Saturday, June 18, 2011

Day Jobs for Writers

I'm not Stephen King or J.K. Rowling.  Sadly, I haven't even published a book.  But another huge difference between myself and the two authors I mentioned is that they can support themselves off of their writing (Rowling's story is particularly transformative) while most writers cannot.

The hard truth is that most writers who publish and even make money off of their writing do it out of sheer love of the creative craft.  The anecdotal evidence is that they don't make enough money to support themselves.  Very very few rise to the status of the Kings and the Rowlings to make fortunes from writing.

Recently, I found a funny link on Lewis Lapham's Lapham Quarterly website about writers in the past and their day jobs.  The range of their salaries, adjusted to modern dollars, is from $1,828(!) to $50,000 per year.  Poor Charlotte Bronte.  But even more profound is how many of these jobs were uncreative clerical or government jobs.  Hardly the stuff of imagination, you would think.  Yet these individuals, working at their modest jobs, created The Waste Land and Jane Eyre.  Perhaps the tedium of work enhances the fantasies building within the worker's minds.  We've all experienced how performing a repetitive task can sometimes set your mind free to wander and come up with ideas.

But, in the end, they probably didn't show up at their jobs every day because they wanted a chance to ponder over plots while filing papers.  They did it because they liked to eat.  And stay out of the rain.  And sleep in a warm bed.  All necessary parts of life.  But, to a writer, so too is writing.

So how do we balance the two?

I previously posted a series on how to balance your writing and your day job.  These tips can help you to make most of your time both during breaks at work, during your commute, and at home.  True, work gets in the way of writing but it shouldn't put an end to it.  Perish the thought.

And when you get down about juggling the two: remember that some of the greatest poets and authors in history have held down day jobs and still managed to create everlasting masterpieces.  So, look out, Stephen King!

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