At the beginning of January I went back to work – the paid employment type – for the first time in 5½ years!
When I took voluntary redundancy in 2011 it seemed like the perfect opportunity to take a year out to pursue my long-held-but-neglected dream of being a writer.
That year has stretched a loooong way. It took me two years to really get going with any writing. Once I started working on TSB I often found myself wanting to just finish the next draft before going back to work (and then the next, and then the next!). Dreams take a lot LOT longer than you think!
So, if you have your own dream – to write a book or a screenplay or a song, to paint, to make music, to open a cafe or get into property development – should you too give up work to pursue that dream?
I would say, no! Or at least, probably not yet.
Seems a bit hypocritical perhaps, given that that’s what I did, but…
I wasn’t ready. I didn’t have a plan of action. I didn’t realise I needed to study books about writing or go on courses. I was a good writer in my teens, so I thought I still would be. I didn’t even have a clear idea about what I was going to write nor had I made a start on it.
Don’t get me wrong, in general I’m grateful I did what I’ve done. I’m further down the writing path now than I think I would have been if I’d just dabbled with writing while working. When your stated position is that you’ve given up work to write, then people have a habit of asking how the writing is going. Unless you want to keep making excuses then you need to put your bum on your seat and your fingers on the keyboard and get writing.
It’s easy to have a rose-tinted idea about how great it is to give up work and follow your dream – and it can be very wonderful, I don’t deny that. I’ve loved the privilege of spending days writing and reading, getting lost for hours in wonderful imaginative worlds. But there are downsides to it too.
The most obvious one is financial (I was fortunate that my husband’s salary kept a roof over our heads and food on the table). It’s also easy to get isolated. But the primary problem, which hit hardest when I started submitting TSB to agents last year, was that my hopes of success and earning money were tied up with this one piece of work – like putting all your eggs in one basket. I found that wasn’t at all great for my mental health. I needed something else to focus on, that would make me feel I was achieving something and give me a little income until writing, perhaps one day, could.
I have writer friends who work full-time and have been just as – or even more – productive than me on a daily basis. I haven’t guarded my time well or always seen it as precious. Going back to work is making me more self-disciplined and I’m fairly certain that my overall productivity is going to remain the same, or perhaps even improve.
My new job is great and really suits me in lots of ways, especially as it’s (deliberately) part-time. Going back to work definitely doesn’t mean I’m giving up writing!