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What ‘day jobs’ produce the best conditions for writers?


Have you ever thought about what “day jobs,” i.e., full-time work and/or careers, produce the best conditions for writers?

If you look at best-selling fiction writers, you’ll easily see that several of the most successful novelists are/were lawyers, doctors and others in health care jobs, teachers, and a few journalists.

I can speculate on why lawyers and doctors make successful novelists. My first thought is that writing fiction may well provide a significant outlet for them to air their frustrations over how things ought to work as opposed to how they often do work in real-life courtrooms and hospitals. But perhaps the answer is simpler than all that: Successful doctors and lawyers may attain a financial level that gives them the material independence and security to write more than the single mom or factory worker.

Nah, J.K. Rowling did pretty well as a single, working mom, didn’t she?

It may seem odd that more successful novelists don’t emerge from the ranks of print journalism. You’d think people who spend their days and nights up to their elbows in newspaper “beats” and cranking out words in large quantity would have an edge when it comes to writing novels, wouldn’t you? And there are several fine writers of fiction who are present and former “news guys” of one kind or another.

As someone who spent a few years at a daily newspaper (copyediting), then a weekly magazine (news editing and reporting), I can tell you my experience: At the end of a day editing and writing, I was generally burnt out and wanted nothing more than to stare at a wall or TV screen rather than write. That’s probably more a demonstration of my lack of self-discipline (that sounds nicer than “laziness”) than anything else.

Do you write fiction? Do you write books or published stories/articles of any sort? What is your “day job” and how do you perceive it in relation to your writing? Leave us a comment and share, please.

2 Responses to “What ‘day jobs’ produce the best conditions for writers?”

  1. Chris says:

    You have a good point about writing for a living and then writing for pleasure. I take a lot of phone calls at work and dread the idea of being on the phone at night.

    My job doesn’t factor so much in my writing, but my experiences. My WIP is set in the area that I grew up.

  2. Gary says:

    Thanks for your comment, Chris.

    Writing about your experiences and the area you grew up in can be a lot of fun, and challenging. If by “area that I grew up” you are referring to a small town or small region, you’ll probably struggle over something I do when I try that — exactly how do I handle local people when I develop characters.

    I spent my first 10 years in a small town in southeastern Nebraska. I’ve got a couple of writing projections (fiction) that are set in that town and involve some people I still remember. So I decided to fall back on that old “same town but different name” tactic. Maybe it’ll work, maybe not.