Posted by: oneyearbook | March 3, 2009

Day jobs

So, obviously, lots of writers manage with a day job. In fact, at my current job, I just interviewed an author, who writes very thorough, well-researched biographies and does so with a full-time job. I asked him, partly for the story I was writing and partly for my own interest, how he managed both. He admitted that it was a challenge, but also said that he does a lot of his research reading on the bus to-and-from work. Well, I thought, happily, I couldn’t do that – I have to drive a car for my job. He also said that he’d stopped doing any sort of newspaper journalism because the style and thought process was so at odds with the type of writing he needed to immerse himself in, which also made me feel better about not being able to mount any sort of concerted effort to write a book while also managing to be a full-time journalist.

A quick Google gives me this site, which lists a number of famous writers and their day jobs. Of course there are a very specific type of author, like John Grisham, who was a lawyer, and Ian Fleming, who they say was ‘involved in intelligence,’ who went on to write books related to said day jobs. If I ever write a book about journalism, somebody will add me to that list. Then there seem to be a number of authors who are also doctors – notably, Chekhov. Of course there are many, many writers who make a living teaching, whether it’s writing itself, which I think is getting more common, or something else (Nabokov was a popular literature professor; David Mitchell taught English in Japan; John Crowley teaches writing at Yale).

I also found a blog, Anchored Authors, which specifically focuses on how to be an author with a day job, although it doesn’t seem to have been updated for a while.

And two years ago, Quill & Quire, the Canadian book news mag, did a little poll on their blog about what the ‘best day jobs’ for authors were. Almost immediately someone commented that academics, as a day job, didn’t work for them, which is interesting; obviously what works for some doesn’t work for all. One person, by day a librarian, admitted to having to quit in order to write, while someone put in for bookseller as the best (that did show up a bunch on the list I found). Night cleaning, law, and substitute teaching were all suggested, but a number of people said they took a year off and that it worked for them. Well, I wasn’t getting anything done with a day job – at least, my current day job – so, let’s hope that strategy works for me, too.

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