The biggest question I've been asked at talks to emerging writers lately has been about making the leap the from part-time writer to full time, seriously committed, throw-all-your-eggs in one-basket, author.
|The messy side of a writing life|
your passion and success will come. Follow your dreams or regret it forever.’ We’ve
all heard the mantras, and there is truth in them. We’ll never grow if we don’t
take risks; the regret at never trying our dreams is deep and bitter.
Writing takes time; ideas are all very well, but even once they're captured in words, that manuscript has to be reworked, rethought, rewritten and edited. You can physically write more words if you have more time. And it seems obvious that the more time we spend writing, the more income we'll earn from it. That's how most jobs work. But it's not so simple with art.
I’ve been writing for thirty years, fulltime for 25, and I’ve
been lucky enough to make a living from it so far. But my dream was to work two or three school-length days a week, and write on
the alternate days. A speeding car took the decision from me, but I still think my two main reasons were valid:
is lonely. I liked interacting with colleagues, and my clients. (Admittedly, I was
lucky enough to love my job, and didn’t want to give it up.) Would I go crazy spending
five days a week speaking only to people in my head?
wanted to be free to experiment and take risks with my writing. I didn’t know
if I could do that if the family was financially dependent on it.
first is easily dealt with. We lived on a fairly isolated farm at the time, but
for most people there are lots of routes around the loneliness – writers’
groups, writing in a café… even walking a dog in a leash-free park can give you
enough superficial interaction for the day.
|And some fun: movie memorabilia and cover art|
money problem is more serious, and more complicated. Developing your art means risking failure (and yes, I’ve had a few!) but ironically, a safety net can sometimes let you take those risks. I know a painter who’s
married to an extremely wealthy man, but when she gave up her outside job, she
painted only in a genre that she particularly disliked, because it sold well in
the local artists’ outlet. She didn’t need the money, but she needed the
validation. Would she have been freer to experiment and find out what she's capable of if she'd had the status and security of another profession? Maybe. Maybe she'll still find the strength without it – I hope so.
not trying to discourage anyone who’s determined to leap into fulltime writing
– you just need to accept that a pair of dice would be a better symbol than the
ubiquitous quill pen on your author cards. If you can embrace that
whole-heartedly, it can be a wonderful life.
Labels: being a full time writer, career writer, creative writing, don't give up the day job, writing as a career, writing full time, writing life