the day job
September 28, 2011 3 Comments
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.