Monday, August 29, 2016

Writers: Should You Keep Your Day Job? By Jacqueline Seewald

Should you write part-time or should you leave your day job so that you can concentrate on writing full-time? That is the question. For most people, money is a serious consideration. Fact: The average full-time writer earns very little. So keeping your day job is a no-brainer. However, you can always go into a field that requires writing skills like journalism, technical writing, business writing or advertising.
I’m officially retired. One of the benefits of retirement is that I can now indulge myself. I have time to write professionally which I was denied when I was working full-time as an English teacher and later on as an academic librarian and then an educational media specialist.
It was my husband who actually convinced me to take an early retirement so that I could start writing full-time and also spend more time with him, since he was already retired. It took me several years to decide. It was hard leaving a tenured relatively well-paying position, but I have no regrets.
     Still, writing has hardly proven to be lucrative. My very first acceptance as a “paid” novelist occurred when I initially took time off from my teaching job to be a full-time mother. The contract offer came from a publisher in New York City. I was so thrilled I actually burst into tears of joy.
My husband was even more thrilled than I was if that’s possible. He went out and told the neighbors. Then he phoned our friends and relatives.
     I had stopped working as an English teacher and was spending my time as a full-time house frau, mother of two toddlers, and part-time writer. My dream had always been to write a great novel that would be a spectacular bestseller. I started writing way back in elementary school when I won several essay contests. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to become a writer. And I thought this was the start of making that dream become a reality.
     I was delighted to learn that the novel was printed in paperback. Unfortunately, my "advance" of $500 as promised in the contract was never paid. Worse still, I soon discovered that the publisher had gone into bankruptcy. 
        My husband felt just as badly as I did. We visited the publisher's office in Manhattan. The editor-in-chief met with us.
“We’re officially out of business,” the editor explained much to my disappointment. “We have a lawsuit against the distributor, and although the books were printed, they won’t be distributed. I can offer you 50 copies of your novel though.”
My husband and I didn’t know what to say. While we waited, the editor went and got a copy of my novel and then showed us the book. It had an attractive, tasteful cover.
“I love the artwork,” I said.
“How about if I send you the original painting and include that as payment as well?”
I readily agreed. “I’d like to frame it and hang the cover art in my house.”
I did receive the copies of the novel, but not the painting of the cover as promised. By then, the publisher was gone. No point trying to contact the company again. The experience turned out to be a disappointing one overall. But I never lost my enthusiasm for communicating the written word, never gave up on writing, or trying to get my work published. There is great satisfaction in seeing one's words and ideas in print. It's a unique and special experience.
Over the years, I've enjoyed experimenting with many forms of written communications: essays, articles, novels, plays, short stories and poetry. The creation of each work is much like giving birth to a child. There is pain and also pleasure not to mention pride.
     It is not possible to get everything one writes published—nor should writers consider all their work worthy of publication. I for one am not on that kind of ego trip. I often comment that rejections keep me humble. I'm still trying to write something outstanding, still attempting to produce that best-selling novel, still hoping to be "discovered".  Truthfully, it will probably be my last thought on my deathbed.  But I could no more stop writing than I could stop breathing. I write because I can't not write. It's simply what I do and who I am.
I've had a great deal of work published since that first experience. Every time something is accepted, published and paid for, I feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment and elation.
My retirement has given me the opportunity to do what I always wanted to do, namely become a dedicated, professional freelance writer.  
My first hard cover novel for Five Star/Gale was published June 2007. The Inferno Collection, a mystery novel, is in libraries all over the English-speaking world. It sold well enough that the publisher decided to bring the novel out in a large print edition in September 2008. I was able to use my work experience to help me write the novel.  
I had the pleasure of signing a contract with Harlequin Worldwide Mystery to publish The Inferno Collection as a paperback reprint. It is the first novel in the Kim Reynolds librarian sleuth mystery series and the fourth novel I contracted for reprint rights with Harlequin. I’ve now penned four mysteries altogether in this particular series and a number of other novels as well. THE BAD WIFE is the 4th novel in this series and is available in print and e-book form on Amazon from Perfect Crime Press.

My latest book of fiction, which is my 17th, is a new romantic mystery entitled THE INHERITANCE, now available for pre-order on Amazon, B&N Online and many other booksellers. It will be published November 1st by Intrigue Publishing.
Have I succeeded in making my dream come true? Well, I remain basically an unknown writer, and so it’s still a dream in progress, but I continue to work on it each day. I guess you could say it gives my life a sense of purpose.


As a writer, what will work best for you? I suggest holding on to your day job as it can provide you with both material for your writing as well as financial security. You might just be the one to write the next bestseller in your spare time. Who can tell? And if you are retired or simply have time to invest, think of writing that special story that is unique to you. 

28 comments:

  1. Seems like every author has such an experience. I quit my "day" job after my husband's death thinking to write full time...little did I know that wasn't going to be possible (emotionally) for several years.

    I'm starting to get offers to write now...that's exciting...but still not enough to fully support me so, I'm going back to a "real" job LOL!

