On Day Jobs and Starving Artists


Chuck Wendig wrote a blog post on what it takes to become a full-time writer. There’s some good information in there.


It as a good article and I concur with most of what he says. Thanks for sharing.


This needs to be shouted from the rooftops:

Art needn’t be made in discomfort. There is no shame in comfort, in paying your bills, in eating food and enjoying the shade from a ceiling which itself is underneath a roof.


I find it realistic enough. It speaks about the real struggles of writers like myself who have to work day jobs to make ends meet–until someday…our efforts pay off and our books start generating a nice bit of income.

I have one book published myself, but I find that one won’t cut the mustard. I have to get more books out. Which means…I have to keep working to provide the financial means to afford more book edits.

The irony about this guy is that I did a lot of things he did…but in reverse. I wrote full time while on disability. Or unemployment. (Or tried to anyways.) Or state assistance that gave us a set amount every month, so it could give me some freedom to pursue my writing and knock out a few books.

But now…?

I have to work full time, and write even less. That’s the trade off to being a writer and author working day jobs.

But presently, I’m more worried about losing my job than going to back to writing full time.

That’s the only difference between me and Chuck. :slight_smile:


I’d say it’s hard to create art when you’re starving, homeless and depressed. Not impossible, but extremely difficult. Writing before/after work/sleep is actually doable, with some discipline. I used to have a 50 minute commute on the train into the city so I’d sit there with my cruddy laptop (mind you, I lived far enough out that I always got a seat).

Now I’m a full-time writer (and embarrassingly unsuccessful compared to many who write around jobs haha). But I can only do this because of my husband’s support. If he didn’t make 6 times what I could in a year, you can bet your arse I’d be in a 9-to-5 right now.

Having a job that keeps you alive doesn’t stop you creating good art. And writing all day every day isn’t always a good way to earn money. I can definitely tell you this. xD


One point here that Chuck mentions in passing that’s really important is health care - particularly for us Americans. Our system is miserably awful, and the whole rotten edifice is built around employment. Most Americans get their insurance through their employer. So long as the overriding imperative of the American health care system is to transfer wealth from sick people and their employers to rich people who own pharmaceutical companies it makes being self employed extremely difficult. I’m a full-time American writer living abroad. I get first-world quality expat health insurance for 200 USD a month. But if I moved back to the States with my wife I’d have to figure out both our health insurance, which might be high three figure or even four figures a month. It’s like having to make an extra rent or mortgage payment. I’ve read that the crappy American health care system is actually keeping a lot of writers from going full-time, or compelling them to move to Canada. It’s one of the reasons I don’t mind staying abroad right now.


Why I could never be a full-time writer as much as I would like to. In this society, the only thing that matters is work and enslaving yourself to make someone else richer.


Honestly, I think I write best with a day job. If I’m unemployed, I become a braindead couch potato. A day job stimulates me (especially the interactions with other people), and the daydreaming I do there can be utilized for writing afterward.

That said, the job matters. A 9-to-5 office job gives me enough time to write until my inspiration runs out (two hours in the traditional method or 30 minutes if I crank it out in Write Or Die). But back-to-back shifts at a retail store around Christmas barely give me enough home time to eat and sleep. And high school gave me enough time to write a novel, but college had so much reading and writing (frikking term papers) that I didn’t even want to process text outside of it.

I don’t know how anyone can go off and just write all day. It sounds boring.


I think people are different. I would not mind making writing my profession but I would still need to do something else. I need food for inspiration.


US society is literally set up that way. Probably the worst thing a young person could do is accrue student loans. They keep you in indentured servitude for decades. The society STRONGLY encourages and rewards consumerism and high debt levels, which also keep you tied to work. The corporate masters are more than happy to push for more, more, more and give you less.

Set your focus on being debt-free, even if that means you have to work through university. If you want to be able to follow your dream, you can’t have the American “I WANT IT ALL” dream. That’s an ugly, ugly trap.


Hey Alyce - I just transitioned into a similar situation (quitting my day-job and writing full time with husband’s support). Diverging from the topic at hand, but any insight from your own transition you can share? Thanks!


Hey, someone else figured out how the US works!


Oh, I never plan on taking out a loan. I consider that selling your soul. No joke.


It is. Debt is EVIL. D whatever you have to avoid it, and you will have So Many More Options than people who didn’t.


I’m in the same boat as you were when you were in college.


To be fair, college did make me more literate. I can recognize and produce a higher level of writing now than I did in high school. But it’s the wrong time to actually attempt a novel.


Can I also say how this is an effective example of how to write blogs to get traffic? Because after I read that fantastic article, I noticed the advertisements for his book. The cover caught my eye, I read the synopsis and I’m totslly interested and it just went on my TBR list. I would have never known or found out about that book without that link.

Granted, not everyone will read that and buy his book, but my point still stands.


Scalzi weighed in on the topic as well.


cracks knuckles This is going to be long.

Oh boy… it has its up and downs. The good thing is, I can work to my own routine and I love that. I have found that I need to get out of the apartment so I don’t go crazy (and sometimes I’ve hit a brick wall). So I work in cafes, nursing that matcha latte for 90 minutes, and I also go to gym 4 times a week. That solid hour of focusing on my body can often result in a creative snarl being destroyed. :smiley:

If you can’t write or edit for some reason, it’s okay to read a book! You’re allowed to not be able to work and reading is one of the things that can put you back on track (also it’s research! Hehe). This is a big one for me… just because you’re at home all day, it doesn’t mean you’ll be able to write/edit all day. Every worker, creative or otherwise, has crap days. You’ve got to remember that or you’ll start to think you’re messing up your “chance”.

That said, if you’re not inspired… you have to work anyway. I’ve done this so often I don’t get writer’s block anymore. :open_mouth:

I’m still having trouble with my “worth”. To me, money has always = success… it’s hard when I don’t get what I perceive as success. I am sometimes envious of my husband and the fact that he gets paid regularly, but then he reminds me that his job creates nothing of cultural value (financial trading). He is envious of me! Lol.

You need to redefine success. I struggle with this everyday. Yesterday a complete stranger gave me a 5 star rating on Goodreads. It felt GOOD. Success!!! Recently I received a personalised rejection from a literary agent. Success!!! So I guess the most challenge part of the transition is altering your goals and expectations. The rules are different. Money is no longer your yardstick.


This really resonated with me! Thank you!

I ended up giving up a demanding job that was well-paying but destroying my mental health to be writing full-time and supported by my husband. I never planned to be a full-time writer at this phase (or to be dependent on a spouse), but it is what makes sense for the moment. My sense of “worth” has definitely been challenged by the idea that money = success and I’m realizing the need to redefine my own success-metrics.

I feel like there is a need to prove I earned this opportunity or that I can deserve it in some way - when the reality is I got this chance through some unexpected circumstances. I’m working to reshape this sort of thinking, but I’m realizing it may be a process.

Your tips on hitting the gym and crap days awesome! Thanks for taking the time to share some of your experiences :slight_smile: