Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The Insecure Writer and Writing Full-Time

Today is April's contribution to Alex Cavanaugh's Insecure Writers Support Group.

Why am I an Insecure Writer this month?

Because I’m contemplating what it might be like to be a full-time author. 

Before I go any further, however, I feel it necessary to post the following disclaimer, just in case any of my bosses at work happen to stop by. 

“I’m very happy with my current job and I have no plans to leave anytime in the near future.” 

Okay, now where were we? Oh, yes. Full time writer fantasies. Sitting at the computer all day, doing nothing but writing, drinking tea, and watching your sales numbers climb on Amazon. What’s not to like? 

Since I'm such a slow writer, I often wonder what it would be like if I had all day to write, instead of relying on the random thirty minute snippets I depend upon now. Because every great once in a while, when I’m lucky enough to find a three or four hour window in which to write, I often make more progress on my story than I normally do in two weeks. 

Now it would be easy to conclude that if I had eight hours every day in which to write, my weekly progress would skyrocket. But I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t work out that way in real life. For one thing, I’m almost always thinking about my story when I’m away from the computer (much to the consternation of my wife). If I sat in front of the computer all day, I’d lose a lot of that free association time so important to my productivity. 

But that’s not the main reason I doubt my productivity would scale with writing time. Some of my ideas take a long time to percolate through my head. I mean a looooooong time. It’s not at all unusual for me to dream up better ways to write a chapter several months, sometimes years, after I think it's finished.  

In fact, just yesterday I thought of a way to change one of the scenes in my current chapter so as to increase the emotional tension between two of the characters. I can’t tell you how many dozens of times I’ve gone over this chapter in the past two months, yet this idea just came out of the blue today. I fear that writing at a faster pace would rob me of many of my best ideas and my chapters would suffer. 

In the final analysis, I suppose I’m okay with not being a full time writer, if only because I’m pretty sure that if I were a full time writer, my family would starve. So I can confidently state that I have absolutely no intention of quitting my day job in order to write. 

Of course, should I win the lottery, all bets are off. 

How many of you are lucky enough to write full time? 



  1. I tried the full time writing thing and it did not go so well. As much as I would love to have all that time to write, having a steady paycheck definitely takes some of the stress off.
    If I had rushed through my novel without letting the plot and characters develop the way they have over the years, it would be very different, and I think not as good.

  2. I laughed out loud at the disclaimer...playing it safe, hey?
    I'm a snail too...but don't think that I want to write full time.
    Writer In Transit

  3. I write full-time as a contract writer. I love the writing and working at home, but it pays poorly and has no benefits. If I was younger and had a family to support, I would not do it. Luckily I had a successful career as an attorney and saved enough money for this phase of life. And this will be a good part-time job when I get ready to retire. Maybe you can write full-time later when you're older too.

  4. I did get to write mostly full time before starting a publishing company. While I got a lot done, I don't think it would've brought in a ton of money either.

  5. I feel like I've been putting in full-time hours since Camp NaNoWriMo started, and it's draining. I don't have a lot of brain power left at the end of big writing days. I can't imagine eight hours a day, every day. P.S. That is one awesome looking castle. Love it!

  6. Some things can't be rushed.
    Full time writer would scare the crap out of me.

  7. So I work a part-time job to pay my bills and spend the rest of the week writing. Basically, I'm writing full-time, or very close to it.

    Based on my experience, I can tell you that you don't realize how utterly exhausting writing can be until you're trying to do it as a full-time job. It feels like a lot more work for a lot less money.

    Don't get me wrong: I'm glad I'm doing it. But it's definitely not what I'd always fantasized it to be.

    1. Yeah, right now I'm almost always eager to jump back onto the computer whenever I get some free time. If I was writing all day, I'm not sure how eager I'd be to jump back onto the computer.

  8. Being slow in this publishing time, can be a detriment, but it can also be a positive if you're focused on making that story the best and going deeper as you spend those minutes on your project. I'm slow at times and when I slow down, I do find more that I can dig into about my characters and my story.

  9. I'm not any more productive now that I'm a full-time writer than I was when I could only write after work. Well, that's not entirely true. I'm *slightly* more productive now. BUT it still takes me forever to finish a book. My process is slow--like you, I sometimes need to percolate for a long time. It is what it is. That said, I don't at all miss my office job!

  10. So once you dive in full storm, you're not in it alone. You have editors, critique partners and beta readers to bounce ideas off, if not regular writing buddies. The stories tend to come together faster with a team behind you, and there's magic in that. It's not longer purely the entity your subconscious would have invented, but it might even be better. Who knows?

  11. Life is so precious, Ken. I think it's important to be happy in your work. Good luck with your writing project and enjoy the learning journey as you go.

  12. "Sitting at the computer all day, doing nothing but writing, drinking tea, and watching your sales numbers climb on Amazon."

    That is not my life as a full time writer at all. LOL! I struggle to get to or stay at my computer. I definitely don't write every day, but that's due to my current struggle with depression. Before that, though, I could write as much as 15 pages and as little as one paragraph. Most days it was between one paragraph and five pages. And my Amazon sales do not keep climbing. That involves spending a lot of time marketing, not writing.

