We’re all familiar with the dilemma. “I’ve just had this great idea and I want to write it down immediately, but I’m stuck at work right now.” If you’re anything like me, when you think about your day job in relation to your ability to write, you’re mostly thinking of all the ways in which it interferes with the time you have available to actually do the writing. I have tried everything to carve out more time for myself; getting up an hour early (too tired to get through the day), writing on my commute (too bumpy), writing on my lunch break (too many interruptions). The list goes on.
But recently, I’ve been thinking about the freedom that comes with having a day job. While, for many of us, the dream scenario is to be paid a living wage for our writing, for me that feels like a double-edged sword. After all, if writing is my only job, then I had better make damn sure that I’m writing something that’s going to sell. And that means spending less time on the story and more time on working out who my target audience are and thinking about the ways in which I’m going to market my book to them. It means changing the way I think about my writing from ‘piece of art’ to ‘product’. I know that some writers already work that way, and if that works for them then great. All power to them. For me though, I can’t put the cart before the horse that way because there is nothing that is more likely to give me a severe case of writers block. I have to tell the story the way I want to tell it. Even if that makes it difficult to find the right pigeonhole on Amazon afterwards.
I read an interview with Adam Driver recently in which he said that he’d taken the role of Kylo Ren in Star Wars because doing one big budget movie every few years gives him the ability to do several smaller indie productions without worrying about where his next meal is coming from. I’m paraphrasing, but that was the gist. And that’s great! In this analogy my job has just become Star Wars (almost certainly the first time anyone has compared ‘accounting’ to ‘Star Wars’) and my indie productions are all the things I want to write that might not interest someone trying to sell commercial fiction.
Just to be clear, there is absolutely nothing wrong with ‘commercial’ writing. Some of my favourite books are ‘commercial fiction’ and I’m not here to be in any way snotty about this. But the truth of the matter is, that indie writers can afford to take risks in their storytelling in a way that might not be possible if you were relying on book sales to be able to pay your monthly bills.
At the moment my writing is just another form of play. If I want to write something, even if there is a little part of my brain that thinks it’s stupid or it’s too weird or no one would ‘get it’, I can. I have the freedom to play and to experiment until I find something that works for me. The ‘work’ starts with the editing, but that’s a problem for another day.
None of this is to say that you will never have either critical or commercial success if you write ‘weird’ fiction. Neil Gaiman, Douglas Adams and many more have all managed it very nicely. But right now, while I’m building both my word count and my experience, I’m embracing my day job as something that allows me to create my (inner) world on my own terms.
About Amy Wilson (by Mark)
Amy Wilson is the author of the short stories ‘By Firelight’ and ‘Gosfeld’ for the Harvey Duckman Presents anthologies. The second of these received so much praise along the lines of ‘that was great what happen next?’ that she has started write a novel based around the central character… In between taking archery lessons, learning German, and being badgered by writers to Beta read their novels, she is working on a fantasy trilogy, and a stand alone – the first of which is due out this year, I know this to be true because last time she did a guest post in October she said it was due out next year and I am holding her to it …
- You can find out more at www.6e.net/amywilson
- And follow her on twitter @writesamy
- And on instagram @amy.wilson.writes
- And find her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/amy.wilson.writes