Love Your Day Job

One morning last week, I woke up to a rejection in my inbox. I’m as accustomed to these emails as any writer, but this was a particularly rough moment for me. I’d been riding high, because several agents have requested my full manuscript recently, and I was hoping that meant an offer would be coming soon. One rejection doesn’t take away that possibility, of course. But it’s always hard to ride the roller coaster back down.

Later that morning, I stood in front of my fifth grade band, watching former students perform and talk to my current group about how awesome the band program is in our district, and how many opportunities they’ll have as they get older. The younger kids were engaged and asking questions, and the older ones were speaking passionately about music and the education they’d received at my school and the district as a whole.

And I thought to myself, “I still have this.”

This band teacher has passion for his job.
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This band teacher has passion for his job.

Writing is a long and difficult road. Rejections are going to pop into your inbox. So are bad reviews and bad news. It’s easy to give up, to see a string of rejections as proof that you’re not going to make it. Persistence can be lost, and self-doubt rush in, with a single opened email.

And that’s why you should have something else you love to do. Having a day job you love doesn’t take away from your writing career- it adds to it. It gives your day structure, and pushes you to find ways to produce your writing whenever you have pockets of time. It gives you fodder for writing, in the characters and situations you encounter during your day. And it gives you something to turn to when the writing road is rough. If you have two careers that you love, chances are you’ll have one to rely on when things are going poorly with the other.

Do work that fulfills you in the morning, day and evening. Take jobs that balance each other. I may have a morning writing session where my brain sparks with ideas for new projects, and later in the day find out that my band students didn’t practice. I may have a rehearsal with my band where the music really clicks into place, then sit down to write and have all my words come out wrong. Neither job can completely sink my feelings of fulfillment and productivity; therefore, I stay balanced and maintain passion for work.

This balancing act stays true within each job, as well. I don’t like to work on just one writing project; I find it boring and if it’s going badly, I fear I won’t write at all. So I always have at least two projects going at the same time. I have less control over my schedule at work, but I do make sure I always teach different instruments in the same day. I could theoretically teach a whole day of just flutes or just trumpets, but that would be boring and unbalanced.

Does your non-writing job balance your writing job? Do you prefer it that way, or wish for something mentally unchallenging? What are your thoughts?

3 Responses to “Love Your Day Job”

  1. Tracy E. says:

    This was so good for me to read, Leanne! I’m at a time in my life where it’s all about The Day Job because we’re hustling through the Baby Steps to get out of debt and get my husband through school and into his career. So a lot of the time I come home tired from my day job and hold on just a bit longer for dinner and dishes (maybe) and then sink into my comfortable social media space because I’ve been away from it all day long and looking at Facebook and reading articles and blogs is one of my hobbies, but also because it’s comfortable.
    Last night was like my January. The wonder that is NaNoWriMo and Christmas and A New Year has worn off and it’s already February. And I have dreams that need to be Goals. So I sat down and mapped out the current phase of my life on a daily basis. I manage to fit three hours of writing time in during the week and two on Saturday. In the past, I’ve always thought, “I would have so much more time to write if I didn’t give eight hours of my day to my day job.”
    This perspective you’ve presented in your post, however, is so crucial for me right now. The phase we’re in is one of paying down debt and getting Anthony through school. It requires me to buckle down and work a full-time job. It doesn’t make me give up on my writing at all. That’s me. Like you pointed out, it’s (finally!) pushing me “to find ways to produce [my] writing whenever [I] have pockets of time.”
    And I do love my day job. It’s hard and especially on days like today where we were way short staffed and crazy behaviors from clients were happening and the negativity was high, I love the clients that I work with (individuals with special needs). They are the best people to devote my time and energy to.
    Thank you, Leanne, once again for your unique perspective on life 🙂 I am going to strive to make my day job and writing job balance each other out instead of end up at war with each other.

    • Leanne Sowul says:

      Tracy, your comment made my day. Thank you for taking the time to share your story and let me know that this post has impacted your life in a small way.
      I’ve presented the rosy view here, but of course it’s very hard to be a committed writer when you work full-time and have a family. It’s hard to be a committed ANYTHING under those circumstances. But hard does not mean impossible, and the things that are truly hard are the only things worth doing.
      Best of luck with your new writing plan. If writing is truly in your heart, as it sounds like it is, it will work out for you. And remember to pat yourself on the back even if what you do feels like tiny progress. I’m not always happy with the amount of time or words I produce every day, but as long as I’ve finished each week better off than I was before, I can feel satisfied.

  2. Kathy says:

    This is great advice, and it reminds me of advice given to mothers to make sure we have something beyond raising our children to occupy us and to look forward to for when they’re older/grown and don’t need so much of our time. Having multiple “happiness streams” is just as important as having multiple “income streams”–maybe more so. (Hmm…I think there’s a blog post in there for me!) I still run my home and care for my family as part of my work, and I try to balance my writing work with my household work in ways that let me feel accomplished, even when I’m getting rejections (or worse still: silence) for my writing. I just have to be careful that I don’t veer off into the more concrete household chores when I should be honing my craft! (No, the bathroom light fixtures don’t need to be cleaned right now…that query letter needs to be polished and sent out!)

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