How gainful is gainful employment?

11 May

What I’m really asking is, to what extent does the world of work help or hinder the average writer?

For most of us, it’s impossible to escape from doing some sort of paid job which may be slightly or totally unrelated to our writing. I currently work full-time but would very much like to reduce my hours, not only so I can get more writing done, but also to allow me to do more of the writing-related stuff that I just can’t fit in at the moment. Reading, going to author events, blogging… I squeeze these things in where I can, but then I end up dumping too much stuff into my evenings and weekends. This means I get over-tired and ill and then my friends raise their eyebrows at me in that ‘shouldn’t you just go home’ sort of way.

But maybe every writer has to find their own balance between time spent writing and time spent elsewhere. We’ve all heard about authors who get up at revolting o’clock so that they can write for three hours before they go to work. That’s not for me. The sleep deprivation would lead me to kill someone in a matter of days.

On the other hand, I’m not brave enough to give work up entirely. I don’t think I could abandon the safety net of regular pay. Perhaps that makes me a bit of a wimp or maybe I’m just sticking with the easy option because I’ve become used to being vaguely financially comfortable. I know people who have carved out their own income through writing, but going freelance still seems like a frightening prospect to me.

And anyway, work is more than just money. Work gives my writing brain time to figure things out; it lets my subconscious compost all the random bits of rubbish that I’ve shoved into it, and turn them into something useful. Work is part of the life that I live in order to have something to write about and it’s full of the people whose voices find their way into my stories. Work is full of little sparks; conversations, ideas, characters, that I wouldn’t experience if I was sitting at home on my own with the laptop.

And yes, maybe if I didn’t work I’d find other things that would bring me that same processing time and that same life and those same sparks. But right now, I need my job for those things. I’d just like to spend a little less time there…


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