Don’t Quit Your Day Job

Don’t quit your day job.

Don’t quit your day job. That’s probably the most over-used piece of advice that I’ve ever been given as a writer. Unfortunately, it’s also probably the most wise. In fact, Ivan Coyote, one of my writing idols in terms of both productivity and longevity said it in an interview I saw a little while ago. This, of course, means it must be true.


Unless it isn’t.

My day job is actually an evening job. I used to have a day job, but I decided that there wasn’t enough room in my life for a novel and a day job with commitments, so I changed to an evening job. It was a good plan. I could write all day, go to work, and still have some of the evening free to relax.


The best laid plans.

But it didn’t work like that. First, I had to adjust to a whole new timetable. Writing all day left me with no energy to work at my paid job, which had a knock-on effect on the next day’s writing. Six months in, I’ve finally settled in to a routine which seems to work. This mainly involves writing when I used to sleep, and sleeping when I used to write. But there are always little spanners threatening to jab themselves in to the works of an otherwise good routine.


Like life.

This week, I’ve been working overtime in my day job. I have hardly written a single word. But it has taught me something important, something that, next time I up my working hours I’ll be able to use.


Writing matters.

Just write. I’ve abandoned so much writing time this week because I like to write for an hour straight and half an hour didn’t seem long enough. Now, I get that even five minutes can be precious. It can be a breakthrough in a sub plot or a piece of dialogue that moves the story along beautifully. Writing at the point of exhaustion, once you learn to ignore your brain, can conjure up phrasing that ordinarily would never occur to me. We all lead such busy lives, our writing time is precious. From now on, I am not wasting a single second of it, even if that means writing in my head and repeating it to myself until I can write things down.


Ivan and her fellow advisors were right. Don’t quit your day job. Or, not yet, anyway. Just learn to make it work for you.


Helen Dring is a fiction writer from Liverpool, England. She is studying for an MA in Creative Writing and is currently writing her first novel. She likes fairy tales, ghost stories and modern history.

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