by Sue Ann Jaffarian
Like many writers, I have a full-time day job. But here’s the thing. Even though I really enjoy my job as a corporate paralegal and work for a wonderful law firm with lovely people, I’d give my left nut (providing I had one to give) to leave it behind and throw myself into my writing full time, all the time. And the older I get, the more I’m willing to give up those phantom nuts to make it happen.
Whenever folks ask me why I don’t quit my day to write full time, my pat and honest answer is: Because I like to eat and have a roof over my head. And let’s not forget health care benefits and a 401k. I’m single, my sole support, and no one has ever left me money, except for when I was a waitress in a pizza joint, and even then the tips were either stingy or stolen by the other waitresses. I make money writing, but not enough to support myself.
This past weekend someone introduced me as one of the most prolific writers they know. And it’s true, I am prolific. Basically, I write two novels a year – one a year for two different publishers – as well as the occasional novella and short story, all while holding down a day job. And I research, write, and rewrite every damn word myself. I also do most of my own PR and marketing. This is one of the reasons you don’t find me at many conferences or on the road doing book tours.
But no applause or gasps of awe, please, because I am not alone. Most of the published writers I know also hold down day jobs. It's the norm, not the exception.
Warning, rant alert!
It really annoys me when budding writers tell me they don’t have time to write. Then guess what? You don’t want it bad enough. It’s not a goal that burns in your belly. It’s a “maybe one day” kind of thing with them. And we all know “maybe one day” dreams don’t usually come to fruition. They wither and die on the vine, forgotten until it's too late.
I know writers with kids who write during nap time or while waiting in car pool lanes. Writers who sneak out to their cars to write on lunch break. Writers who write long after their household is in bed. Writers who write while their friends and family are out having fun. They get the job done, no matter what stands in their way.
The drive to write is primal if you’re a born writer. Looming deadlines just crank it up a few notches. Even if I didn’t have contracts waiting to be fulfilled, I’d still be writing like a monkey on crack. It’s who I am. It's what I want. The day job is just an obstacle to hoist my fat ass over, not an insurmountable barrier keeping me from the finish line.
I’ve been at my current paralegal position 8 years next week. During that time I have written 14 novels, 1 novella and 6 short stories, and no, none have been written on the job. I get up between 5 and 5:30 each day, spend 20 minutes taking care of various chores, then I’m at the keyboard writing until it's time to shower and go to my day job. During the week I write 2-3 hours a day. On weekends that time is at least doubled. Is it any wonder my home has an abandoned look and my eyes are glassy. Yet I still have time to go out with friends and relax in front of TV. It’s all in how you prioritize and plan and how much you want it.
Since benefactors and sponsors are not beating on my door, and since no one seems interested in purchasing my fictional left nut, and since I just entered my 60s, my plan is to retire in a few years and turn my full attention to my writing, providing my brain isn’t fried.
I hope I won’t be bored.