Writers, Don’t Quit Your Day Jobs . . . At Least, Not Yet, Anyway

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Who wouldn’t dream of this?

There’s a lot of writing advice floating around the internet: “Show don’t tell”, “Never use adverbs”, and (my personal favorite) “Don’t quit your day job.” Show of hands, who has never heard these word before? None? That’s what I thought. Probably not the words you wanted to hear after describing in great detail your soon-to-be bestselling title, right? Not when you’re counting on its success to get you out of a crappy job and into the life you’ve always dreamed of. Let’s face it, who hasn’t dreamt of writing a bestseller, quitting the 9 to 5 gig, and moving to a beach house on the cove? For most of us, this is an unlikely–nay–impossible fantasy. But for some, this may be a reality . . . well, maybe not the beach house. How do you know when it is okay to quit your day job and pursue a life of writing? Here is a list of things to consider when making that decision.

1Financial Stability

This is probably the main reason writers don’t quit their day jobs. Above anything else, a person should be financially secure, and unfortunately, writing does not guarantee a steady paycheck. Even if your book makes a profit, earnings are heavily taxed. I suggest making a budget that factors in your monthly and annual expenses. Include not only bills and groceries, but also insurance and an emergency fund. Don’t forget to include the cost of creating the book. Editing, book covers, book commercials, they all come at a high price. All of these costs must be considered. Figure out how much you need each month, each year, for retirement, and then maybe, just maybe, you can live off your writing.

2.  Creative Longevity

This goes along with financial stability. A writer can only support themselves as long as they are writing. If you only have one good idea in your head, you probably shouldn’t quit your job. Now, say you’ve got a series of thirteen books in the works, and five of them are already published and selling like hot cakes, (do people still use that phrase anymore?) then by all means retire to a lifetime of writing. If you’re planning on banking on one novel, think again. No one ever got rich on one book (not even J.K. Rowling). So, start planning. You’re going to need a lot of stories to stay fed.

3.  Self-Discipline

Being at home all day makes it too easy to slack off. If you’re going to write for a living, you will need to be self-disciplined in order to set and meet deadlines. You won’t have a boss telling you when to write and when to market. That’s all up to you, and the only person who cares if you succeed or fail is you.

4.  Your Sanity

Sitting at home in front of a computer by yourself day in and day out can be mentally draining to say the least. Not to mention, it’s not very inspirational. Start planning some social outlets now. Volunteering is a great way to stay connected. Exercise is a great stress relief. If you don’t plan on leaving your desk once in a while, you will burn out of writing.

5.  Your Life

Before you leave behind a full-time job and society as a whole, stop and consider whether this really is something you want to do for the rest of your life. Is writing just something you do for fun? Or is it your sole purpose in life? When writing becomes your only source of income, it puts a strain on the creative process and sucks just a little bit of the joy from the experience. So, make sure this is something you really, really, really want to do for the rest of your life.

As always, I hope you enjoyed this post and found it helpful. If you think of anything I missed, please let me know. Feel free to leave a comment. Thoughts and feedback are always welcome.

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7 thoughts on “Writers, Don’t Quit Your Day Jobs . . . At Least, Not Yet, Anyway

  1. Some great advice here. I entered the full-time writing life a year ago and I’m discovering that while my life before was out of balance in the direction of the 9 to 5 job, it’s now out of balance in the direction of quiet hours spent in isolation at my desk. I’ve realized that I need an outside work life to lead me through experiences that connect me to other people, keep me from turning completely introverted and provided me experiences I can work into my stories. I have to participate in life to achieve a successful writing life and it seems that a lot of life takes place at the day job…But keep it in balance if you can.

  2. armenpogharian

    Very few artists achieve overnight success, most of us take the long hard road. Sacrifices (career, personal, material) can speed you along your way, but make them in small measures. Who wants to be a lonely, bitter, starving artist?

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