Articles About Authors with Day Jobs:
Lapham's Quarterly - Dayjobs
Huffington Post - 11 Authors Who Kept Their Dayjobs
Writer's Digest - Before They Were Famous
Mental Floss - Early Jobs of 24 Famous Writers
Buzzfeed - Famous Authors and Their Dayjobs
Did You Click Buzzfeed - That Was a Test
Stop Reading Buzzfeed Articles - Go Write
No Seriously - Go Write
So this was my first week back at work. About two minutes after I stepped into the building, I started a conversation with a co-worker and mentioned my writing room.
"Oh, are you still writing that series?" she asked.
"Yes?" I said.
Then she gave the look. If you're a writer with a day job, you know what look I'm talking about. It's the look that reminds you how your dreams are silly little things.
It's difficult to be in an environment where no one knows how serious you're taking this, how hard you work to keep both the day job and the night job going, or who you really are and where you're going.
I once said to a friend that there is a fine line between the deluded and the successful when it comes to art.
So it's important to remember, fellow dayjobbers, that our coworkers do not define us. Our daily chores do not make us failures. And if we want it bad enough, we need to remember that there are a hundred thousand people who did it before us. If we want this for ourselves, then we need to stick to it and stand on our own and make it a priority in our lives.
So here, I'm making rules for us:
1. If you have time to write, then write. One author shared his story of writing seven hours straight on the days he had off. You don't get a day off if this is what you want.
2. Don't worry about how others define you. Remember, everyone has a job and no one's life is completely encompassed in their job.
3. Don't feel guilty for taking time to make your writing a priority. You cannot always live for other people.
4. No one has a for-sure success in the future. Everyone, even J.K. Rowling and Margaret Atwood, has at some point felt like a loser and wondered if it was worth it. So make it worth it (and by the way, Rowling was on welfare/worked as a teacher before that, and Atwood was a coffee shop barista).
5. Set deadlines for yourself and do not allow yourself to waver or come up short. Give it your best shot so you won't regret anything.
6. Ask those around you in your personal life to support you. If they love you, they will support you.
7. Make friends in your writing community, even if it's just online. In 2014, I don't think it's "just online," I think it's a huge resource.
8. Give yourself a writing space or a place to go write. Turn off the internet. Focus. If you can't write, then read. Blog. Network. But for God's sake, do not Buzzfeed.
9. Believe in yourself. Advocate for yourself. Love yourself.
10. Finally, submit. Nothing will come of you just sitting there type type typin'. Even if you get a rejection, you're having a conversation with the external writing world.
Have a great year, everyone. And if you need a day job writer friend, you know where to find me.
I started writing one of my books in 1999. While other books have been completed, I am still revising this particular manuscript even today.
You have probably been in a similar position with something you’ve written or are still writing or will always be writing. You have your friends go from being excited about your magnum opus to being sad because they think you’re stuck like a crazy person in a padded room. “You think maybe you can send it off now? No? Okay.”
But hey, how long did it take to write Gone with the Wind? A long time; ten years to be exact. So maybe sometimes it takes a while to get something right.
But hey, how long can you wait until the earth has passed on and your book is no longer relevant? So maybe you need to just give up or get it out there.
The thing about writing is that there’s no one sitting there telling you when it’s ready. There’s no real deadline except for the one you set for yourself. So you can keep pushing it back. You keep learning, so your manuscript can keep growing, right?
When is it time to let go? That’s what we’re going to focus on today. In answering this question, maybe you should first answer these questions:
Why am I still writing this book?
Do you still get something out of writing this book? There is definitely a script or two that I just gave up on because it didn’t matter to me or the world anymore. One of these was a play that was a thinly-veiled metaphor for the 2008 Election (and also my pining after a young man who broke up with me a month prior to me writing said play). But a year ago, I went and looked back at this poor play and decided never to work on it again. Why? Well, because I can barely remember what that heartbreaker looks like, and the 2008 Election was in 2008. So I’m not really getting anything out of it, and neither would the world. It’s best to let it lie and let go.
However, the best manuscripts are timeless, to both ourselves and the world. Genres and hot-topics come and go, but we will always enjoy reading something like Lovely Bones or The Color Purple. Pieces about the universal human condition have a little longer shelf life. But don't ride on that one comforting fact; if the reason you're still writing this book is because you're scared, you need to let it flutter its wings and fly.
Is it worth it?
Do you love this book enough to keep going? If you’ve grown a lot as a writer over the years, you may have to start over from scratch. Are you willing to do that to make it the best it can be? Or is it best to just let it be what it is? I know this is an issue for a lot of graduate students who grow exponentially after starting their studies. Honestly, I have no answer. I've revised many an old manuscript if I love it enough, but that brings us back to the question at hand. Is it worth it?
Is the clock ticking?
Ah, the shelf life again. If you were writing a vampire novel, your ship has sailed by this point. Breaking Dawn II premiered two years ago, and how many successful vampire movies have there been since? Even the dystopian schooner is breaking off in the distance. We’re now looking at alternative historical novels. So are you running out of time? Is the pot boiling over and the chicken over cooking? Is the insert another colloquialism here? If so, then maybe it’s just time to let it breathe and have agents see it before the agents don’t want to see it anymore?
Why haven’t you sent it off yet?
Nothing is ever going to be perfect. Your manuscript is never going to be what you want it to be. Are you holding your manuscript hostage because it has holes and issues you need to fix … or are you just scared? If you’re just scared, get over it and just send it out!
If you still believe in a project, don’t give up on it. But make sure that you’re willing to put in those ten years to make it what it should be. And if you lose interest, it’s totally okay to let go. Sometimes we have projects that just need to die. Sometimes projects are nothing more than stepping stones to better projects.
What’s the longest time you’ve spent on a manuscript? When do you think it’s time to quit? When do you think it’s time to send?
What is this?
Dawson is an editor and writer and MFA student at Stonecoast. She writes stuff.