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.