How Getting A Day Job Can Improve Your Writing Life

As writers, we are all familiar with the frustrated feeling we may get when faced with the prospect of being unproductive. Many have dubbed this fruitless state “writers’ block,” but I find that a poor excuse for a blank screen and stagnant word count. Perhaps the most frustrating part about this futile state is the potential of it. So much time on our hands, but nothing accomplished. This is enough to drive anyone mad, which is why, until you pump out that first best seller, you should tuck away those dreams of writing full time and get a day job.

I know, remaining hunched over a desk all day, scribbling like a hermit is a tempting lifestyle, especially if you are living off of more than your own income (say, a spouse or parent), but there are several reasons a part-time job can boost not only your writing productivity, but your physical health as well, these being (saving the best for last):

  • A steady source of income. Enough romanticizing the dirt-poor scrivener who writes for every meal. It’s a very nice idea to live off of one’s words, but let’s put that on hold until we’re selling books by the million, shall we? We want to be successful, and the first step to being successful is to stay alive. Keep your house; keep your job! And keep your sanity and your dignity while you’re at it.
  • The opportunity to stretch! You can make any excuse you want (I make plenty–“I’m stretching over my laptop!”) but no matter how you look at it, sitting in a desk chair for extended periods of time is terrible for your body. For example, I have a handicap stemming from partial sacralization in my back (see Dictionary.com’s Medical Dictionary), which causes pain that is worsened by remaining in one position for more than a few minutes. I now have a part-time waitressing job. I never get a chance to sit. I’m always walking back and forth, which is very good for my back. The lifting and carrying of heavy trays? Not so much. But you get the point. It’s unhealthy to sit around all day–go to work, or do some chores.
  • More time in the real world. A writer must be constantly observant of his surroundings. Leaving your house once and a while to go to work will expose you to new people and places, broadening the subject matter you will use in your writing. You’ll come across interesting people, hear realistic dialogue, and experience new occurrences every day. You may even find open time windows throughout your job for mini writing sessions. My job as a waitress, for example, allows me to jot things down in my booklet next to customers’ orders. Your job does not have to be in the writing field. The whole point is to have time away from your writing so that you are more focused when the time comes to sit down and produce more words.
  • Less time to write. It’s a good thing. Really. Taking time away from your projects (or lack thereof) will give you other things to think about and leave you creatively stimulated and hungry to write next time you sit down at your desk. Comparatively, having short spans of time as opposed to long, fruitless periods will press you to write more productively. Have a word goal and cut-off time, or go to the extreme of using Write or Die (“putting the ‘prod’ in productivity!”) or a similar program. However you do it, manage your time wisely (I’ll be posting an article on various methods shortly). Until then, form efficient habits now; they will make or break your writing career in the future.
Do you have a job that is outside the sphere of writing? How do you manage your schedule in order to make time for writing? What other benefits of keeping a day job have I missed? Leave your thoughts in a comment below.
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3 Comments

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3 responses to “How Getting A Day Job Can Improve Your Writing Life

  1. Rene Peterson

    Excellent advice! While I can see a day when I am not in front of 30-40 middle school students every day as their English teacher, I don’t know that I will ever be able to truly stop working in the outside world. People are much too interesting. They say and do things that I could never dream up all by my lonesome.

  2. Very true. One of the reasons I want to be an English teacher is all of the people you come across and the opportunities to influence and learn from your students.

  3. Pingback: Start Your Week Off Write: 5 Steps To Squeeze More Creativity Margin Out of Your Day | kristin nador writes anywhere

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