Instead of talking about books today, I’m talking about writers! Actually, about writers before they could pay the bills as writers.
When people ask me what I do now, I respond that I am a writer. If they probe about where they can buy my books, I have to add the word “unpublished” or “unpaid.” (I do not say “aspiring” because I don’t aspire to write; I do write.) But no shame in that, people! Most full-time authors start out with other jobs that pay their mortgage and utilities until they can strike out on the book tours and interviews that accompany a best-seller and a writing career.
Here are a few examples of the day jobs of famous authors (before they hit it big):
Douglas Adams – Security Guard
Mary Higgins Clark – Radio Script Writer
Stephen King – High School English Teacher
Stephenie Meyer – Stay at Home Mom
Nicholas Sparks – Pharmaceutical Salesman
Kurt Vonnegut – Saab Dealership Manager
But of course, you can find best-selling authors with just about any day job in their past. Because in case you think you should simply declare yourself an author and quit your day job, you might want to rethink that.
In addition, plenty of authors keep their day job even after publishing. In the tough competitive world of book sales, it often makes sense to keep that anchor. Moreover, you might find that your day job lends to your writing in helping you come up with ideas, dialogue, etc. You might also simply enjoy both your day job and your writing (see Jeff Kinney, author of Diary of a Wimpy Kid).
Admittedly, for myself, I have my fabulous husband paying the bills. Call me a kept woman, if you wish! But I do have a “day job,” so to speak. I am a stay-at-home mom, housekeeper (so wish I could hire this one out), and volunteer. And yes, I include volunteer because it requires time and effort to work in the school library, write and prepare Bible class lessons, and co-direct a kids’ camp. Between those tasks, writing, and (okay) long lunches with friends from time to time, I stay busy.
So what is the perfect day job that facilitates writing? Screenwriter John August suggests a few criteria in his post Good Day Jobs for Writers and Others. Moreover, author Jennifer Jabley makes a great case for keeping the day job in her post for Writer Unboxed.
If you are a fiction writer, what’s your day job? How are keeping the roof over your head and food in your belly? Do you hope to be able to quit that job someday? Do you want to keep it? Why?