Monday, November 9, 2009

If Not For the Day Job

I want to talk about Day Jobs. Day Jobbery as Mr. Lake likes to say. There are some sharp differences between Full Time Writers and Day Jobbers. Let’s examine some of those.

It’s hard watching full time writers through blogs and Twitter--they get so much done in just a few days...and they squander so many hours on silly crap. Often, I think to myself, “If only I had the luxury of that much time...I could draft a book in month. I could finish a book in three. A couple years of that pace and I would have at least a few successful books out there.”

The implicit assumption here is that I would be a more successful writer If Not For the Day Job. But is this true?

Basically, I spend the majority of my time and mental energy in a different field, trading time and talent for a paycheck. The money is nice. There are other benefits as well. But is it worth it?

Let’s examine the merit or lack thereof of writing full time, vs. writing in addition to another profession. I will look at several factors:
  • Writing/Productivity

  • Experience/Knowledge

  • Interesting Characters


Full Time Writers get to set their own schedule. They can spend hours, days, weeks researching. They can put in enough hours to finish any size project in a reasonable amount of time. They have the luxury (advantage?) of completing a project while the passion and the core of the idea are still fresh in their minds. Best of all, they can produce several books in a year.

As a part time writer, it takes weeks to get simple revisions done. Months to get a draft done. Years to finish a single book. At this point, it would appear that all the cards are stacked in favor of the full time writer.


Full Time Writers are versed in writing. Any other knowledge comes primarily from other books...research. For the most part they have little experience or in-depth knowledge outside of writing, especially those who wiled away their education on BFAs and MFAs (though sometimes those beloved souls can string pretty words together...all in a row).

Day Jobbers bring all the experience and knowhow of their profession to the table. Take my Day Job for example. I am versed in a profession, a culture, multiple technologies, and I am plugged into emerging trends and technologies as they happen...not months or years after the fact when it’s captured in a book. However, this depth will only be in one field, one facet of life. For the rest, Day Jobbers have to find time to do the research, and having less time available, the advantage seems to go to the FTW again.

Interesting Characters

Full time writers work alone. They may meet interesting people, but only the social butterflies really do much of this, and most writers tend to be a bit on the introverted side.

Day Jobbers are surrounded daily by fascinating, quirky, ridiculous, and sometimes ridiculously intelligent people. All of whom are fodder for characters and interesting studies in human nature and interaction.

Having a day job puts a writer into slow motion, but there appear to be many advantages to Day Jobbery. I don’t see either path as being the ‘best’ as both have advantages and disadvantages.

What do you think?

1 comment:

thewritelife2 said...

I think both have an advantage. Full time have more time (unless they have children) and day jobbers get more material every day because they are around people. Yet online networking (a requirement) does give some good material, too, but not the little habits people have that you can't see online.

I think it is more challenging to write as a day jobber. However, I do not intend to take years on my first novel. I am setting a deadline for myself--next June. I am practicing for the day I actually get lucky enough to have a contract with a deadline.

Now...second problem...dealing with the remote control and procrastination. lol.