Today I’m very happy to present a guest post by the excellent Derek McPhee, who was kind enough to guest for me today.
Don’t quit your day job.
I, like most writers, don’t really like my day job. There are three simple reasons why I dislike my day job as much as they do and here they are, in no particular order: First, every hour that I spend at my day job, is an hour that I spend not working on whatever project that I happen to be working on at the time. My work(s) in progress sit and lack the much needed attention they deserve, while I sit at my desk and push a pen around in circles. How many ideas have I lost, sitting in meetings? How many stories have evaporated because I didn’t have time to get them down on paper? We all know this feeling. The second reason I don’t like my day job is because it doesn’t actively contribute to my end goal. I know a lot of people out there in the writing community, and I’m sure that not one of you would pass up the opportunity to write, for your bread, if you could. If you tell me you wouldn’t, you’re not a writer. There is a basic difference between a “writer” and “someone who writes”. They sound similar, but they are not synonymous. If I work for my employers, I’m not moving towards my final destination, but rather in some random tangent that leads to “nowhere”. Finally, there is something soul-crushing about having a job that you don’t like which in-turn, leads towards a sharp decrease in the desire to write. It’s hard to make this last point a universal, I know a lot of people who write very well with this sort of emotional burn. I, however, cannot do it. The longer I stay at my “soul-sucking” job, the more difficult it is to sit down at my computer and then push my mind into overdrive to produce something good.
There is a very common argument, which I’ve heard and disagree with: Just write. It’s thrown around, as if Nike had just gotten in the business of supporting writers. I disagree with this because, and again this is just my point of view, I don’t think that we should be promoting the “idea” of producing whatever trivial garbage comes to mind. In the same way that a marathon runner doesn’t gain much from taking out their garbage in the morning, I don’t think we gain anything from producing junk. We should be very mindful of how and when we write because, to be a good writer, we cannot bank on being lucky. Read: being a successful writer may need luck, but being a good one has nothing to do with luck and everything to do with ability. So, we need to write under the conditions that we best operate. We all know that we would be better writers if we had more time to read and write, right?
Who do we think we are kidding? Those jobs are a major source for the inspiration that we draw from when we are writing. While it may not always be a direct “pull” we do use a lot of what we experience to fuel our works. Secondly, our jobs provide us with a (hopefully) steady stream of income so that we can do important things like eat. While I am no happier having this job, I am deeply appreciative of what it allows me to do. I can feed myself, clothe myself, take care of my family, and to go out and do things that will hopefully contribute to the work that I produce. Not having a job is a luxury that we should look forward to in only two situations – we are stupidly wealthy, or we have achieved success. The latter, is the most likely out of the two, and that being said, it isn’t really that likely. Be aware that the job that you don’t like, and would love to quit, is something that you need to have. It’s as much a part of you as writing is.
I hope, that each and every one of us, one day, manages to escape the “grind” of the work we do. I hope that we all become successful and can live out our dreams. But I know that we also need to be aware that the work we do is rooted on a single principle: we can do what we do because of the “work” we do.
Next time you have a bad day, take a deep breath and remember that without that job, you would very likely not have the freedom to write. Take the bad with the good, draw inspiration from it, take another deep breath, and move forward. Life is too short for being miserable and not being able to write well because of it.