Friday, July 14, 2006

Is writing a full time job?

Lots of people come up to me and actually ask me: "How do you do it? How do you combine a full time career with writing part time? Where do you find the time?"

Well, if what they are really asking is: "If I want to write, should I quit my full time job to do writing, which is what I truly love?" (so many veiled subtexts in that initial question.) then my answer is an emphatic: "No."

DO NOT QUIT YOUR DAY JOB. (If you have one)
DO NOT QUIT YOUR DAY JOB UNLESS YOU ARE JK ROWLING/DAN BROWN.
YOU DO NOT NEED TO QUIT YOUR DAY JOB TO WRITE.

To me, it is simple. If you want to be a writer, you need to pay your bills. And writing in our tiny markets won't do that for you. Even if you were to go international, most international writers do not make money the way JK Rowling does, not with the measly royalties the publishing houses offer. Most of them are hungry and starving. Most of them are miserable. Most of them are waiting for that big break.

So my RULE NO.1: YOU NEED TO PAY YOUR BILLS.

RULE NO.2: IF YOU HAVE A FULL TIME JOB, THE EXPERIENCE IS ACTUALLY MORE ENRICHING FOR YOUR WRITING. Therefore, YOUR FULL TIME JOB CAN BE YOUR MUSE.

The characters you meet in your daily life are muses. So are the experiences you go through. After all, 'The Devil Wears Prada' is one big "I hate my boss and she can't do anything right" rant.

Tired after a full day's work? Write only a bit each day. Write more during weekends. If you don't feel like writing one day, don't force it. Let the juices flow. But chip at it day by day, and at the end, you'll have a book.

And what separates those who have produced something from those who haven't? SHEER WILLPOWER AND DETERMINATION TO BE A WRITER.

Heck, if I can do it, anyone can too.

7 comments:

Lydia Teh said...

Well said, Xeus. Allow me to modify the recipe slightly.

The Making of a Writer :

Sheer willpower
Determination to be a writer
Persistence

Syafique said...

Thanks for this piece. How I wish I can be a full time writer, but yeah, our market in M'sia is so tiny. Gonna grad next year and hopefully I can find a job and I'll write whenver I'm free.

Xeus said...

Well said, Lydia! You can do it, Syafique.

Anonymous said...

There was this famous suspense writer who once gave a talk. He asked those in attendance: "Why do you want to be a writer?"

Many hands shot up.

Some liked exposure. Some loved the creative process. Some were eager for fame. Some were intrigued at the possibility of money.

And he went: "No, no, no. If you write for those reasons, then you are writing for the wrong reasons."

He went on to illustrate that writing (for fiction writers, anyway) is a kind of self-psychoanalysis. We write to come to terms with the traumas and insecurities inside us; the ferret running around inside us and gnawing at our soul. Why else would we shut ourselves up in our corner, writing for weeks, months, years, while life passes us by?

We write because we have to write. We can't choose not to write. It's a craving need, an obsession.

If you write for interest, interest may soon change. If you write for money, money may not come. If you write for fame, heck, fleeting.

But if you write because you HAVE to address something inside yourself, that is in itself the best reason.


---
John Ling
www.johnling.net

Xeus said...

Very poignant, John :) How have you been? Long time no see.

My actual point is I believe we can address something within ourselves in our writing WITHOUT quitting our jobs and ruining our family's lives in the process. I believe we can have our cake and eat it too. Just like I believe a woman can be a mother as well as a career woman. It needn't be one or the other.

Anonymous said...

I agree absolutely.

In the United States, at any one time, there is only about 300 writers who can make enough to comfortably write professionally. ;)

What more in Malaysia?





---
John Ling
www.johnling.net

Xeus said...

I believe Jim Aitchison, who is not really Malaysian but might pass as Singaporean, is one of them :) He goes multigenre under many names and guises.