The Secret Lives of Writers – Laura Roberts
Laura Roberts writes about sex, travel, writing, and ninjas—though not necessarily in that order. As the author of the “V for Vixen” sex column, Laura began her career chronicling Montrealers’ sexcapades, which are collected together in her book of essays, The Vixen Files. Blurring the lines between fact and fiction, she’s also penned Confessions of a 3-Day Novelist, Ninjas of the 512, parts one and two of her serial novel, Naked Montreal, and a wide assortment of erotic Quickies. Laura is also the founding editor of the literary magazine Black Heart, and can leg-press an average-sized sumo wrestler while sipping her morning coffee. She lives in an Apocalypse-proof bunker in sunny SoCal (Southern California) with her artist husband and their literary kitties, but you can find her and her publications online at Buttontapper Press.
Day Jobs Don’t Have To Suck! (A defense.)
Unless you’re independently wealthy (and, let’s face it, most of us aren’t!), there’s always going to be a struggle to make time for your art. Whether you’re a writer or any other type of artist, you’re going to need a day job that supports your writing habit until you can go pro.
I’ve worked a lot of odd jobs before becoming a full-time writer, and unlike a lot of people, I don’t think having a day job HAS to be a bad thing. To be fair, sometimes the work can be depressing, like when I was a receptionist for a horrible boss in New York City. The guy would yell at me on the phone all day long, and when he finally came into the office, he’d walk right past my desk as if I were invisible. I suppose this was a blessing in disguise, as he was headed in to yell at everyone else in the office instead! Even so, the 9 to 5 grind often sucked my energy, leaving me uninspired to do my creative work at nights or on the weekends. My eventual escape into academia—where I began a Master’s degree in Philosophy and then completed a second Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing—was the way I personally chose to stay sane as a result of so much on-the-job verbal abuse.
But it wasn’t ALWAYS like that. Some of my day jobs have been quite fun, or at least funny in retrospect. For instance, my very first job in high school was as a Wet Playground Attendant. I always tell people that “wet” modifies “playground,” not “attendant,” as the job was to make sure that toddlers at a playground with a sprinkler system didn’t hurt themselves or each other. Most ignored my NBA-grade whistle, and continued to run or climb up the slides, despite my best efforts. Unlike a lifeguard, I wasn’t allowed to wear a bathing suit to work, and my feet got quite wrinkly after shifts spent in flip-flops in the shallow water, but least I got a decent tan!
Other times, my day jobs provided plenty of fodder for my writing. I briefly worked at a cooking school, where I got a chance to meet chefs, sample students’ dishes, and even wrote several blog posts for their website. As a writer running my own lifestyle blog, this was invaluable research for more posts.
Some day jobs are just plain simpatico with the writer’s lifestyle. One of my favorite jobs was the summer I spent as a front desk clerk at my university’s library. There were few patrons around to check out books, so I was occasionally given the task of returning books to the stacks—a great way to find lots of new reading material.
Some day jobs are just plain simpatico with the writer’s lifestyle. One of my favorite jobs was the summer I spent as a front desk clerk at my university’s library. There were few patrons around to check out books, so I was occasionally given the task of returning books to the stacks—a great way to find lots of new reading material. This was also the only job I’ve ever had where reading while on the clock was not only tolerated but *encouraged*. Though some of my coworkers grew bored sitting at the desk with nothing to do but flip through magazines, I was delighted with the thought of being paid to read. It was definitely a bookworm’s dream come true!
When I finally made the transition from writing student to paid writer, I wrote lots of different articles on a freelance basis. I worked for the Yellow Pages in Montreal, creating short descriptions of businesses across the city, learning how to write effectively about everything from popular restaurants and boutiques to places that were off the beaten track. Each article paid extra for photos, so I also became adept with my digital camera, hunting down out of the way locations and snapping pictures for the extra cash. It wasn’t the most glamorous writing job I could think of, but I was able to use my skills learned on the job to land several other business and travel writing gigs as a result.
Whether you’re an aspiring novelist or want to become a full-time blogger, I believe that day jobs help keep you motivated. If you know that at least 40 hours of your week are devoted to the job, you also realize how precious your free time really is—and you’ll guard it closely to focus on your writing.
Though I haven’t always been in love with my day jobs, they’ve all reminded me that creativity is the key to dealing with difficult situations. If you can write on your lunch break, on public transportation to and from work, or by getting up an hour earlier or staying up an hour later in the evening, that’s what you need to do.
Even if your job requires dealing with cranky customers or feels soul-crushing at times, it’s important to remember what you’re learning from each job, and to keep things in perspective. I’ve also gotten through bad day jobs by setting a deadline for departure to prevent burnout. When you know you only have to work somewhere for two more months, or two more weeks, the burden is a lot lighter to bear.
All in all, I’ve done my best to enjoy my day jobs, or at least give them the old college try. Even if the work doesn’t always excite you, you’ll often meet interesting people who may inspire you. People are usually interested to learn that I’m a writer, too, so they may ask to read some of your work. What writer doesn’t love that?
So you see, day jobs don’t need to suck. Indeed, as more of the workforce goes freelance, I think day jobs will become more and more interesting, and less reviled by the writing community.
What are some of the most interesting day jobs you’ve worked, or how did you manage to fit in writing time while working another type of job?
The Secret Live of Writers is a series of blog posts from writers (published or unpublished) who dish the dirt on how they juggle life and art. You can read bout the whys and wherefores here.
The Secret Lives of Writers is now available as an ebook
You can now read all 13 guests posts from Volume 1 in the one convenient ebook. It’s out now in the Amazon Kindle Store and in other stores (iBooks, Kobo, Nook etc.) too.
Full of writing inspiration and advice, if you’re a writer, or an aspiring writer, and this book doesn’t get you putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), nothing will!
You can grab your copy from the Delicious Publishing Book Store.