For All My Blogging Friends Who Wish They Could Quit Their Jobs

October 2, 2013

“Are you quitting your day job?”Old_typewriter_macro_shot_by_Jantiff_Stocks3

Since Life After Art was published, I’ve done quite a few radio interviews, which is a lot of fun.  After a few, you start to learn what questions to expect.  But recently, I got a question that I really wasn’t prepared for:

“Are you quitting your job now that you’ve published a book?”

I get why the radio host asked that question.  Isn’t that what we all want to do, especially as bloggers?  We dream of some romantic future where we can turn our hobby into our full-time profession.  I admit, I dream too.  Not many people get to do it, but just enough do that the rest of us might keep vigil for our dream of someday.

But my answer was, “No.”  Unequivocally, no.  Not just because of the realities that writing has not made me enough money to turn it into a career, but because it is not my ambition to do so.  I have set aside that ambition, despite all of it’s appeal.

Writing full-time is certainly a noble ambition.  But it isn’t mine.  And you are a blogger who dreams of becoming a “real” writer, maybe you should consider these reasons I’m not trying to become a full-time author.

“How Vain It Is to Sit Down to Write When You Have Not Stood Up to Live.”

Henry David Thoreau said those words.  So let’s be honest.  We try not to be vain as writers.  But it’s difficult.  We all want to be heard.  We want to assert our voices.

People say that everyone is entitled to their opinions.  I disagree.  I’m not entitled to have any opinions if I haven’t spent time doing anything, learning anything or experiencing anything.

I was able to write Life After Art because I had a depth of experience that made writing easy.  It would be vain of me to try to write on a topic of which I had no experience or knowledge.  I want to publish another book, but not unless I have an equally deep experience of another topic.

The world is full of empty books with pages added to boost their weight, not to add anything to the reader.  And we all want to be heard.  I say we don’t have the right to be heard until we’ve gotten our hands dirty.

Publish or Perish?

True, it can be very satisfying to get paid to do something you love.

But an interesting thing happens when you turn it into a paycheck.  Suddenly, it’s you’re livelihood.  Suddenly, the pressure is on.  Creativity equals food on the table.  Writer’s block equals hunger.

Some people use the derogatory term selling out for people who get paid for their creativity.  I don’t think full time writers are “sell outs,” but to be sure, when someone else is paying you for something, you give up some measure of control.  You aren’t your own boss.

To be honest, the fact that I don’t need to publish a book is quite liberating.  I don’t have to write anything I don’t want to write or work on any timeframe unless I choose to.  My creativity is mine.

A Very Romantic Myth

The idea of a “full-time” writer, is, so far as I can tell, a myth.

Or at least the reality of a “full time writer” is far different than what we imagine.

Very few writers in the world can pay their bills just on the creative, fulfilling work that they are known for.  Even most of the writers you are thinking of have to do some grunt work, some writing on the side that pays the bills.  Mark Twain was the most famous man in America.  He had to write a newspaper column (which he often loathed) to make money while he worked for a decade on Huck Finn.  

Whether you are doing a day job at a cubicle desk or a writer’s desk, the fact is you will inevitably be doing a day job.  None of us just get to sit around, pondering our lives and writing books.  I’m perfectly happy with the grunt work I’m doing to pay my bills.

Writing Is Lonely

Some of you may find the solitary nature of writing to be appealing, so this may be a counterproductive point.  But I find solitude only healthy in doses.  I could never work from home.  In fact, summers when school is out is practically torture for me.  I know, hard to believe.

I’m just not cut out to be a hermit or a monk or a full-time writer.  I’m not saying you shouldn’t dream.  I’m just helping you weigh both sides, and maybe find contentment where you are.

And that is why I’m shunning the universal blogger ambition.  I’m keeping my day job.

What about you?  Do you dream of finding that elusive “dream job?”  Do you dream of being a “writer” or some other kind of creative profession?

9 responses to For All My Blogging Friends Who Wish They Could Quit Their Jobs

  1. I resonate with this. My wife and I were having this conversation last week. She asked if I ever wanted to just write. I didn’t even have to think about. No. I love writing, but I love being a pastor. I also believe my writing is better because I am a pastor. If I as not a writer my writing would be less creative, and less meaningful. That’s not true for everyone, but it is definitely true for me.

  2. I find as a novice blog writer, that I don’t have much to say if I haven’t really gone anywhere, done anything or taken any photos… I like the idea of writing, but agree that if you don’t live, you don’t have content… I am making a note of the Thoreau quote.

  3. Thanks for this perspective Matt. I find that my writing is richer as I live life. The problem of course, is finding that sweet spot between over busyness and boredom. I am a late bloomer as a writer but feel that blogging and a few articles here and there still can be fulfilling. And I want to keep my aspirations in line with the One who gave them to me.

  4. Very wise, grasshoppa.

    I don’t want to be a “full-time writer”, but I’d love writing as a contributing factor of my job. Whether that’s a side income from a blog/book or what brings in the primary paycheck.

    I’m more interested in public speaking, mentoring and training. I love talking with people and connecting them to others. One of those “people persons” if you will. :)
    ThatGuyKC recently posted..The Tension (and Relationship) Between Creating and Consuming

  5. Living my dream job! I write, talk to people over meals and coffee, contemplate the big questions of the universe, work for justice, participate in salvation, and try to put a dent in the universe for good. I wish I could write better blogs during all this… :-)
    Luke recently posted..God: Faith as a Quest

  6. Amen. It IS a romantic myth. And it’s hard work. Most people I know who quit their jobs to pursue blogging are now trying to find work. It’s not inevitable, and if you’re not prepared to accept the responsibilities associated with being an entrepreneur, don’t even consider it.

    My advice, even though I recently quit my job (after much internal resistance) is to stick with your day job. To dig in, commit, and learn everything you can from where you are right.

    We are such an impatient culture. The real difference-makers have something most of us don’t: the ability to persevere through pain and do hard things the develop their character.

    Glad to see you doing just that, Matt.
    Jeff recently posted..Three Ways to Avoid Mediocrity in Art and Work

  7. Although it’s certainly my dream to write full-time (and has been since I was 8), I’m happy writing in my free time at the moment. My day job actually does pay me to write and to edit, although I’m writing and editing copy for our website and press releases for our clients, not necessarily the most thrilling of work. I like what you say about creative freedom when you’re not depending on a paycheck. That’s one reason I don’t have ads or sponsors on my blog. When I’ve chosen to buy an ad or pay for a guest post on another blog, that blogger’s frequency in posting is important to me. My daily life is too busy and too unpredictable (for now) for me to post X times per week and for me to give satisfactory attention to sponsors.

  8. I want to write for a living and for life. I am based in Africa where all our situations have been captured through the oral tradition. We need to transfer knowledge and experiences through the written word. We have specs of Christians writing and I want both to write and grow writers this side of the Sahara.

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