Secret Lives of Writers - Laura Roberts

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

How do writers juggle writing, creativity and life? Find out in The Secret Lives of Writers!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.

11 comments

  1. I find the juggling hard too, Cassie. And writing has been on the back burner for me too—paying the bills and bringing up my daughter as a solo parent were my priorities. I had neither the time nor energy to write. She’s 22 now and it’s only been in the last few years that I’ve been able to devote time to writing. Reducing my working hours has helped, but I’ll have to revert to working four days a week after 30 June when I go back to my old job and my salary drops $20k (I currently work three days). What I’ve found is producing (as in self-publishing) is highly motivational. Just seeing my stuff out there makes me want to write more. And publish more. It’s an exciting time to be a writer!

  2. Thanks for your comments, ladies. I definitely think it’s important to own your writing life, and do what you can. I feel like lots of writers beat themselves up for not writing every single day, which is what’s typically advised if you want to be seen as “serious” about writing. Though I agree that you ought to be as disciplined about writing as you can, I also don’t think it’s helpful to cling too closely to advice that doesn’t work for you.

    And, as you mentioned, Diane, publishing is definitely a motivating factor! Even seeing your name on someone’s blog can get you in the mood to write more. 🙂

    1. I agree with everything you say, Laura. While I don’t write every day (it just isn’t possible), I do think about writing (and publishing) every day! I think it’s important to define your own success as a writer–including what the process of writing looks like for YOU–so that you measure yourself against your own benchmarks. Having said that, it’s also enlightening to see how other writers approach the task because they may do something that you could try. And yes, seeing your name somewhere–anywhere!–is highly motivating!

  3. I too have had many varied jobs, all of which can contribute to my writing at some point – how something is done, back room chatter, off the wall characters, hidden treasures of whimsy in a stoic situation. Not only do these odd jobs provide fodder for your writing, they mould you into a more compassionate and patient person – ‘this too shall pass’.

    1. I agree, Ronnie! I find work–and the conversations I have at work–often fuel my writing fire. Work has sparked a LOT of content on this blog, incidentally. I also like the structure of work: having to be somewhere at a certain time and be accountable for delivering something makes me a better writer. Wednesdays (which is my day off) is smack bang in the working week, so I’m still in work mode and I tend to be productive 🙂

  4. I like you, Laura. You tell it like it is. As a writer with a day job, I can attest that it provides me unexpected benefits. Not wanting for food or shelter is wonderful, but having a job also forces me to put structure around my writing. When I sit down to write, I’m all in. I may only have an hour on the bus ride to the day job, but I make that it count.

    Thanks for the glimpse into your perspective on writing, jobs, and life!

    -aniko

    1. I’m with you on the structure, Aniko. I love a schedule and time and deadlines and outcomes. The structure forces discipline and good habits and sneaky writing time 😉

  5. Great job, Laura! Your blog entry is interesting as is the history of your experiences. I like your relaxed, conversational style of writing and how you knit little bits of dry humor within your thoughts, like Wet Playground Attendant and that you live in an Apocalypse-proof bunker. Very visual and effective. It’s also nice how you try to give hope to others who are in the writing trenches, showing you can empathize with our plight of trying to stay positive and focused despite life’s distractions . Nice piece!

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