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.