The Day Job…

The day job…

A wise writer once said to me that it’s not so much the pram in the hall that’s the impediment to a writing career, but the bills on the door-mat. Money worries are the bane of creativity. And unless independently wealthy, the emerging writer will have to make a living while waiting for that book/film deal (and probably for a while after that fact too). Writers need to work; the question is what kind of jobs are out there?

Many will consider other (more lucrative) forms of writing to bring home the bucks. Journalism is an obvious  choice and is still, probably, the most common second career for many creative writers. Moreover, a journalistic background provides marvelous training re editing and brevity of approach. Copy-writing, particularly website copy, is also a popular income booster for writer but both copy-writing and journalism are less satisfying forms of writing for the creative writer and spending all day writing on the day job can make it difficult to come home and do the same at night.

Teaching English and/or creative writing is another common earner for writers. My TEFL training and experience has given me a sound grip of grammar and the intricacies of the English language – all of which is of great practical use to a writer. A TEFL teacher also (usually) travels and such experiences can feed into your work. Teaching creative writing allows you to deconstruct the tools of creative writing, which may benefit your own writing. However, you usually need a track record of publication before you begin to look for work in this area.

It is not uncommon for writers to work a mundane job such as on a factory line or as a manual laborer. Such tasks sit quite well with a writing career as they give the writer time to think, to let ideas bubble and boil ready to write down after the shift has finished. Also, with a job so utterly removed from writing, you will be fresh and eager to sit at your laptop of an evening. The downside of any brain numbing, repetitive work is that it has no status. This fact should not be important but it is because writers are human, so for a writer to stay in a lowly job, s/he needs determination, focus and confidence in their reason for doing this type of work.

Writers, of course, come from all walks of life and all career backgrounds. For those of you who may be considering giving up your job to write full time, you need to remember that you’ll (most likely) still need to make a living. Maybe the job you have is not glamorous or interesting, but these are often the best complementary jobs for writing. So, if you really want to be a writer, the greatest sacrifice you make may be NOT giving up the day job –  but staying with it.


About suehealy

From Ireland, Sue Healy is Literary Manager at the Finborough Theatre, London, a full-time Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Lincoln. Her book on theatre literary management is published by Routledge, December 2022. Sue is an award-winning writer for stage, TV, and prose writer. TV Her current project, a 6x60minute TV series, is under option. She is under commission with Lone Wolf Media, producers behind PBS’ “Mercy Street”, to co-write the pilot and treatment for a six-part TV series. Stage Her most recent stage-play, Imaginationship (2018), enjoyed a sold out, extended run at the Finborough and later showed at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough. Her previous stage productions include Cow (Etcetera Theatre, 2017) and Brazen (King’s Head Theatre, 2016), funded by Arts Council England. Sue’s short plays have been performed at the Criterion (Criterion New Writing Showcase), Arcola (The Miniaturists) and Hackney Attic (Fizzy Sherbet Shorts). Radio Her radio work includes nine plays broadcast on BBC Radio 4 (Opening Lines winner), WLRfm and KCLR96fm. Prose Sue has won The Molly Keane Award, HISSAC Prize, Escalator Award, Meridian Prize and has been published in nine literary journals and anthologies including: The Moth, Flight, Tainted Innocence, New Writer, Duality, HISSAC, New European Writers. She has been writer-in-residence on Inis Oírr, Aran Islands, and at the Heinrich Boll Cottage on Achill Island. She has also benefitted from annual artist residencies at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, and at Ginestrelle, Assisi in Italy. An academic with a PhD in modern theatre history, specifically the Royal Court Theatre, Sue has presented her research internationally. She spent eleven years in Budapest, editing Hungary A.M. She has a PhD in modern theatre history (Royal Court Theatre) and is a UEA Creative Writing MA alumnus. View all posts by suehealy

24 responses to “The Day Job…

  • John Northcutt Young

    Thanks, needed an outside reminder. My day job is a janitor.

  • sfbell09

    I find that programming is an excellent job. It stirs creativity (though of a different kind) and an active mind generates ideas. Creative writing also happens during break time when I am need of a few minutes away from bits and bytes.

  • artfulhelix

    Reblogged this on artfulhelix.

  • kymlucas

    Speaking from personal experience, librarianship works well with writing too. I love being around books and people all day, and think the job/career to be very complementary to a writing career.

  • Maria Caruso Richard Benecchi

    The day job is also a necessity for those who are tying to make it in the music field. I teach English language in Italy, and though I usually enjoy it, there’s always the thought that there’s something else that I’d rather be doing – studying and performing music, finishing the book that I began writing ten years ago, working on those half finished musical instruments that are sitting in my workshop. Sometimes I think that I have too many interests, but it’s the interests in life that make life interesting. Now if I can only manage to make one of them pay off…
    – Richard

  • Holly Troy

    Perfect reminder – just took a job as a waitress – and at 41 my body hurts today! (After the first night of training) I am thinking I may get more aggressive with my yoga teaching skills though (an oxymoron I know, but you wouldn’t believe how cut throat the yoga business can be)!

