Keep Your Day Job

My last post was all about how I’m not doing what I’m meant to do with my life. And I absolutely still believe that. And it absolutely still bothers and hurts me.

However, today, while reading Scratch (which I highly recommend for any writer) I gained some clarity.

“For writers and other other creators of culture, the ‘day job’ – a means of income for an artist that is not the production of her art – is viewed as a temporary step on the ladder to artistic success. Many young writers hold the conviction that a day will come when they don’t have to do anything but write. When we speak about our ‘Work,’ we mean our writing. We treat this work with reverence and hold it up as the work that makes us who we are: artists. But beneath the surface of our art is a life largely spent doing other work: basement shifts, rent gigs and adjunct positions…”

I read that and thought, “Omg, me.” And I have known all along that I am not alone in this position. It’s something all writers think about. “When can I quit this job that is keeping me from writing? When will my writing be seen as valuable to those in the industry?

I continued reading and I read the words I had written myself not too long ago… “The whole time I wanted to quit. Work was keeping me from my true Work. I was really a writer.” Then I started thinking, “Maybe there’s a reason I’m reading this particular portion of the book right now.” Read on.

“I started to realize work wasn’t what was holding me back; the ideal of the Writer’s Life was. Once I let myself understand that statistically I would probably never – yes, never – be able to quit working, the hours I had spent agonizing over having a day job became hours in which I could write. I began to transfer the energy behind my fantasy into real ambition.”

*sigh* Soo…. are you telling me I’m just whining? Probably. And I can acknowledge that, but sometimes I feel it’s still justified! Nevertheless, while I can’t quit my job tomorrow (unfortunately), I will continue to look for positions that I feel would be better for me overall. Whether that means I am writing copy, editing essays, or something else, I want to be able to hone my writing, and show my creativity in a job. I want to work with people who are pleasant (honestly, most of my coworkers are fine, but a few are awful).

There’s just something about being a writer where we’re too scared or insecure to call ourselves “writers.” I was calling myself a legal assistant a week into my current job. I’ve been writing for years now, why don’t I call myself a writer? It’s almost as if writers have to justify themselves to others. “I’m a writer.” “Who do you write for?” “Myself.” “Wow, so have you made any money in that? Has anyone picked up your work recently?” Umm… No, and technically no. If I go up to a plumber, or a mother, or an accountant and say, “So do you make any money in that?” They would think I’m crazy. What is the difference with writers? Why is it just assumed that we don’t make any money? Or that we’re not really a writer if we don’t get paid for it? It seems as though our society looks down on the arts until it becomes “high brow.” We supposedly don’t have the right to call ourselves something that doesn’t make us money. But hey, what do I know, I’m not really a writer anyways, right?

Writing is work. And legal assisting is work. One helps me financially, and one helps me in all other aspects. And maybe one day they will align more closely, but until then, I have to accept how things are. I will work while looking for another job, and I will write while working. Because in the words of Manjula Martin, “The only clear truth each of my jobs has taught me is that the working life – real life – is just as important as the Writing Life. Here’s why: they’re the same thing.”


5 thoughts on “Keep Your Day Job

  1. addie north says:

    Elizabeth Gilbert says something similar in her book Big Magic–that until she landed on the best seller list, she always had another job to support herself financially. She also expressed an interesting view that not relying on her art to pay her bills gave her the freedom to approach it from a place of lightness and creativity instead of pressure. In short, don’t be discouraged because it sounds like you’re already on the right track!


    • marinamiller16 says:

      I can definitely see that, and some of what is said in “Scratch” is similar; writing isn’t about making money, it’s about the art, the love, etc. I completely see that, but it’s the validation aspect that I miss sometimes. Thank you for your kind words, and as always, thank you for reading!


  2. Lunar says:

    I like to think there’s more than one job for all of us. I don’t know if that quite makes sense but at least for me I can picture myself doing a couple of different things and being quite happy in each. I’d like very much to work in publishing someday, but I also miss working in a kitchen and baking even as I’m very much enjoying working for the government right now. I do think it sounds as though you need a fresh start, whether it’s writing or something else you shouldn’t stay somewhere that sucks the life out of you regularly. Been there, done that myself and it completely bled into the rest of my life. You deserve more.

    Liked by 1 person

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