Don’t quit your job to write

It’s common for those who want to write, but don’t, to pine over the day that they can/could/might quit their job to write the novel they’ve always dreamed of. The problem is, for most people, when you have plenty of time to write, you won’t. You’ll do everything but write. You’ll read. You’ll catch up on who’s playing who and what’s on Netflix. You’ll call the friends you haven’t spoken too in oh-so-long. You’ll pet your dog and take it for walks. And eventually the money will run out. And you’ll be back at your 9-5, hating life, thinking about how you wish you could quit your job to write.

[ Aside: I’m aware that some people do successfully quit their jobs to write, but they are–without a doubt–the exception, not the rule. ]

The reason most people fail to write when they quit their jobs is because writing is not easy. It takes a lot of training and extended effort to do at all, much less do well. I suspect when most people quit their jobs to write they’re doing it with the expectation that writing is fun, easy, and a vacation from all that struggle and chaos and toil of their corporate gig. They sit down to write and the page stares them down. Or perhaps they begin to type or write, but inspiration peters out. Soon they grow frustrated. Then they realize that a day of writing is a long time. Writing becomes a lot of work–and work is not what they signed up for when they quit their job. They were signing up for the cute little day dream of happily typing away, tea or coffee or booze nearby, churning out pages and pages and shipping a publishable manuscript that becomes the next Harry Potter. But then they quit and reality hits them in the face. They realize that the road to success as a writer is, generally, a long hard one. As in years of hours of work every day, nose down, writing.

Plus, what’s to be gained by quitting your job for a dream you’re unfamiliar with. Oh, sure, you’re familiar with the fantasy of writing, but are you familiar with the reality? Are you ready to be paralyzed by fear? Which is what may happen to many people who quit their jobs and try to “make it” as a writer within some time period less than 5 years. Unless you have enough money put away to get by for five years while you train as a writer, hone your craft, and produce book after book, it would be unwise to commit yourself to make it when much of the making of it is out of your control. You control how hard you work, and how smart you work, but you do not control the reaction of the readers to your work. Will your work be discovered right away? Or will it take a long time to build your audience?

I’m not arguing that it’s impossible to succeed as a writer. Not at all. In fact, I strongly believe that there is no such thing as failure, only success or quitting. I believe if you work at it long enough, smart enough, and hard enough, you will inevitably succeed someday.

I suggest that the smartest way to begin your training, to begin to pursue the dream, is to start writing now. Keep your day job. Let it pay your bills and provide some stability for your new found venture. Then treat writing as a part-time job–an internship. You’re working your way into the career you want, one day at a time, a few hours at a time. Do it, if you can, two hours every day, either in the morning or at night. But do it. If you make that a daily routine (yes, including weekends), you will discover that your endurance, strength, resilience, and ability grows with each passing day–just like a marathon runner who starts out walking before they get to trotting, and trotting a half-mile before they attempt a mile then two then twenty.

As a bonus, if you develop your writing process and your writing muscles, when the day comes that you can quit your corporate gig and living on what your writing brings in, you’ll have a process and a mind set which will enable you to smoothly transition to the life of a full-time writer. You’ll already well familiar with, and well prepared for, the rigors of writing. You’ll have what it takes to go the distance…because you’ve already gone the distance to get there.

Don’t quit your job. Keep it and start training…ahem, writing…now. Write two hours every day until you complete one book.The same day you complete your first book, begin another. As soon as you’re able, in parallel, publish your books after having them proof-read and edited. Write. Publish. Repeat. and you’ll get there. The book by the same title is excellent, btw. This isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon, let’s get training for it!

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