The Day Job Blues – An IWSG Post

IWSG badgeEvery month I see multiple posts popping up on my WordPress feed all on the same day, all with “IWSG” in the title or the first few lines of the post. Eventually curiosity got the best of me and I looked into the story behind these synchronized bloggers, which is how I discovered the Insecure Writers Support Group. The idea behind the group is, of course, to give and get support within a community of writers, most of whom are insecure about one thing or another (don’t laugh…it’s a writer’s lot in life to be continually insecure). On the first Wednesday of every month the IWSG hosts a blog hop; members can write about the insecurities they’ve been feeling, problems they’ve overcome, or whatever else they feel like talking about.

This is my first IWSG post, and today I thought I’d talk about the Day Job Blues.

Most writers are lucky enough to be able to make a decent living from our writing, especially those of us who chose to write novels. Making any money as a novelist is quite tough because of the over-saturated market and difficulties getting noticed, and even if you’re lucky enough to be traditionally published you might never make anything more than your advance if people just aren’t interested in your book. Thus, many of us have day jobs – the things we grudgingly do to pay the bills.

Now, I’m lucky enough to have a day job that is a great boon for my family. Because of the work I do my husband and I don’t have to worry about the bills, are well prepared in case of breakdowns or other emergencies, and we can afford to splurge a bit on ourselves with the mood strikes us. And while the schedule is sometimes grueling (12-hour days for 14 days straight), it does have it’s benefits (14 straight days off afterward). Truth told, it’s a pretty decent set-up – at least, it’s what works for right now. However, from a writer’s point of view it can be extremely stifling.

When I’m on shift I’m extremely lucky if I manage to scribble a few words in a pocket notebook throughout the day. Because of the long hours I have maybe a half hour to an hour per night to write, but usually that time is spent whipping up last-minute blog posts while trying to keep my eyes open. Many times I go an entire two-week period writing only a thousand words or less toward a novel because I just can’t find the time without sacrificing precious sleep.

And going home actually doesn’t help. Two of my fourteen days off are spent on airplanes, and if those planes don’t have outlets (hint: they usually don’t) I can only write as long as my laptop battery survives, or else take the much slower route of scribbling in a notebook (hint #2: my longhand is a snail’s pace compared to my typing speed). Of the twelve days I actually do get at home, I spend a lot of my time (understandably) hanging out with the husband and daughter that I’ve just been away from for two weeks. There’s usually a trip or two to go shopping or visit family while I have the chance, and more often than not there’s some kind of event like a birthday, wedding, or family get-together to attend while I’m home. There are the usual chores that never go away, and my experience has been that at least one appliance will break every time I’m on my days off. In other words, my twelve days off are not the lazy, tons-of-free-time days you would imagine them to be. Between doing the stuff that I have to do (chores, fixing stuff, engagements) and doing the things that I want to do while I have the opportunity (quality time with my daughter, catching up on our shows with my husband, actually getting a relaxing bath once in a while), I often only manage a couple thousand fiction words for every shift at home.

Now, the thing is, I did manage to write, edit, and publish a novel (and maintain a 5-days-a-week blog) under these conditions, because there is absolutely something to be said for sheer determination. But it’s not an easy path. Forcing myself to crank out extra words usually means giving up on sleep that I desperately need, and letting myself relax a bit means I often forget where I was going with a scene, or even lose interest in my WIP all together. Taking the middle road (or as close to middle as I can get) means that completing a project can easily take ten times longer than one would traditionally like.

The long and short of it is that writing – even though many people don’t look at it this way – is a job, which we work willingly and pluck away at whenever we’re able because it’s our passion. Meanwhile, the day jobs we do to survive steal all our time and energy, and while they support us financially, they leave us bereft of that passion, unable to scrap together the resources required to do the thing we actually love.

I’m writing about these Day Job Blues today because it’s about this time every month (midway through my work shift) when I start to lament my situation. As I crawl into bed each night, exhausted from long hours, eyes burning and body sore, I’ll dream about how wonderful it would be to not need a day job, to be able to spend my days cozy at home, sipping tea and writing to my heart’s content from sunrise to sunset. And then I remember that my debut novel, Nowhere to Hide, has to this day earned me less than $300, and I grudgingly accept the fact that having this day job is simply my reality, at least for now.

It’s tough, and at times extremely frustrating, but it’s life, and we struggle through because regardless of what else we have to do to have a good life for ourselves and our families, writing will always be something that has to be weaseled in somewhere, even if it’s just a few sentences while waiting for the toast to pop or the afternoon break to end.

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22 thoughts on “The Day Job Blues – An IWSG Post

  1. YAY!!! for your first IWSG post ever! This is my first time co-hosting the blogfest, so I’m especially excited to welcome you. It’s great to have you join us. Day jobs and/or other full-time life obligations can definitely hamper our writing time. They can also dampen our writing verve; think that’s what bugs me the most. But what I hear here is you forging ahead, not willing to let it get you down. You’ll make it. Chin up. Sounds like you’re doing a wonderful job in both areas. (Great to meet you.)

