Why Do You Have To Quit Your Day Job?

Seriously, why?

I didn’t think about it before, but in the last week or so I’ve begun asking this question.

First I encountered a Kindleboards thread  asking how many on the forum had quit their day jobs to write full time.  Now, I used to hang out on kindleboards a lot.  But lately I find it boring over there.  A lot of the threads are repetitious and it’s sort of an echo chamber.  So I don’t spend much time there anymore.  But every now and then I slide on by to see what’s going on.  This thread stood out, so I clicked on in and said my peace.

Then earlier today I decided to catch up on The Passive Voice.  I love Passive Guy’s blog.  It was one of the first blogs I bookmarked back in Jan/Feb of last year when I was beginning to research writing.  But I don’t necessarily go there every day, and he posts a lot.  So when I go over there are lots of posts to read through.  So even though this post is a couple days old, I just got to it.

In discussing Kris Rusch’s last Business Rusch post about readers, some in PG’s comments stated that Kris is wrong because a writer needs to be able to quit his/her day job in order to be more productive in writing.  Or just, because.

Well more and more I’m wondering: because why?

Where is it written that the Holy Grail of being a writer is to quit your day job?  Ok, I got it.  With more time one can theoretically write more and produce more books.  But something tells me that the reality is people will not really write all that much more without day jobs.  Maybe that’s just because for most of December I essentially had no day job but I didn’t write that much more.  Hell, I wrote a hell of a lot more in November than in December.  But that said, I could not be representative of writers as a whole.

All the same, I kind of get the impression that a lot of people who yearn to give up the day job in favor of writing see writing as some sort of salvation from having to work.  I know I’ve thought of it that way once or twice.  But really, in order to keep from having to go back to a day job, one will have to work hard at the writing.  It will be your job, so you’d better treat it as such.  I’m not sure a lot of people really think that through very well.

So I’ll ask the question that I asked on the Kindleboards.  Why does a writer have to quit his day job?

I’m serious here.  The notion that someone needs to quit the day job presupposes that the person A) WANTS to quit the day job and B) would be better off if he or she does.  I don’t think that’s a given.  It seems to me that if a writer has a day job he likes that makes good money it would be silly to quit it.  Unless he is earning so much more money writing than from the day job that the day job becomes insignificant in his total cash flow.  But even then, if the writer likes his day job, keeping it for the satisfaction of doing it would not be out of line.  Job satisfaction is a good thing.  Plus, would the marginal gain of quitting really that great in that circumstance?  Then again, before quitting his job the writer should take a long hard look at the marginal gain or cost involved in quitting regardless of his writing income.

As far as I’m concerned, the question ought not be, “Have you quit your day job”.  It ought to be, “Are you satisfied with how your career is progressing?”  And I mean career both in writing and in the day job, whatever it may be.  Because any career takes work, a lot of work.  Writing won’t rescue you from that reality.

Better get used to having to continue to work.  That ain’t going to change whether you have a day job or not.

0 thoughts on “Why Do You Have To Quit Your Day Job?”

  1. This is a thoughtful post, and you make some excellent observations to challenge the age-old assumption that all aspiring writers make. I agree that it isn’t a foregone conclusion, and I also agree that one’s life should be well-balanced with as many activities/jobs as each person requires to be happy and challenged.

    Personally, I do aspire to give up my day job, or perhaps more likely, build myself an excellent retirement income. Is that the same thing? 🙂 My day job as a software engineer is stressful, creative and mental, which means that I often get home and don’t want to engage in anything similar. I believe more time would allow me to write significantly more wordage, and hopefully of better quality. The ability to work on my schedule helps too.

    The cliched writer’s life appeals to me. I hope I achieve it, and I hope I don’t find out that “Michael Kingswood was right.” 🙂

  2. I far prefer the work of writing to almost any day job I’ve had, for a variety of reasons.

    Having said that, I do have a part-time job so that I get out of the house regularly and don’t become a complete hermit. 😉

  3. I am suspicious of any advice that assumes all (or even most) writers should follow the same career path. Graeme, in the first comment, identifies the most compelling reason a writer might want to give up their day job, if your job saps your store of creativity and/or stresses you out. On the other hand, some writers pick jobs that allow them to focus on their writing. A friend of mine from college used to work as a night security guard so that he could focus all of his mental effort on writing. He believed he was more productive doing that than writing full-time.

  4. Some people act like having a full day to write is the only way to get something done. When I had my previous job, I wrote for 3hrs to and from work. Then I did more at home (typing everything up). It’s better than nothing. Now I’m unemployed, I’m doing 6-8hrs a day. I know when I get a job I won’t have as much time to write, but I’ll do whatever I can.

    I do dream of writing for a living. No more 3hr commutes, no more mean bosses, no more crappy pay after working darn hard, no more unpaid overtime, and no more waking up before the sun. To roll out of bed and write every day would be a dream come true.

  5. Mr. Kingswood, I’m with you.

    I actually write the most on the days I am working, and usually drops off on the weekends. My most prolific writing days were also busy days at work.

    But then, I love my day job, and have no plans to quit doing it even if my writing affords that choice.

    Granted, every writer is different. But I am growing increasingly skeptical of writers who wail that the only thing between them and amazing productivity is their day job, and that if they only had the extra time, they could write ten novels a year instead of one.

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