Peggy Bechko: The Day Job and The Writer


by Peggy Bechko

I think we all know the image of the ‘starving writer’ is long gone. The large majority of writers and I mean published and even often published writers are pressed to supplement their writing passion with a day job.  Heads up writers, those are the facts of life. 

The question then becomes, what kind of day job? There are well known writers such as Dan Brown (Da Vinci Code) who taught school. That can be a great writers’ day job with long breaks in the summer and usually winter and spring as well. There are drawbacks too. Teachers are often overwhelmed with work during the regular school year with class planning, teaching, grading papers and possibly even drawing duty supervising playgrounds and parking lots. It could mean the writer finds time to write only during breaks in teaching. And if you want to teach lower grades and write, say erotic romance novels, that could be a bit tricky. You might need a pen name to say nothing of how you handle book related appearances.  Just a thought.

Some other writers choose jobs that call for them to write during the day such as technical writing, resume writing, public relations, catalog description writing. These all give the writer the opportunity to exercise his or her writing muscle. The down side to that job is it could be very hard to work on your great American novel at day’s end after having written all day.  Some aren’t the least bit deterred and pound out those thousands of additional words even after a day at such a job and the benefit of that kind of work is the potential for a great information flow that might be used in a novel.

There are journalist novelists such as Ernest Hemingway. He used his talent and experiences as a war correspondent to write about war in some of his novels. And the added benefit of working in journalism is you get a by-line when published. That’s not a bad thing when putting your creative writing out there. If you go the traditional route agents and publishers will know your name. If the digital world calls no doubt getting your identity out there will attract readers who follow your work in the journalistic field.

If you’re into screenwriting you might want to try to find a job associated with the movie industry. Maybe take some ‘extra’ jobs in films or become a ‘reader’ for scripts.

Other writers think a whole different direction is good for their writing and take jobs like William Faulkner who shoveled coal and took advantage of quiet times at the power plant where he worked to write while Stephen King started as a high school janitor (and you wondered where Carrie came from).  Could be that as a writer what you’re looking for is a day job that pays the bills but is not very demanding and there might be quiet times when you can slip in some writing.  Maybe a desk job that involves reception with times when the people flow is slow. If you think that less demanding job is for you just bear in mind the co-worker who want to go to lunch or wants to hang out at your desk and chat. Don’t know what to tell you about them, you’ll have to find your own solution.

Think about it. Work with it early on so you don’t just ‘fall’ into a job you hate to keep things moving. If you need some training, get it. Then dove-tail that job with your writing until you can break free into full-time writing you love.

Want a few suggestions for job hunts and ideas?  Try:

Your local

Keep an open mind and find a good match.