    • Yay for your first co-host! Is it going well? 😀

      I’m definitely trying to keep my chin up. ^_^ It can be hard some days, but I just love writing so much that I refuse to let the rest of the world keep me down!

    • That actually wouldn’t really surprise me, because whenever I get laid off (as is the nature of this work) I never manage to get anything extra done in the time before I get a new job. It’s like having extra time makes you just find ways to waste more time. lol

  2. Welcome to IWSG! (I’m new here, too, heh.) Thank you for sharing your day job blues!

    I carry a notebook with me as often as possible to scribble the writing thoughts that pop up during the work day, but often those thoughts aren’t enough to spark actual writing the following evening. Most of my writing happens on weekends, which works well when the weather doesn’t cooperate but makes me feel guilty when I know I could be doing other (“more productive”) things like taking care of the house, exploring where I live, and/or spending time with people, especially my husband.

    I love the way you ended your post. The image of writing while waiting for toast is vivid and so identifiable. Keep writing!

    • Ha ha, the end of the post was based on reality. I often run back and forth between the kitchen and my laptop whenever I’m cooking. A sentence here, a sentence there. lol Whatever works, right?

      I feel you on the productivity thing. Some days I actually pray for rain so that I can write without feeling like I should be doing something more important. 😛

  3. Welcome to the IWSG! Every time you write something – no matter how many words, no matter if it’s only for a few minutes – you are working that creative muscle, you are stoking that imagination. Don’t give up!

  4. I guess I’m lucky. I work two 12-hour shifts every weekend, then write and care for the family the other five. Well, I don’t always get to write every day the other five, but my work schedule does make being self-employed easier. I envy empty nesters, though. I often think about how much more writing I could get done if I was one of them. LOL

    IWSG #123 until Alex culls the list again.

    • Ha ha ha…I can’t say that I envy empty-nesters because my one daughter is still young and cute and fun to be around, but it would definitely be easier to get some writing done if she weren’t always climbing on me and shoving My Little Pony toys in my face. 😄

  5. Wow, what sort of work do you do? That’s sounds intense, but probably worth it. Right now, we’re struggling on one income because if I were to get a job right now it’d be minimum wage and literally all of that would be spent having to put the kiddo in daycare (so it kinda defeats the purpose). Once school starts again, I’ll be getting a cashier job, more than likely. It sucks, but the writing is bringing in nothing right now so yeah. I feel ya 😦

    • We were in that position a while back; the work my husband and I both did (maintenance at a paper mill) was pretty good money for where we live, but childcare costs so much that we were looking at losing half of one of our paychecks just to that.
      What I do now is fly-in/fly-out shift work where you fly into the Alberta oil sands, work for two weeks straight, and then fly home. It’s grueling sometimes, what with all the travel and working 14 straight days for 12 hours, but the money makes it worth it. At least, it’s worth it until we get the house paid off, and then I’ll probably quit! lol

  6. Wow! It is amazing that you could accomplish so much with such a challenging schedule. The only thing that has helped me juggle everything (and I don’t have as much to juggle) is to set really small goals. A little at a time, as you probably know, does eventually add up. I wish I could write faster than I do, but it’s just not possible right now.

    • Small goals are such a good idea for most people, but I’ve never really been able to force myself to work that way. My brain just refuses to think any other way than, “Finish writing book! Finish editing book!” lol

  7. Welcome to IWSG. We’re a diverse group, as I’m sure you’ll see. Not to be argumentative but few writers make enough from their writing to support themselves. We read about the million dollar advances or books that take the author from rags to riches. What we don’t read about are the multitude of authors who have to hold down full-time paying jobs or who have supportive (financially & emotionally) spouses. Don’t quit your day job isn’t just a saying. Hang in there.

    Diane IWSG #99

    • Oh, I know that it’s a rare breed who gets to write for a living…that was actually kind of the point of my post. ^_^ It’s just that I often dream about how nice it would be, especially on days when my day job is making me want to jump off a bridge. lol

    • Character development? Plot lines? Pshaw! lol I’m a pantser in the most literally interpretation of the word. 😄
      But like you say, I guess I’m doing something right, or as right as I’m able. ^_^

  8. I used to know someone with a job that sounds similar to yours. Having two weeks on and two weeks off sounds great, but my friend was so exhausted he could hardly get anything done when he was home. I’m impressed you’ve managed to do as much writing as you have given your schedule. You’re an inspiration to us all, and welcome to IWSG!

    • An inspiration! You’re making me blush. lol Thanks for the welcome. ^_^
      This type of work is definitely pretty exhausting. I’m just lucky that I’ve got an awesome husband and daughter who happily let me take hour-long baths all the time. 😄

  9. Welcome to IWSG! And I thought I had it bad with the day job blues, burning eyes and finding time to write and blog, while balancing work and family. But even during such a hectic work week(s), you were still able to write and debut your book. So that is something to be proud of.

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