the day job

Rob MacGregor and his wife are a stellar writing team (for decades) as is evident from their non-fiction books, Rob’s novels, and Trish’s novels.  Rob’s interview for his new book shows there’s intensity, synchronicity, and some ridiculous deadlines when novel writing is the day job.  Here’s Rob’s answer to a very common question a writer is asked:

If you could only provide ONE piece of advice for aspiring writers, what would it be?

Rob: The cynical response would be to keep your day job. However, a better response: write because you enjoy telling a story or writing about a subject. The rest will follow.

I’m going to disagree with this advice. Having a day job is a good way for an aspiring writer to observe story in process. Learning the nuances of character goals, motivations, and how they react to conflict is best learned at a day job. Too often aspiring authors lament the day job as what prevents their brilliance or strangles their time and energy. They are missing the point. The people they see and interact with at the day job are potential readers or (well disguised) characters.

Every published author I know has a day job from childcare to farming to teaching and a variety of careers that produce consistent paychecks. The reason is, publishing books is a turbulent and random business.  The day job keeps writers grounded and present in their personal life while they learn the art and craft of storytelling.

The day job is where a storyteller feels the setting, smells the pacing, and tastes the dialogue of a story. Story fulfills a primal need beyond the basics of shelter, food, and clothing, to survive as a human. Story aspires to show that love, strife, community, solitude, culture, fantasy, history, and dreams are the building blocks for humanity. Conflict generates hope, despair, strength, failure, and the opportunity for character growth in a story.

Story travels through time and includes the day job. Writing is not an expensive passion and it can nurture aspiring authors for life, but to live life, regular paychecks are a bonus.

About Terri Patrick
Writer of Romance and Memoir. Life is an adventure, take that journey.

3 Responses to the day job

  1. Trish says:

    Insightful, Terri. I worked for years at jobs I didn’t like – as did Rob – and although we learned from these stories and they provided fodder, my advice to aspiring writers remains the same: do what you love, the rest will follow.

    I didn’t love what I was doing, even though I learned from those jobs, but I just couldn’t see myself spending years working for someone else, at a job that wasn’t my passion. So when I sold my first novel, I let my teaching certificate lapse. I closed that door forever. I have never regretted it.


    • terripatrick says:

      The point is – when you sold your first novel. The day jobs fueled your passion (and determination) and clarified what you love.

      That clarity and determination is overlooked when people talk their passions and defend their love. They don’t follow through.

      On the other side of the fence, I loved my day jobs. The reasons why are unique, as I’ve always been odd with no desire to be even, and it is only recently that I’ve developed a passion for story. I’ve loved writing stories since I was 12, but it’s taken me 40 years to discern the difference between writing stories and the power of STORY. Therein lies my new clarity of passion.


  2. Trish says:

    Intriguing contrasts, in other words. OK, I get it.


Thanks for your comments.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: