Friday, September 4, 2015

Writers with day jobs: do we live up to our potential?

Can we live up to our potential as writers if we have day jobs? This question has always haunted Writer Abroad. So imagine her delight when she found the memoir How Did I Get Here: Making Peace with the Road Not Taken?

In it, the author, Jesse Browner, who has worked for the United Nations for 20 years while also writing novels, argues that perhaps our day jobs make us better writers—we never have to worry about money, for one, and we don’t have to struggle to find the next freelance job either. This frees up our minds to concentrate on our art when we do have the time.

The book is especially relevant to Writer Abroad, since this is the first year she’s experimenting with full-time freelance writing versus working a full or a part-time job. And she has to say–she’s more stressed out from full-time freelancing than she was when she had a day job.

There’s the constant invoicing, the whims of random clients around the world, the unrealistic deadlines, the time zones that follow her no matter which one she’s in. It’s all adding up to one thing: exhaustion.

Now sure, there’s exhaustion in a day job too. But it’s a different kind of exhaustion. There are no invoices, no constant hustle for new assignments, no following up for unpaid or under-paid bills. The schedule is constant for those who are fortunate. Sometimes there’s even writing time during quiet periods.

But then again, Writer Abroad has to say—she’s never placed as many essays in big publications as she has this year. Is it because she is focusing only on freelance writing? Is it because by now she’s finally put in 10 years of constant writing so she’s mastered some basic writing skills? Or is it because her network has expanded to a point that’s finally beneficial?

It’s hard to say.

So what’s the conclusion? Can we be the complete artists we want to be even if we have day jobs? What do you think?


  1. Great Post! Thank you for sharing!

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  2. It's a good question. At this point, teaching and writing are working well together, although I hope to move to full-time freelance work within 12 - 18 months. I noticed you will be attending and speaking at a worksop in Switzerland, do you have any plans to do so in the Great Lakes area? I live in N. Illinois and would be interested.

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