As I work through one of the projects for a client, I decide to take a social break and within a few clicks I’m reading an article shared by one of the groups I follow. This next sentence sticks out to me: “People don’t make a living writing. You should find something practical to do with your life.” This is something that the writer identified with, and by golly googalacks, so do I!
This was not the theme of the post, but it definitely triggered something in my belly, then my heart, and finally, my brain. It triggered a slew of memories of people discrediting my work as a writer as a “serious job”. What is the differentiator between a serious and non-serious job? If I’m serious about it, surely it’s a serious job? Haha, I know… That was only funny to me!
I want to let you in on a little secret. This is really, honestly, truly, my real job.
So, in order to clarify the confusion and answer some questions, I proceed to debunk those myths for your pleasure – and mine.
Myth 1 – This Is an In-Betweener Hobby and You Should Get A Stable Job
The year is 2017 and the concept of a stable job has become…. Well… obsolete. Therefore, the phrase ‘stable job’ in itself has become an oxymoron. Let me tell you why I believe this. When I had my extremely well-paying job with all the bells and whistles at a local bank, I had this fear that I was going to trip up, make an epic mistake that would cost a client thousands or millions, and lose my job. Or that I was going to offend my manager (again!) and lose my job. Or that my division was going to face retrenchments and I was going to lose my job.
In fact, year after year, the bank was facing “tough times”. Never mind the CEO’s and COO’s and any executive with a “C” prefix earned a bonus bigger than a decade of salaries.
I also refer to conversations with my family members and the fear they have of losing their jobs. Every year like clockwork, these companies send out a memo or newsletter to inform their staff that there is an urgent staff meeting. This meeting usually takes place during September or October. Mxm, good timing!
They will put on their frowny sorry faces and tell everyone that the company is facing difficult times. They’ll even wear an old shirt to the meeting. Not the Armani one. No, a cheap one, like Pringle (not realizing that “cheap” Pringle shirt feeds a family of 4 for two weeks). They will then tell the staff members that retrenchments are on the cards. Bonuses are halved or completely done away with so that more people can keep their job. After the meetings, the execs climb into the latest luxury sedan, whizz off to their exco meeting, and celebrate the increased profits with the shareholders.
Every cent I make is by the sweat of my brow. My wage is not dictated by a suit and if I happen to have a generous client that pays me a bonus, well whoop! I don’t have to overthink the corporate structure and I don’t have to worry about being retrenched. Bam!
Myth 2 – This is an In-Betweener Hobby… (Wait, Didn’t We Cover This Already?)
I work hard.
Also, I work long hours.
And… I have to learn a lot in a short space of time if I’m going to make anything of myself.
Instead of watching TV mindlessly for hours a day, I work at my craft. I make up for sleeping in by double-working. I don’t have sick days. In fact, I work during holidays too.
This is not an in-betweener hobby making me a couple of pips every month. It’s something that allowed my husband and me to hold on to our assets when our financial worlds came spinning down to near-crisis. Also, writing is something that enables me to get closer to Debt-Free-Before-35 (property included y’all). My steady salary surely didn’t. In fact, I knew nothing about tax and money before. To be honest, as a banker, I was at a massive disadvantage. I believed debt was good!
This is a job. I work it close to 12 hours a day because I just can’t help myself. I love it. It draws me in. When I’m not writing, I’m reading and when I’m not reading, I’m planning.
Myth 3 – You Have So Much Extra Time, Your House Must Be Super Clean
Nope and nope. I have less time now than ever before. Refer to Myth 2, I work 12 hours a day. Gladly! So now is the part that gets a bit hazy. It costs me more to clean my house myself (because I’m home you know, got all this time on my hands) than it does to pay someone to do it. Those few hours spent every day cleaning stuff generates more income when I’m writing. My house isn’t a mess, I keep it tidy, but I’m not going to go at every nook and cranny with a toothbrush every day. You might spot some dust when you come over. By the way, if you do, would you mind giving it a quick wipe? You’ll save me a heck of a lot of time.
Myth 4 – You Can Work Whenever You Want
Oh so you agree that I do work now, at least we’ve established that. Okay this one is a double-edged sword because technically I can work whenever I want. I have no boss to bust my butt and I can say no to projects because I feel like spending all my time on the beach. But then I don’t get paid. Also, my customers will find other writers and I will lose the relationship.
The other part of this is that a schedule allows you to plan your day a little better. When you can plan your day, you can plan your week and month and so on. Before you know it, you’re back in a routine (remember how you hated it in corporate?). The difference is that this time you’re the one setting the rules. So yes, you can work whenever you want as long as you work enough to pay the bills.
Myth 5 – If This Job Or That Job Doesn’t Work Out, I’ll Just Become A Writer Too
Okay. Good luck!
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not doubting your ability, I’m just worried about the commitment. Before you even leave your job or wait for that retrenchment letter to come, get yourself set up. Make the connections, find the clients, build the portfolio. Learn the language of the internet. Find your niche. Build your reputation. Why wait until it’s the last choice? This isn’t my last resort, it’s my first option. Every other job on the planet is secondary to this one (apart from a Belgian chocolate taster, if there is a job opening let me know!).
Myth 6 – Pajamas All Day For The Win!
Nope, not me. I can’t do it. Even if I brush my teeth and wash my face, I simply don’t feel work-ready if I’m still in my pajamas. The most productive days are the ones where I “dress for work”. I put this in quotes because dress code in my office is only half a step up from pajamas. But it works. I still fool my brain that way.
I end this post with a quote by Ernest Hemingway for those who thought this job is easy:
“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”