I know I read an article on the importance of writers keeping a day job, once. Or maybe it was in one of the many how-to books in my vast writing library. Either way, apparently it’s important, and I agree for a few reasons.
The first and most critical is that it keeps pressure off your writing. Sure it’s fun to think about whiling away the hours as the next J.K. Rowling and writing Anything you want, and taking as Long as you want to do it, but in reality, it’s not necessarily the best scenario, and depending on your writing as a sole source of income will begin to make it feel like–well–work. You might also not spend as much time writing as you think. My mom had a wonderful saying:
Work expands to fill the time available.
That means, if you have eight hours to do something that normally takes you half an hour, you will take eight hours to do it (or do it in the last half hour, like me 😉 And it’s true, at least for me. If I have an entirely free day to do nothing but write, I probably write and edit for a maximum of three hours. The rest of the day will be spent making coffee, scrolling Pinterest (DAMN YOU), making chatty Facebook updates to make it LOOK like I’m working, checking email and my Amazon ratings. I Might go outside and plant something. (That’s why National Novel Writing Exists, by the way. The almighty a deadline. But I digress.)
Having a day job makes my writing time more critical and important.
So, reason one: Money.
Reason two: It makes your time Important.
Reason three: Writers need exposure to the world in order to write about the world. Even if you write about a Different World and you don’t even have human characters… your story will have human characteristics, and you must observe them to portray them accurately if you’re going to get anywhere.
Most of the time a day job, even a fun lighthearted one, feels like this.
But sometimes I get to observe a wonderful human moment (and I get paid to do it). I work in a shop where kids frequent. I write for kids so I watch them, with stalker-ish intensity, as they shop.
I got to observe three boys around the age of eleven come crashing into the store and leave madness and energy and summer in their wake. I picture boys as pretty headstrong and energetic and not dealing too much with emotion and gooey friendship-y things the way girls do.
But one of the boys, tearing down the toy aisle, came to a screeching halt in front of a display of bracelets.
The bracelets were soft rubber like a cancer awareness bracelet or other show-of-support-item, but twice as wide. They were bright purple. In white letters they declared BFF BFF BFF all the way around. I expected him to make fun of the purple BFF-y gooey friendship bracelet.
But he called to his friends and said, “GUYS! I found something for us!!”
And I stared as they each bought one.
And I had a vision of three best friends (okay, in my world, young gryfons)… an inseparable trio, pledged to all three of each other as wingbrothers… and what adventures they might have.
Not bad for a day job.