When writers are searching for an agent or editor, they often think that getting published is the big hurdle to get over. Once you get your book published, you can quit your day job and begin a new career as a professional author, right?
As an author who has released four books with Random House, I have left my day job as an elementary school teacher, but I’ve had to approach the job of being a writer creatively. As any writer knows, it’s hard to find time to complete your current novel when you’ve got so many other demands—family and day jobs not the least of them. I wasn’t able to continue teaching and to have the time to keep up with writing and publicizing my novels.
Unless you have several New York Times best-selling novels, a writer needs to look at other ways to draw income. This is the reality of being a working artist. It might mean keeping your day job and carving out regular time to work on your writing career. I know writers who work in software companies or in bookstores, others who teach in schools or at universities. One author I know is the CEO of a multi-million dollar technology assessment company.
I’ve worked hard to build a career out of doing school visits and manuscript/creativity consultations. It isn’t easy. I had to give up the security of a regular paycheck. But it does help to pay the bills, which my wife appreciates. And I get to have time to work on my next novel, which my soul appreciates.
We often assume those writers whose books fill the shelves in our local bookstores are full-time writers. The surprising truth is that most of those authors continue to support their art by working some sort of other job. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Having other jobs and a wide-variety of hobbies and interests makes writers more creative. They provide rich crosspollination for the imaginative process.
Often my advice to new authors is to consider how you are going to continue to financially support your art after you’ve gotten over that first hurdle of getting published. It’s a thrilling job getting to be a writer, and if you want to be a working artist for the long-term, you’ve got to learn how to make the work work.