Justifying the day job

Friday, May 21, 2010

This essay by Nell Boeschenstein at The Millions captures something about the tension between writing and the work writers have to do to pay the bills, stay sane, or both. After getting fired from her day job as a research assistant, she found herself wondering what it is exactly she wants to do, and where writing fit:

By the time I graduated from college, enough people had told me I couldn’t make a living this way for me to begin trying to jury rig my skills and interests into skills and interests that paid. I worked as an English teacher, a crime reporter, a waitress, a library assistant, and as a research assistant for authors. With each job I told myself it was temporary: just a job until I could forge a writing career. Alas, the most money I’ve ever earned for a piece of writing I’ve written because I wanted to write it is $50, and that was a month ago. Until recently I had—naively—not considered fully demoting my future writing career to past, present, and future hobby, but the reality is that the time has past come.

I learned to accept that writing may always be an avocation rather than a vocation when the Amazing Leveraged Economy forced me back into a non-writing career I thought I'd left safely behind. Fortunately I had a skill set and track record of experience that could still earn a living and I'm grateful for that, but it's not what I want to do. Sometimes I feel like I'm going to great lengths to rationalize that decision, but being practical isn't all that hard to justify. Besides, I'm not sure I would write that much more if I was left alone all day to my own devices (hello Twitter and Facebook).

The comments are as good as the essay itself, so make sure to read all the way to the end.