Monday, August 22, 2016
Full-time, part-time, or no time, by Kell Andrews
Most of my writing friends have day jobs -- it's a function of publishing economics. One of my well published friends holds onto her day job for security and reminds herself that Anthony Trollope was a full-time postmaster. If he could do it, so can she (and many others).
Even so, many of us dream of being full-time writers -- that writing cabin in the woods, or by a rocky shore. Long walks to gather thoughts wafting in the air, then long writing sessions with a laptop and a mug of coffee. Cats, definitely cats, unless dogs or the quiet of solitude.
But that's not how writing full-time usually feels. It feels like a job -- a very uncertain job, with pressure to perform effortlessly and no sure paycheck from year to year. And while it's hard to match a disciplined full-time writer for creative output, there's still plenty of time in a full-time writer's schedule for procrastination and anxious hand-wringing. It's not the life for everyone -- many writers need days with more edges to them. (Also steady paychecks and benefits. Some of us need those too.)
It's the edges -- those other things we do -- that shape our relationship with writing. A teacher who writes looks forward to summer for drafting (see Joanna Roddy's excellent post). A stay-at-home parent who writes looks forward to the school year for the time alone with a manuscript. A writer who works full-time at another job saves up vacation time for writing retreats, and a writer who writes full-time wants time away from computer.
The truth is that I wrote most of my first novel while working full-time when my oldest daughter was a baby. Somehow I fit writing in. I could do it now if I find a way.
The other truth is that when I worked part-time, my life was mostly child-shaped. And once my children were both in school and a I had a few hours when they were at school and I wasn't at my part-time job, I was productive as a writer only some of the time. Other times I wasted those precious hours -- not just on laundry and errands, but pure procrastination. Often I cloaked that procrastination as the administrative and water cooler aspects of being an author -- marketing, socializing, networking, writing things like this blog post. But that didn't put a manuscript on the page.
Writing can expand to fill the time available, even when that time is mere cracks between other responsibilities. Now I have cracks, not chasms, and I need to remember how to fill them with words.
Full-time, part-time, no time? What's your schedule? What's your ideal?