    Still, I worked in the corporate world all through my 30s and I pretty much lost my creative drive. 40 hours a week turned to 70 and then, who wants to sit at a computer after that?


  • J.C.V.

    Congratulations! You have won the One Lovely Blogger Award! Check it out here:

  • Edward Hotspur

    That job you have to take to live while you do your real writing job always sucks. Usually sucks, anyway. That first pic made me crave Wendy’s for dinner and Cracker Jack for dessert.

  • The weeds in the writer’s garden | From book to book

    […] Healy’s post about finding time to write arrived in my mailbox at an apt moment. I’m working long hours and arriving home depleted and […]

  • D.J. Lutz

    Sometimes it’s tough to find the time, with the “real” job, family, school perhaps. Here is another take on how a few writers that “made it” found time to write:

  • WordsFallFromMyEyes

    Sue – hi. Sincere thanks for subscribing. I DEFINITELY relate to this post! Well, the day job isn’t THAT bad, but it’s not the ideal…. which is…. YEP!! 🙂

    Your credentials are fantastic, really top stuff. Working at the prison – how interesting is that! I wonder what’s in the heart & soul expressed by pen of a “criminal”. I was a criminal once, as my story tells – I shoplifted food when I was 19 and married, because my husband gave me a weekly budgetted $$ and expected great dinners from it, & I wanted to give great dinners by it.

    I do write more than I read, but I will definitely, definitely come back for your competition news & other opportunities. Your site looks solid – a great place on WordPress 🙂 Sincerely, Noeleen

  • David Barker

    I do a little technical writing at my job, but I wouldn’t want to write full time at work. It would kill the joy of words for me. I do data analysis. It keeps the brain sharp but doesn’t drain the imagination. For me journalism, teaching lit or creative writing, any other pro writing job would kill my desire and motivation to write fiction and poetry.

  • themidlifesecondwife

    Wonderful post, Sue. A friend of mine who taught fiction writing at a college—and is herself a published author of a novel and short stories—once told me that if I wanted to write, I shouldn’t get a job writing for a living (which is exactly what I had gone and done). Yes, bills need to be paid. One must eat. And I don’t necessarily regret the path I took. But I do find that now I’m out on my own as a freelancer and no longer at a 9-5 salaried writing job, my creative work is more vibrant, and my energy level more robust, than ever before in my life. Still, in my next life I do want to come back as an independently wealthy creative writer! Thanks for these great thoughts. —Marci

  • willofheart

    great post sue, I admire people who can pursue there dreams in writing regardless with the obstacles being a writer, I work in a telecommunication as my regular job and a part time tutor but to write and recognized as a writer is my forever desire and dreams, as of now I am not consider my self as a writer because I am just starting my path for it, but you’re right we need to have an income to support our expenses…

  • Marvin the Martian

    I know very few writers who make a living at it, outside of technical writers. Artists are poorer, but not by a lot.

  • NW

    Great post and so true. For over three years I worked in a gallery space that was ideal for scribbling down ideas whilst watching people and protecting the artwork. Relatively peaceful job, lots of time to think.

  • Elizabeth

    I’m behind on replying, but this falls in with where I am right now. I am a freelance editor – which I love doing – but it’s work that comes in fits and starts. A deluge, then a drought. I’m working on finding balance (and consistency), but in the meantime, I need to find consistent part time work that at least covers my car payment, insurance, gas, and cell phone. More importantly, I’d like it to be a job I don’t bring home with me. I know it also gets me out of the house and around people – I’m a social gal and being by myself all day really wears on me at times. Retail is looking good. Thanks, Sue!

  • Jonathan Caswell

    Reblogged this on By the Mighty Mumford and commented:

  • Maria Matthews

    Does this mean that having been made redundant and working as a volunteer, ( which I enjoy) means I am doomed never to be published?
    I’m enjoying catching up on the articles on your blog,

  • josieblueowl

    Reblogged this on VitalWrite and commented:
    Great post by Sue Healy…

  • Barry O'Leary

    Great post. I’m an ESL teacher and writer, trying to turn main income into writing, but tricky. Luckily as a TEFL teacher I get time to write in the mornings, downside is I don’t see my kids as much as I would like as I finish late. Just about to finish a novel so hopefully that takes off. What writing do you do?

    • suehealy

      Short story, novel, screenplay, radio, stage, TV… quite a lot of forms really, to varying degrees of success (see ‘about me’) . Writing’s tough and takes perseverance and a thick skin… but I think if you’re a true writer, you can’t not write….

Leave a Reply

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

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

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: