That Pesky Day Job

Written by contemporary writer and shortlistee for Stripe’s Publishing PROUD LGBTQ+ anthology, Wibke Brueggemann, as a Bookshelf Blogger

Few things in a writer’s life are more irritating than having to have that pesky day job.

It’s tiring, it’s time consuming, and above all it is tedious.

While those more successful and/ or fortunate than you are sipping morning tea in their writing sheds wearing their dressing gowns, you’re schlepping across town at rush hour on the Northern Line dreading your forty hour (although, let’s face it, it’s more likely going to be a forty-five to fifty hour) week in a job that is making you lose the will to live every ten minutes. And of course the trouble is: life is expensive, bills need paying, the financial pressure is relentless, and you really have no other option but to get with the program. Unless you marry rich, in which case: Congratulations, but stay with me anyway, because, being a hard-core day jobber, I’ve got a few things to say about the non-financial gains of it, too.

Once upon a time I decided to become a writer. I worked in a call centre in Surbiton at the time, sharing the open plan office with approximately seventy other people whose only goal in life was retirement, my desk overlooking the back entrance to a funeral home. It was hell on Earth. Taking lunch was frowned upon, working overtime was expected, but unpaid. When I got home in the evenings I was too exhausted to think, let alone conjure up a creative thought, and I knew that if I wanted to be a writer, this set-up was never going to work for me. And so began my quest to find a day job that not only paid the bills, but wouldn’t make me want me to stab myself in the eye with a sharp pencil repeatedly.

The truth is that being a writer is as much a calling and a compulsion as it is a lifestyle choice. How many authors actually live from their writing? Yes, J.K. Rowling. But most have other sources of income, be it teaching, writing instruction manuals for flat pack furniture, editing, working in retail or in the care industry. There has to be a day job. But in order to hold on to your sanity it has to be one you can actually bear going to, and one that will still allow you to make time to write.

But apart from the financial necessity, and here’s a plot twist you never saw coming, a lot more can be gained from the daily grind. For one, having limited time will make you use it more productively. How often do you read things like this on social media:

Spent three hours tidying my desk, and ended up not writing anything.

Well, Brenda, I don’t have three hours to be tidying a desk.

You know that saying: “If you want something done, ask a busy person”? You want to be that busy person.

A friend of mine was experiencing writer’s block for months, and wouldn’t stop talking about how she had all day to write, but just couldn’t do it. I told her to get a job. Harsh? Maybe, but procrastination kills your creativity, and having a lot of time facilitates procrastination, and in order to get the essential life-juices flowing, you must do things that take you away from your desk, out of that room, and into the real world.  And consider this: the people you encounter and interact with, love them or loathe them, aren’t only your audience, they are your characters, they are the relationships you write about, they are the worries, the hopes, the sorrows, the heartbeat of your stories. As a writer it is your job to go out there, to listen, and to understand.

Also, when your time comes to sell your book and go on school visits, you want to be the person with funny tales to tell. Not only that, but you’ll need to know how to talk to people from all different walks of life, and how are you going to do that if you’ve only ever spoken to your peers, or to no one at all because you’ve been hiding behind your desk?

And I have one final tip about being a writer with a day job: Don’t for one moment let the often grim reality of your nine to five cheapen what it is you do. You may be a retail assistant, but you are a writer first and foremost. Practise saying it in front of a mirror, and get the order right. Here’s mine:

My name is Wibke, and I am a writer of Young Adult fiction. I currently work at the Victoria Palace Theatre.

Go on, have a go.

Wibke Brueggemann writes contemporary novels for Older Readers filled with wit and character-led comedy so funny you’ll snort your way through it. An extract from her novel, Hormonal Horror and 
the Cancer Shop, is published and included within the Bookshelf Anthology.
She has recently been signed by Rachel Mann of Jo Unwin Literary Agency.

To find out more about Wibke and her novel, and to read her extract, click HERE.

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