Saturday 13 April 2019

Combining Writing with a Day Job

Most of us have had to do that and even if we now work as full time writers we have done that in the past.    

When I first started writing seriously I held down a job as a head of Modern Languages, wrote several novels one after the other, entered every appropriate writing competition I could find and started a Masters in Writing for Children. I’m not sure how. It makes me feel tired just thinking about it now. Oh, and the children were still at home then. 

Eventually I gave up the day job but still did a lot of supply teaching and one-to-one tuition. This gave me more brain space even though not necessarily more time. 

It’s a necessity for many of us. We have to pay the rent, feed and clothe ourselves and keep warm.  
One Masters and PhD later I managed to secure a dream job – that of university lecturer in Creative Writing.  A promotion to senior lecturer bumped up my income nicely and now that I am retired my pension leaves me comfortably off – and I still do a little work for the University of Salford. Does that count as earning money from my writing? I like to think so, and in fact nobody would have frowned when I was working full time if I’d sat in my office writing my novel. I have done that occasionally but working in the academy also has its demands. Still most of the writing was completed in my “spare” time. 

I was glad to retire. More time for my writing, I thought. Maybe. But I’m busy and slightly behind on my writing targets. U3A – I’m off to French conversation in a few moments. The gym. National Women’s Register.  My choir. Supporting Guide Dogs for the Blind. My publishing activities. I’ve given myself a timetable.

It isn’t all about needing the money, though. In fact, many people who have to fit something else around their day job, such as their writing, getting a new qualification or acquiring a new skill often work in a very focussed way when they do get some time and are as productive if not more so than if they had all day every day to get to where they wish to be. 

With writing in particular I suspect there is another factor. Seriously: if you’re locked away from the world all day on your garret, what have you got to write about? 

Recently I’ve been taking the bus into town.  I come back with at least one idea for a short story each time. 

Some people manage to become full time writers by taking on any sort of writing. That isn’t for me. I’d rather have a bit of fun working in a bar, picking fruit or doing a post round that write a report that doesn’t thrill me or write to please a commercial market that compromises what I want to say. Some solitary activates such as ironing, driving or walking the dog give you thinking time. I really also believe that writers need to interact with other people.

That is perhaps why I have created my retirement timetable.                 

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