing all that so you can write. Even with one eye on escape, the time you spend there has a cost.

But anguish! It fuels great art!

I’ve been in the arts for most of my life, and professionally for a few decades and let me tell you, the tortured great artist is by-and-large bullshit. Great art takes focus, and having a healthy savings account, dental coverage, and knowing where your next meal comes from is far better for your focus than torment that makes you dream of escape. And speaking of escape …

Most Writers aren’t Full-time

Award-winners. Best sellers. People with TV and movie deals. Most of them do other stuff to keep the rent or mortgage covered and keep food coming in.

Let me say that again. Most writers can’t afford to just write.

Some teach, some have Patreons, some may be retired or have generational wealth or a rich spouse, but a very large number of them have a regular 9-5 job, much like the one you may dream of escaping from. So if you see fiction writing as the escape hatch from your life, you are almost certainly going to have more luck just finding a job you enjoy more.

If you put in the work, and I mean really put in the work, you will most likely find some form of success. It might be short fiction in magazines, it might be self-publishing, it might be a traditional novel contract, but if you keep at it, the odds are you will at some point tick that “published author” box. It might take a decade or more, but you will probably get there in some form.

You will almost certainly NOT make a comfortable secure living writing. Average full-time writer income reports vary, but most put it somewhere around $20,000 to $35,000 a year. That’s the average in a world that has people like Stephen King, Nora Roberts, James Paterson, etc., so the math means you will probably NOT make in that $20K-$35K range. Yay, averages. Plus inflation is increasing in most places in the world as I write this, and your job may give you a cost of living raise. Publishers almost certainly won’t.

But even putting aside why you might write, let’s talk about what you write.

Jobs are Awesome Writing Fodder

Now, don’t be that person that puts your coworkers literally into your books. First of all, dick move. Second of all, it’s lazy writing.

However, your coworkers and your day-to-day experiences will (surprise!) provide you with SO MUCH material and inspiration. I remember one line I heard at a company dinner that encapsulates a worldview so accurately, I’ve had to avoid stuffing in a character just so I could use it. But I promise you, I’ll use it one day; it’s the perfect (de)motivational quote.

Mannerisms, conflicts, aspirations, shared moments, team building and desperation and all the range of success and failure. It’s all going to be there, and it will provide great fodder no matter what genre you write in. Your VP of Finance might be the perfect inspiration for a king in your epic fantasy, or an admiral in your space opera. That person on a meteoric rise who suddenly gets fired out of seemingly-nowhere. The co-workers that went from feuding to friends-to-the-end.

And the character will feel more real, more alive, because you gathering fresh info all the time rather than spending 12 hours a day browsing the internet writing, which makes all your characters sound similar. Writers need inputs, and a job can give you tons of inputs every day that you can turn around and put straight into your writing.

And you’ll be able to focus, thanks to dental coverage.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *