I always knew I wanted to be a writer. Before I knew what college I wanted to attend, where I wanted to live, or what I wanted to be when I grew up, I knew I wanted to write books.
It was something I did on the side – working 9-5 in my “day job” as a licensed social worker, then coming home and working my second job – writing and editing a manuscript until midnight.
I did this every day. For two years.
Then came summer 2014 and my husband and I moved across the country together to pursue a career opportunity for him. The move also meant a new opportunity for me; I had the chance to pursue my writing full time, a dream I never thought I’d get the chance to follow.
My husband fully supported my becoming a full-time writer – after all, it was his idea. He has been my biggest cheerleader from the beginning, and together we found a townhouse with an office and got me a writing desk and Scrivener software so I could begin my new career path.
Two days after we moved from New Hampshire to Missouri, I got offered my first book deal from a publisher.
After a month in the new place, my new job was every bit as taxing as my “old day job.” I worked straight from 10am in the morning until, sometimes, 2am the next morning. I loved every minute of it, and never once woke up dreading going to work. Not only was I editing my old manuscript with my publisher and editor, I was writing a new book, working with multiple critique partners, and getting involved with the St. Louis Writer’s Guild (which is an awesome org, by the way).
I returned home to New Hampshire in August for a visit, excited to share my experiences with my friends and family. That’s when someone close to me said something I wasn’t expecting:
“So, when are you going to get a real job?”
I gaped at him.
To say this question pissed me off is an understatement. I was furious. I’d been working so hard all summer, and he didn’t consider it a real job? How dare he! I called my husband up, fuming, and was thrilled to hear that he shared my confusion by this offhand comment.
But over the next few days I started thinking. Why would someone think that writing for a living isn’t a real job? Writers work long hours without the promise of a steady paycheck. How is that different from someone starting a small business, or working as a freelance photographer or artist? It isn’t. Yet I bet someone starting a small business won’t hear “when are you going to get a real job?”
A common social work saying is that you can’t control what other people do – you can only control what YOU do. I can’t change what other people think. If someone else doesn’t take my job seriously, that’s all the more reason for me to work hard and prove them wrong.
But had I been taking it seriously?
Yes, I’d been working on books all day. But was I treating it like a ‘real job’?
I slept in every morning. I texted friends and posted on Facebook during the day. If I had to do errands during the day, I left my writing behind. When people asked me what I did for a living, I blushed and told them about my master’s degree in social work, too embarrassed to tell them what I actually did, afraid of being judged. I didn’t have a steady schedule, and regularly screwed around on the internet.
So if I didn’t take my job seriously – why should other people?
I’ve made some serious changes over the past month. I set an alarm in the mornings and promptly get to work. I made a strict schedule for myself – all errands, housework, and personal phone calls are only for off-work hours. I give myself breaks for Facebook and texting, but I time my breaks, as I would in any other job. When people ask about my job, I tell them about my upcoming book and my work in progress. I’ve become much more organized, and I feel more accomplished with my writing.
I’m proud to say I work as a writer. Yes, it’s a real job. Yes, it’s exhausting. Yes, there are times when I want to throw in the towel, shred all my pages, smash my computer against the wall and scream from frustration.
But no, I wouldn’t trade my job for anything else in the world.
And to you, the one reading this blog – you too have the best job in the world – you are a writer! Whether you do it full-time, on the side, after work, or in ten-minute increments after the kids go to bed…take it seriously!
Set a schedule that works for you. Make time for writing. Never be ashamed of your dreams.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to work. 🙂 <3