I’ve always felt that I was not worthy to give writing advice. What could little old me say that countless others have not already said, and probably better, and with more gravitas?
Still, I’ve been thinking recently about those who are, as I was for many years, slaving in their day jobs longing for a better future, wishing they could bring an end to a humdrum existence and find their muse in writing.
This is my report from the coal face.
Another life is possible, but it is not easy. The main reason to stick with the day job whilst writing – advice given by most writers these days – is that writing does not pay much. Traditionally published or self published, the result is not, for most of us, a sudden landslide of money, fame, and swanky socialising with celebs. On the contrary, it is often a lonely, self-doubting, poverty-stricken experience. Whether you can tolerate that depends on how much you enjoy writing – whether the end justifies the means.
It wasn’t easy for me to write while I was working full time at jobs that weren’t suited to my temperament; I just couldn’t switch off the work woes. Part time work was much better, so if anyone else is struggling with their muse, as long as you’re willing to endure the poverty, part-time could be the way to go.
The simple pleasure of doing something you truly enjoy, the excitement of holding your own book, of seeing it in libraries and bookshops, and of reading reviews from people who have enjoyed your work are all the upsides. I didn’t think the downsides would be quite so down when I started out on this path, as in order to actually start writing properly I had to believe in myself, and convince myself my books were going to do well. After all, who would be motivated to try hard at anything if they believed they would fail?
At this point I’ve neither failed nor truly succeeded, at least to the extent of earning an actual living and maybe enough to travel and buy a house, but I have succeeded in completing three full novels, and they sell enough to pay some bills so I consider it a partial success. When I sat at my office desk for all those years fantasising about being the next Anne McCaffrey I thought it would be marvellous. Well I’m not yet the next Anne McCaffrey and it’s not marvellous, but it’s still an achievement to have three novels out there and know that people read them and they even make a bit of money!
So my advice is, go for it if you’re willing and able to cope with the downsides, and maybe, just maybe, the upsides will eventually become the greater.