Friday, October 3, 2008

The Curious Question of the Dreaded Day Job

I've wanted to write since third grade. We had a creative writing class in a conservative christian school (a school I was eventually, but politely, asked not to return to at the end of 4th grade). I wrote stories about the Kool-Aid man and hiding from teachers in bathrooms. My stories were absolutely ludicrous, but they earned me laughter from my peers, and I'm nothing if not a whore for attention (even if I vehemently deny it).

My first real short story was about vampires, written after the first time I watched "Lost Boys." It involved holy water balloons and was a whole two pages long!

During high school, I went through a whole pretentious poetry phase (oh the life of an upper middle class white boy is SO tough and depressing). I also continued to write short stories that were ill-informed by my interest in philosophy (especially the works of Ayn Rand).

Then came college and as I broke free from my parents and my sexuality, my works became pure wish fulfillment. Great sweeping, sappy, love stories about a young man breaking free of his parents and sexuality. Only my stories allowed me to go places and do things I was too afraid to do in life.

But then my twenties came along and I started to have serious ideas, ideas that made sense, characters that were dynamic (and not based off my own idealized reflection), and that's when I knew that I was ready to BE a writer. Yet I lamented never having time. I was either sleeping my way through college, working at some shit job, living with roommates and lovers who sapped my energy, or partying. Every time I hit a stumbling block with my writing, I told myself that I just needed six months and a quiet house in the woods to finish my masterpiece.

So now I'm 30. I don't mind being 30. 30 actually feels really great. I gave up working craptastic retail jobs, and turned to the one thing I hated (computers) to pay my bills. It's my day job. I manage an IT department. And it's hell. But I get up in the mornings and I go to my soul-sucking job so that I can write.

And I did write. In a one year period I wrote three books. One was 120k words, one was 140k words and the other was 60k words. So I wrote 320k words in 365 days. That's an average of 876 words.

Do I expect to write three books a year for the rest of my life? Not bloody likely! But the math proves it out: you don't need to quit your job to be a writer. In fact, I'd say having a steady, secure job is the KEY to writing your first publishable book. Not having to worry about how my rent/car/utilities were going to be paid, and whether I could eat real food or would have to resort to the McDonalds dollar menu, relieved enough stress that at the end of the day, once all the shows I like were watched, I had no excuse to not be writing.

Think about it like this: I wrote THREE books (two were C-RAP) but you only need to write one (good one). Figure that on the long side, it's 120k words. That's only an average of 328 words per day. My mom could write that many words per day.

So when people ask me how I can be a writer and still have a day job, I have to say that I don't think I could be a writer WITHOUT my day job. My mom believes that being published will be the answer to my prayers and that I'll finally get to be a writer, but I know the truth. While I hate my day job, and I hate working with computers, even if I publish, I'm still going to keep my day least until I am making double per year publishing as I make working with computers. Then I'll think about it.

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