Chances are that if you're an aspiring or struggling author, you have a day job. And chances are equally good that you dream of a time when you're free to write all day or at least a substantial part of every day and that the writing will be lucrative enough to pay the bills. Oh if only this were immediately possible! As with any other person involved in the arts, dancers, artists, actors, singers, a day job is an "evil" necessity.
The reality is that you need your day job for life's essentials and you're only able to write in your spare time. What can you do? This is life. If only there was someone who would subsidize your creative passion, a patron of the arts. That would be nice, right? Well...,It's time to get creative and play a little mind-game with yourself. You need to become a patron of the arts, your own art. Stop seeing your day job as something that is holding you back from your true work and begin seeing it as a way to help you pursue your dream.
Keeping your job can provide you with more than just a livable income; you use some of that income to support the career you really want to have. Anyone in the arts knows that their day job provides the means to finance dance and singing classes, acting and theatre workshops, and writers' workshops and writing needs. Every time you send a manuscript, whether by snail mail or electronically, it is being paid for by your day job. Your ink cartridges, your internet, your phone calls and texts, everything that is part of what you need as an author, is being done through money you earned at that "other job." You are being a patron of a very special author, yourself.
Having a day job is not an admission of your failure as a writer. Far from it. Realistically, with the exception of the small handful of published authors fortunate enough to have best-sellers that generate million dollar paydays for them and their publishers, most of us need some sort of gainful day job. "Day job" should not be seen as a negative term or make you feel that it is something to hide from the world. (You're working in a bank? I thought you were a writer!) Whether you work as a part of a wait staff, work in a book store, or, as I did, teach high school, the term "day job" is simply used for how writers pay the bills.
A good day job for writers offers you time to write, albeit in small sections of time, money on which to live and to support your writing, and street credit, in the form of experience, people skills, and knowledge. Because I taught World Languages and was fluent in those languages, I used that knowledge in my books. I was easily able to use key phrases and words from Latin, French, and Italian, with English translations, in my novels. They added to the story very nicely and gave an added depth to my characters.
Besides supporting your dream financially, a day job is actually another form of support for creative output. It will boost your ability for critical thinking in understanding how different areas of life and people, so crucial to writing, relate to each other. Charlotte Brontë was a poorly paid governess who not only used her money to pay for her writing career but used her experiences as a governess for her characters of Jane Eyre and Villette.
Many successful writers have been their own patron of the arts. Robert Frost was still changing light bulb filaments in a Massachusetts factory when he sold his first poem, "My Butterfly: An Elegy" in 1894. William Carlos Williams was a career pediatrician in New Jersey and a poet. His career in medicine supported his family and his writing. Before his success with The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown supported his writing dream by being a high school English teacher. While it is true that J.K. Rowling penned the first of the Harry Potter books while on welfare, she taught English in Portugal while dreaming of writing about that boy named Harry. Mary Higgins Clark worked in advertising, promotion, and was writing catalog copy while being a patron of her own art.
If you have a passion for writing, you need to see your day job as a necessary part of the process in pursuit of your writing success. Being your own patron of the arts is an excellent way to see your day job as a means to a wonderful end. Becoming a successful author is a journey; anything that can help you to achieve it is worth it. Invest in yourself. Happy writing!
Kristen Houghton is the author of 6 top-selling books including the PI series A Cate Harlow Private Investigation. The first in the series FOR I HAVE SINNED is available where all books are sold.
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