It can be very tempting to quit your job and be a full-time writer. Just imagine, no commute, no getting up at some ungodly hour to do something you hate, no stress, no boss and no Sheila from Accounts who is so annoying.
Writing can seem such an idyllic life. You’ll get up each day, at a nice time, write a bit, have a healthy breakfast while perusing the day’s newspapers. You’ll write a bit more before popping out to meet a friend for lunch. Then you’ll go for a long walk, like the Brontës did, and come home and do a bit more writing. You’ll have a wonderful dinner and do it all again tomorrow. Oh, and your books always are bestsellers and you live comfortably.
An easy trap
It is easy to fall in to this trap. I’ve done it. About a year after when I first started writing, I had my grand plan to create a bestseller and be famous from it. It seemed quite rational that my computer programming job was getting in the way of this plan.
I did take a break from work for a while and it was great living the life that I describe above. But it can take a long time to be an overnight success and for most people, it isn’t possible to live more than a few months without an income. I’m still waiting for that superstardom status, so it is good that I have found a way to combine my regular work and my artistic practice. I love to pay the bills, eat nice things and shop in John Lewis from time to time. And I like to do that as well as flexing my creative muscles.
Why do we have to be validated as an artist?
Where did this notion come from that we have to be published to be a proper writer? Or have a record deal to be a musician? Or to have our own exhibition at the Tate to be a real artist?
In Anne Lamott’s fantastic book about writing (Bird by Bird) she recounts her time as a creative writing instructor. Her students seem to constantly say “Yeah these writing exercises are great but how do we get an agent”. You have to write first, a lot, before you will stand a chance of being published. When you take the time to write every day, then you are a writer, irrespective of how you earn your living.
After all my years of not ‘making it’ as a writer (or as a life coach for that matter) my creativity is so much more joyful now because I do it just for the act of doing it.
Writing (or art) is a job too
If you think you can escape the pressures the working world by doing art then think again. For the people whose work you admire, they treat their writing or their art or their music as a job. The blogs that get turned into bestsellers – well those people spend a lot of time writing, they post every day and master the art of being consistent on social media.
Last year I watched a documentary about the artist Tracey Emin. On one floor of where she works is her studio but on the other floor was her office which housed a couple of assistants. She needed to spend as much time with them on the admin, promotion and planning of her next exhibition as she spent actually creating new art.
I’m a big fan of Liz Gilbert and her recent book, Big Magic¸ about the creative process is fantastic. However she spent months on the road promoting it and often commented how scarily busy her schedule was and that it was often a challenge to carve out just thirty minutes a day for her writing.
Don’t quit your job – just get on and be a writer
To answer the question of this blog – no you don’t have to quit your job to be a proper writer, or a proper artist or a proper musician. You just have to get on and do it, in the best way that you can in the time that you have available.
You don’t need loads of time to write, especially initially. You can get a lot done in small chunks of time, from as little as ten minutes to an hour or two a day. If you did that consistently you could practice your craft and build up a body of work – and still pay the bills with money from your day job.
Now I’d love to hear from you
Write a comment and let us know your views on what makes a proper writer or artist? Can you be one if you have a day job or does being a proper writer come from your own perception?
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