How Having a Day Job (or anything else really) you Love can Help the Writing

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IRL, I am a paramedic. It’s something I went to university to do, it was my aim for a long time. It is also, despite the countless number of days I spend explaining how to manage the flu to 25 year olds, a job that I love.

This blog is not about medic stuff though. I used to write posts about it, but the audience wasn’t there. I have one post, on the things writers get wrong when it comes to injuries, that I think is useful, but random posts on kidney function don’t help anyone.

So why this post?

Very few writers will make a living doing what they do. It’s the reality of the world. Those that do, do so by being consistent, publishing good work often, and treating their writing as a career. Kudos to them. I couldn’t do it.

A day job gives you things that writing won’t. It gives you human contact. A steady wage. Friends, colleges, ideas. You’ve perhaps heard of the phrase “burning the candle at both ends”. If all you do it write, that’s what you’re doing – writing comes from experiences and research and connection, and if you don’t renew all those things, you run out of things to write about.

This is why people tell young people to wait before they start writing, that they won’t have anything worthwhile saying (I think this is bullshit, btw.) I don’t think that’s the advice that should be given – I think the advice should be write, and be aware that your writing will get better as you experience the world. Falling in love, moving from home, working, having kids, navigating life – that is all fodder for your writing.

I would argue though that the 19 year old who’s lived out of home for the past two years, has held down a job while studying, and who goes out and tries to experience as much as possible will have less of a problem with this than a 40 year old who’s never left their comfort zone.

A day job is not just a way to make things meet. It gets you out there, it gives you other people to talk with, it can give you experiences that you wouldn’t have otherwise. Getting a job you love is, for me at least, the next logical step.

If all you do is one singular thing, it will get boring eventually. If all you exist for is writing, than you will get to a point where a) you don’t have anything left to write about and b) you get over it.

So I think that having something else that you do, something else which fulfils you and gives you goals to aim for, is important. Investing yourself in something else is important. It makes writing something that you do that’s different, means it’s new and fresh and exciting.

A job that you enjoy is a useful tool for all of this. A job that you don’t enjoy, however, has less use. It’s useful for making ends meet, for meeting people at work. But if all your job is doing is making you depressed, then it’s probably not going to help your creativity

(I am aware that “Do something you love” is not an option for everyone. I am extremely privileged in the terms of my family, their middle class status, my whiteness and my opportunities because of the above. Sometimes you have to prioritise the realities of life over what you you want)

There are other places to look for this renewal though, I think. Family, hobbies, books, other peoples stories. Going out and finding something else to do with your life. It’s all extremely useful.

I often see this dichotomy presented. Articles about how to write for a living, how to make it big ect. If writing is what you want to do as a job, then I’d say go out and do it, but keep in mind that it can’t be the only thing you do. You’ll burn yourself out if it’s all you do. So if you have the opportunity, find something else to do that pays a wage, and you enjoy. If you don’t, if your reality is harsher than that, find something that gives you joy and puts you out there anyway. I think the idea of “You’re either a writer who earns a wage from your writing (and thus this is what you should aim for), or you’re a “failed writer” is false.

There’s nothing wrong with being out there in the world.

Image taken from Flickr creative commons, attributed to JD Hancock

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