Saving Saffron Sweeting was written during a blip in my ‘professional’ life. I had a left a job that was making me miserable and decided I’d better have something productive to show for my time off.
However, I always intended to go back to work and although my ‘writing sabbatical’ lasted a bit longer than intended, I did start a new position in June. The challenges of learning a new job, together with being gone from the house for over fifty hours a week, have been considerable. More than once I’ve asked myself how on earth I’m going to get a second book written alongside the necessary logistics of daily living. If it wasn’t for the lovely reviews you’ve been leaving, I might have thrown in the towel on my second shift as a novelist.
Much is written about how writers with day jobs can make time to write. (I devour those articles, by the way). But I thought it was time to celebrate the day job and the benefits it brings:
1. The pay cheque. Duh. That really doesn’t need further explanation, does it?
But wait: there’s more.
2. Characters and material. The day job gets me out of the house and into the real world, where fully-fleshed characters are acting out their personal and professional dramas right in front of me. While I don’t intend to clone any of my present work colleagues in my next novel, there is nonetheless wonderful fodder in the myriad of material which occurs during an eight-hour work day.
3. Exercise for both sides of the brain. I didn’t write much creative stuff in my twenties and thirties, because I chose a fairly analytical career path. (Frankly, it’s much easier to make a living in the sciences than in the arts.) In recent years, the creative side of me has started nagging and I now believe I’m happiest when both sides of my brain get a chance to be in command. With a day job in IT (eek), I need to indulge the artsy side, too.
4. More time pressure. Did I really just type that? The hard-to-swallow truth is that my time is now more scarce than ever. But as my friend and author Martina Munzittu told me, the less time you have available, the better you tend to use it. If I run myself ragged getting chores done, to carve out time to write, I believe there’s less chance I will waste that time, than if I had ten hours every day to ponder my next sentence. “Just do it” is a necessary habit for the writer with a day job and it’s one I’m happy to learn.
5. Better perspective. I’ve been ridiculously lucky so far: nobody has left me a really stinky online review. (Although some private feedback has certainly stung.) However, I believe that the more different aspects we have in our lives, the easier it is to bounce back when one goes badly. If novel sales are low, or a bookstore turns me down for an author event, this hurts less when I’ve achieved something in my day job, or run ten miles, or had a lovely evening out with my husband. It’s true, fitting in lots of different strands puts more pressure on time, but a setback in one area is less likely to ruin my day.
For many creative individuals, a day job is simply a financial necessity. But I believe this cloud has silver linings of other kinds. What do you think?
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