So Writer, What’s Your Day Job?

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  If they probe about where they can buy my books, I have to add the word “unpublished” or “unpaid.”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.  

Bob from The Incredibles tries a day job

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?

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13 thoughts on “So Writer, What’s Your Day Job?

  1. You and I work at different branches of the same company, "Stay-at-home-mom's are us". :)When my kids go to school, I'm not sure what I'll take on as my day job. I used to be an event planner (for corporate hospitality during major sporting events). Sounds glamorous, but there was a lot of travel, long hours and not a lot of pay :), not so great for a mom of 3! I've thought about maybe not going back to work and volunteering instead, since it would be nice to be home when the kids get out of school. I figure volunteering is keeping busy, it would give me time away from home (and fodder for writing) and it's needed in the community. We'll see :). Man, I sound like a kept woman too, LOL!

  2. I'm actually a full-time freelance writer and editor. By day I work mostly for businesses and non-profits. I write magazine articles as well, but the pay-the-bills money comes from the less glamorous work of writing funding materials and website content.I love the flexibility of this, but sometimes at the end of the day, I'm so drained from writing all day that I don't have the energy or creativity left to work on my fiction. That said, if you have the discipline to do it, I'm actually pro not-having-a-regular-job.

  3. I'm work in higher education as a systems manager. I've learned so much about people and gotten so many ideas from it, AND kept a roof over my head. But my dream is to leave it behind for writing. I've found that a job that requires as much problem-solving as mine often zaps my brain just a little too much to take enough creativity home. I'm realistic, though – I'll be happy if I can transition to a less demanding (and therefore lower-paying) job at some point because my writing income makes up for the downgrade in salary. I'm aiming for the stars, but would be thrilled to achieve that happy medium!

  4. Like you, Julie, I have the enviable opportunity to be a writer and a stay-at-home mom. When my kids were 10 and 15 I started writing – that was two years ago. So, now my time is spent writing during the day when they aren't home or between shuttling them to work, after-school classes, and basketball games. I am VERY fortunate to be able to do something I love that doesn't bring in a dime – yet.Patti

  5. Hi Julie!Like Jeff Kinney, I love my day job. I love the human interaction and guaranteed pay check. It can be emotionally and physically draining at times, but somehow I've adjusted to the routine of writing evenings from 7-11 (instead of watching tv) and on weekends.I plan to "quit" my day job in nine years, when I'm eligible for retirement with a full pension. Before then, I'll enjoy the challenge of fitting in my second career into my current lifestyle. We're superwomen. We can do this. 🙂

  6. Julie – your post made me feel so lucky to also be a "kept woman." The hubby brings home the paycheck, and I get to write full-time. I seized that opportunity after we became debt-free…I quit my full-time moving-up-the-career-ladder job in exchange for pursuing my passion. No regrets!

  7. I'm also a stay at home mom…though I kind of bristle at that term…I don't just stay home, dagnabit! 😀 I'm also a homeschool teacher, housekeeper, cook, animal wrangler, etc etc. You know something? I really don't get paid enough. 😀

  8. I love this one. I too am a 'kept woman' right now although with the amount of work required to keep five children alive, i gotta say being a kept woman sure aint what its cracked up to be LOL. I write in between every spare minute. And blog in every minute after that. I survive on zippity sleep. And have to say that i would never want any of my kids to become a writer. Its solitary. Lonely. Demanding. Soul-sucking work. But then every now and again, there are flashes of brilliance. And moments of exhiliration. And of course the buzz i get when i pick up my published book…big sigh. I have to remind myself sometimes that i realy am living my dream job – fulltime with my children AND writing. And keep writing.

  9. Great comments, y'all! I have often wondered if a part-time job isn't the best of both worlds. It's unfortunate that there are not more professional level PT jobs available. I could use a little extra income while I work my way toward the million-dollar book contract. 😉

  10. I’m in the same boat, Tiffany. All I want to do is work on my novel, but I need an income. It’s hard to write when you have all this guilt about being unemployed. And it’s hard finding a day job when you already know you’re life’s passion. I don’t want to work in any other writing-related field, I don’t want to teach, and I certainly do not want another administrative job, although that’s my only experience. “One day,” indeed…we’ll figure it out. Good luck to you.

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