    Great post!
    Good luck and God's blessings
    PamT

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    1. Pam,

      I know how hard you work at your writing. I hope you find the fulfillment you seek.

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  2. Great post!
    So many people (non-writers) assume that writers make a lot of money. They see the commercials on TV for James Patterson, etc. and put the rest of us in that category. Boy, is that ever wrong! Most of us, like you, are still waiting for the day one of our books will make the big time. In the meantime, as one author friend put it, "I got my royalty check today and it was enough to go out and have a nice dinner." She has over thirty published novels. For many of us that dinner would be at McDonald's. LOL

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    1. Hi Pat,

      All so true! Very few writers can make a living writing. So it has to be something you do because you really love it. Hopefully, fame and fortune will come, but it's not what matters most.

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  3. I worked for many years as a free-lance editor and ghostwriter, learned a lot, and made very little money. In my day job I wrote all the time (fundraising, etc.), but I always wrote every evening or early morning on fiction. There was no way I could not write. As you said, it's like breathing. You've hung on over the years and it's paid off. I hope you get to write the "big one" too. Also, this is the kind of post that non-writers need to see, to better understand what we do.

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    1. Susan,

      As a fan of your writing, I'm glad you've hung in there too.

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  4. Thanks for sharing your journey with us, Jacquie. I enjoy your books and am glad to have met you on my path to publication. You are an inspiration.

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    1. Thank you, Bonnie, for coming by. Writing is such a solitary kind of work. I think it's important that we share our experiences with others.

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  5. We have much in common--except that I stayed with teaching and left with full retirement. Trying to write while teaching secondary English is next to impossible, though I did manage to publish one YA anti-bully novel during my tenure a a middle school teacher. Now retired, I relish the time for creating and composing. It is the BEST for me, since I do not have to rely on a big income from publications. Nice post and I admire both your work ethic and your books!

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    1. I do not rely on my writing income either.

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  6. I started writing when my two children were preschoolers. I was lucky that my husband was making enough money that I could be a stay-at-home mom, but when our two reached their teens, I took a part-time job to help pay for all of the "extras" they wanted. Finally, when the children were grown and my husband retired, I decided to retire. Now I would have plenty of time to write. What I've discovered is I was more productive when I had children to raise and a job. Now it's too easy for me to decide to do something with my husband rather than sit at the computer and write. So which is best, keeping the day job or not? I don't know.

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    1. Your points are well-made. I was inspired to write even when I worked full-time. In fact, I wrote several of my novels inspired by my teaching and library work.

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  7. I would love to write full time, but it has never paid enough for me to live the dream. However, the day job hasn't stopped me from writing. Maybe one day it will pay off. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

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    1. Hi Karen,

      I know you're a prolific writer. So clearly, you've managed to write while working full-time. A good answer to the question posed!

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  8. Hey Jacquelone. Nice post. I am chasing that full-time writer/ semi retirement position as well. Nothing easy about it Best of luck with the new effort. Knock them dead kid DB

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    1. Thanks, D.B.! Wishing you much success and luck as well.

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  9. Excellent post. I could identify with your experience. Such an undulating road our love of writing can be!

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    1. Thank you, Irene. The road to publication is rarely smooth.

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  10. Like you, I wrote on the side for many years until my husband urged me to write full time. (It helped that he had become a dean and could now support us on his own.) Your post made me think of a favorite passage from Anthony Trollope's autobiography, a passage I often turn to for inspiration and consolation. He advises aspiring writers to keep their day jobs and write during their leisure hours: "Should you fail, then your failure will not be fatal--and what better could you have done with those leisure hours had you not so failed?" If we can answer, "There's nothing I would have rather done," then we're right to keep writing.

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    1. A lovely, eloquent statement! Great quote. Thanks for enriching this discussion, Bonnie.

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  11. Good points, Jacqueline. Something to consider.

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  12. Great post, Jacqueline! Everyone thinks writers are swimming in money, never realizing how hard it is to both write and get your stuff out there. Some good food for thought.

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  13. Hi Paul,

    Thanks for adding your thoughts to the discussion.

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  14. Very interesting story. Thank you for sharing. I wish you all the best and that you do write that best seller one day. It's my dream too. At the moment, writing is my main job as I homeschool older kids and am a stay-at-home mom so I have to make use of my time and get those words on the page. At least it's a passion and I keep doing it despite getting little financial reward.

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    1. Kathleen,

      I believe writing is a passion many of us share. Wishing you success as well.

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  15. I quit my day job as a Sales & Marketing Coordinator (former Credit & Collections Manager) in 2003 to freelance write for magazines. Back then, it was easier to break in. Print was still thriving. Since then, I've veered away, gradually, from freelance writing, but I still have 2 day jobs: Editor, Home BUILDER Magazine and Senior Editor, New England Antiques Journal. Both jobs involve writing, of course, but the income is predictable. I would love to just write my books and stories, but as you say, the money just isn't there...yet. My goal is to get there. And I will. Maybe we'll get there on the NYT bestseller list at the same time! Thanks for a great post.

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    1. Judy,

      Thanks for sharing your story with readers and other writers as well. Working as a magazine editor is a great way to continue writing.

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