Saturday, May 4, 2019

Keep That Day Job and Keep Writing, Too

Many writers, aspiring and established, believe the ideal job is to write—all day, every day. But there are advantages to not having writing as a day job.

It sounds counterintuitive, but having a job as a writer isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be. Nobel Prize-winner Ernest Hemingway said journalism was a great way to learn the craft of writing, long as you got out in time. What did he mean? If you work as a writer, especially in a demanding career like reporting, you could burn out sooner than later.

Having a job other than writing also lets you use a different mental skill set, meet new people, get a change of scenery and pace, and receive an income. And having the stability that comes from a regular paycheck and benefits can give you a sense of a security that helps make writing less stressful.

Another positive is that your work may enable you to develop a specialty that even if it doesn’t relate directly to your writing now could do so later, in surprising ways. Acclaimed poet-author Cortney Davis was a nurse before becoming a poet, and her work in healthcare not only informed her poetry but gave her a unique perspective and topic to write about.

Whether or not your work includes writing or leads to it, you’re gaining transferable soft skills, for example, sticking to a project from start to finish or tackling thankless and challenging tasks. You might also learn to solve problems by creating outside-the-box solutions that stimulate your creativity. Then there’s the skill of showing up, which isn’t glamorous but is far more valuable than people realize.

But what do you do if you work at a dead-end job that doesn’t offer many advantages? Or what if you have a job that has advantages but does little to inspire you? In cases like these, a little initiative goes a long way.

First, make time — to read, write and collaborate. One way to read well and widely is to join a book club, online or in-person. Also, stay in touch with those who enjoy reading and writing. And do write. You might start by journaling about your day and jotting down story ideas. Keep a running list, and set aside time to develop your ideas. And look for ways to collaborate with other writers. You might meet at a local café, bookstore or library for dedicated writing time. You might also join—or start—a writing group, in person or online.

Regardless of your day or night, with a bit of effort you can stay inspired. Even if your job doesn’t relate to writing now and won’t ever, having work that keeps you from flexing your writing muscles or expressing your ideas can stimulate your longing to write.

The very absence of writing opportunities can draw your heart in that direction.

To help you on your journey, these websites offer free databases of writing opportunities: Association of Writers & Writing Programs, NewPages, Poets & Writers, The Writer, The Writer’s Chronicle and Writer’s Digest. You might even try a writer’s residency by researching ResArtis.

Happy writing!

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