Why To Keep Your Day Job
(This is for my friend, Matt T. And for y’all, but especially him.)
I’ve noticed a trend in my life: I end up seeing some out-of-town friends more often than in-town friends. Why? Because with out-of-town friends, time is more precious and so planning happens, as does committing to follow-through. With in-town friends, we can always see each other, so vague and cancellable plans happen. This isn’t because people are horrible, but because life is full on random, busy shit. When something comes up, you might want to ask “hey, can we meet up next week?” With out-of-town friends, it’s a definite no. With in-town ones, it’s more likely yes. So a busy life gets to impact plans that can be remade.
(Of course, once you need to see a friend, the plans stop being vague and cancellable.)
Writing is similar. When you can put off writing, it’s easy to do. “Crap, I’m not feeling well. I can write later.” “Man, I have a ton of chores that should get done. I can write. later” “Tim & Lisa feel like grabbing a movie, and I haven’t seen them in a bit. I can write later.” Etc. etc.
One excuse on its own isn’t the problem, but when you constantly reschedule your writing time–time that can also was “yes” to “can we do it later?”–then you’re running into the same problem as with me meeting up with in-town friends.
I often hear people say “man, if I didn’t have a day job, I could get so much writing done.” And every time I hear it, I ask them when they last wrote. If it not yesterday or the day before, I tell them they’re full of shit. They won’t get more writing down when they leave a day job. Once you have a space where you have more time to write, if you’re used to giving yourself excuses to not write, you’ll just keep giving excuses–because you have more time in the day to put off writing.
“Oh, I should go shopping for groceries. I can write later.” “I haven’t watched the new Colbert Report. I can write later.” “It’s a nice day for a walk. I can write later.” Etc. etc.
If you can’t give yourself thirty minutes a day to write, saying “fuck it, this is what I’m doing,” then you aren’t ready to give yourself eight, ten, twelve hours to write. Before talking about the hellish parts of the business like taxes and chasing down jobs & payment, before talking about how little pay you’ll make and the insane cost of health insurance, the reality is: if you aren’t writing now, you won’t write then.
But there’s hope. The day job brings with it a structure to your day — maybe it changes week to week, but there’s some structure. Use that structure. Commit to writing. If you can do that until it becomes second nature, if you can say to yourself “fuck, I haven’t watched the new Colbert Report. I’ll get some writing done for half an hour and then watch it,” then you’re closer to the point where you can ditch your day job–if that’s what you want.
If you aren’t constantly writing, but that’s where you want to be, keep your day job. It’ll train you to find all sorts of time in the day to write. It’ll make you a fierce wordsmith. Because if you aren’t writing, it’s not your day job holding you back. It’s your lack of commitment and follow-through.
P.S. Of course, if you won’t be keeping your day job for other reasons, like being laid off, my comments still stand. You’ll have to do the difficult thing of learning how to give yourself structure. From experience, I know that’s hard when you’re used to others imposing that structure on you.