  13. Your disclaimer cracked me up LOL. I used to think my goal was to write full time but I've come to realize how fortunate I am to have my day job. Writing has changed my life for the better and I fear it would become just another source of stress if I had to rely on it to pay the bills. But I'm totally with you on the lottery! ;)

  14. I'm lucky enough to write full time -- lucky because our family can be supported on my husband's salary and my teaching pension, not because I have bestsellers!!

    It was a hard transition -- and no, I did not write faster just because I have all day to write. Not for the first three books I wrote after leaving teaching.

    But those books were a real struggle, and none of them has been a success. My current WIP, however, has engaged me like nothing I have written since the Eighth Day series. I am finishing up the first draft today, in just 12 weeks, and for the first time I can say, "Yes, I write all day!"

  15. I used to want to be a full-time writer, but the money is too insecure for me to give it more than a passing daydream. I would like to be a full-time writer once I retire, though.

  16. I have found with having more time to write I actually write less, because the shortage of time and having to plan kept me writing and pushing my self. Now I am trying to learn how to manage my time better and create structure around a writing day like a job, but I'm still hit and miss and struggle a bit.

    Great post.
    ' Juneta @ Writer's Gambit

  17. Writing full time is a fantasy of mine too. But I don't think I'd write for 8 hours. I picture breakfast on the deck, writing until lunch or maybe mid-afternoon, then doing something else with the rest of the day. Not sure what, but since (like you) I'm always thinking about my stories, I'd still be plotting and thinking up ways to improve scenes. But alas, I don't see that happening anytime soon.

  18. I am very lucky that my husband has a decent job and I can stay at home to write. My fantasy is to actually make money from doing it!

  19. Technically I'm a full time writer, only because I'm disabled and can't work. I hope very soon it'll become profitable for me, so I can get my life back.

    I can tell you though, that being a full-time writer has it's pluses, but also has many minuses. For one thing, you are spending as much time marketing as you do writing. You also are involved in a number of projects as well. In fact, writing is your escape from all the responsibilities one faces as a full-time writer.

    That being said, I wouldn't want to do anything else. To some level, I enjoy all of it. It's the only job I can do as a result of my disability, as it allows me to take as many breaks as I need to, and I can set my own deadlines.

  20. Your disclaimer cracked me up!

    Some of my ideas take awhile to percolate as well. Others, though, seem almost fully formed. Of course, they ALL still need work. Thank goodness for revision!

  21. Loved the musing, Ken. I work out of my house so I can stop whenever I want and edit my book, but I don't. Like most people I know, I simply jot thoughts down in a (digital) notebook and return to whatever else I'm doing.

  22. Love your thoughts, Ken!
    I have friends and family who think I'm a full-time writer ... haha.
    My youngest is still home-schooling part-time (my oldest home-schooled through 10th grade and my youngest is in 10th), I was teaching part-time until I started having massive health issues earlier this year, and I volunteer for two community organizations. With all of that, I have never considered myself a full time writer because even if I'm home, I'm still only writing a four hours a day on the best, most open days. My life is full of interruptions (my parents live in the house next door and they are retired - which means they have loads of free time) and I can't quite imagine what it would be like to write for more than four hours in a given day. I don't know if I would be able to keep it going creatively. Maybe. But, I'm not sure.
    Now, I'm planning to work part-time again starting in the fall. My youngest will be in a dual credit program for her last two years of high school. I may search for a second part-time job. I still won't write full time ... unless I win the lottery. :)

  23. Nope, not me. But I only work part time. If I didn't get out of the house once in a while I'd go mad. :-)

    Anna from elements of emaginette

  24. I guess I could write full-timish. Well, outside of the farm, house and family...theoretically, it would work. I tried to once but discovered that the more free time I have to write, the less writing I get done. The stories flow so much better when I'm forced to find time to write and have real deadlines I have to hold. Crazy, I know.

  25. I don't have a 'day job' so I guess that gives me the opportunity to be a full-time writer. Is it the dream? You were right in the assumption that no, it's not. Unless you are super disciplined, the more time you have, the more you waste. I like short deadlines for that reason. I don't have the time to stress and worry or wonder or second-guess. I only have enough time to write to the deadline.

  26. I've heard of something called "batching" that seems to prove doing something for hours at a time is more productive than just doing it bit by bit every day. I suppose I believe it, too, from a little experience. But, there is such a thing as wearing yourself out and then getting less done. Too much time to write would result in burnout. I, like you, need time to percolate my ideas over a long period of time.

  27. You've got some good thoughts about going full-time. I know it isn't something I could do for a few years yet. For one, I would feel obligated to care for my 3yo rather than send him to daycare, and then all thoughts of productivity would go out the window. At least with my current day job, I usually get an hour to work on writing.

  28. I am lucky enough to write full time but only after teaching for 34 years so I have a pension income so we don't starve. The weird thing is that I still do most of my writing late at night just like I did when I worked all day.

  29. Since I scratched a lottery ticket this morning and got absolutely nothing, I'm pretty sure any thoughts I have of writing full time are dreams! But slow and steady. I write about a half-hour a day before work, and I still get to the end. Good luck!

  30. Since I'm retired I have plenty of time to write, but I don't--well except for blogging writing. The other writing I've sadly been neglectful in doing.

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out