“I want to be a writer.”
They’re the six words we’ve all uttered, either as children when asked what we want to do when we grow up, or while sitting at a desk and poring over a stubborn manuscript. It’s the phrase seasoned writers encourage us to toss away—if you write, you are a writer, they insist. But ultimately, our writing always comes down to that proverbial fork in the road: is this something I want to get paid for, or is it simply a hobby? Another fork: Do I pursue a writing-related career in addition to my creative and/or freelance writing, or do I opt for a non-writing career to offset it?
All three of us co-founders are at different stages in our careers and have asked these questions of ourselves, and we’d like to share with you our experiences. Because what you pick for your career or your next job affects your writing in more ways than one—often, both positively and negatively—and we’ve been learning that the hard way.
Cristina R. Guarino
I work full-time and have been doing so for about two years now. Growing up, I knew I wanted to write for a living. What kind of writing that was, I never put much thought into. My mind flitted from glamorous daydream to lavish fantasy: a stay-at-home bestselling novelist who wrote by the lakeside of her country cottage; the next Carrie Bradshaw typing away at her laptop in an Upper East Side apartment; a music journalist pressed up against the barricade at a punk rock show, fumbling with a camera and a pad of paper against a writhing crowd. Either way, I knew I wanted to be a writer, and I had some pretty grand delusions about what that all meant.
This isn’t to say that attaining these jobs is unrealistic—I just never put much thought into the real world before achieving my ideal dream job, whatever that winds up being (I still don’t know). I didn’t know what I wanted to do while I worked toward discovering and arriving at that final goal. So, I tried out a few things.
Full disclosure: I am beyond happy for the experiences I’ve had. Though my past jobs, both employed and freelance, I’ve sampled news journalism, magazine journalism, blogging, and content marketing. Currently, I work in the content marketing scope, which requires me to write pretty much all day, every day. And you know what? There’s one thing I never took into account, something that never dawned on me in my pre-career days, that I’m learning more and more with each of these jobs I hold.
Writing as a day job makes it all the harder to pursue a writing “night job.”
It becomes increasingly hard to sit down and put in the hours with my creative work after writing newsletters and blogs from 9 to 5, then coming home to work on my latest freelance piece for the number of blogs and publications I contribute to. Ultimately? I want to be a novelist, but my novels often fall to the wayside to make room for my more pressing obligations. Often, whatever writing time I have outside of work is sucked up by these other projects. And I love all those projects to death, but I’m quickly realizing that if I want a creative writing career, I’m going to have to make some cuts.
I started my full-time job 3 months ago. Up until then, I’d made ends meet by working a well-payed, part-time job, meaning I had my mornings free to write. And I did just that. While I was working part-time, my daily routine went something like this:
– Wake up
– 2 hours of writing time (tea and #wordsprints)
– 1 hour of writing time (with electronics turned off)
– Write until I went to bed
But this all changed when I took an 8-5 job in hopes of pursuing a career. Gone were the days when I could sleep until 9 and write for half the day. But as I set out to start a traditional career, I was determined to continue writing regularly—which I have done, but to a far lesser extent than I would have liked. My daily routines now look like this:
– Swear at my 6am alarm
– Wake up
– Commute home in rush hour
– Eat dinner
– Try not to fall asleep
– Write a couple hundred words
– Fall asleep
I’m convinced that I’m still adjusting and that I’ll nail down a better writing schedule soon. I’ve only been at this whole 8-5 routine for 3 months, after all. But I already know that while I can improve my schedule, the energy that is sapped from me by working all day, paired with the sheer lack of time I have to spend writing, means that my progress with writing is going to slow. At least for the time being.
I’m a new graduate. Over my three years at university, I cultivated a writing routine that fit in with my studies and lifestyle, which allowed me to make great progress in my creative projects. I started two blogs and wrote over 500,000 words of fiction and non-fiction during that time, the most productive period of my life.
When I look back, I realise I got so much done because I had plenty of time for writing, both creatively and academically, and I had structure to my day. Most days, I would wake up in the morning and walk down to the library, work on my university assignments and go to lectures until 5 p.m., then return home for dinner and a break. Around 8 p.m., I’d start on my creative projects and work until midnight. Some days I’d have off, but mostly I got lots of work done.
Finishing university has thrown my routine into something of a disarray. This may shock you, but my greatest problem as a new, currently unemployed graduate is finding time to write. Demands of real life, like job searching and maintaining a house, aside, structuring my day in a way that gives me the opportunity to write requires, if anything, more self-discipline than when my days were jam-packed with activities. That’s something I’m working on at the moment, structuring my day so that I can approach writing, on my novels and my blogs, in a more business-like and focused way. I’ll let you know how I get on.
Long story short: don’t quit your day job just yet, but be aware that it’s going to affect your writing! Writing all day at work is going to take away from the energy you have to write later at home, and integrating a full-time career into your schedule is going to throw your pre-career writing habits off. That being said, careers are very rewarding and worth pursuing—at least, until you hit that coveted New York Times bestseller list!
How do you juggle your career and your creativity? Do you find that you thrive or struggle when your job requires you to write all day or structure your writing around strict hours? Let us know!