In this show I discuss the issue that many aspiring authors will want to consider at some stage: should I become a full-time writer? I’m not talking about becoming a writer working in an organisation like a newspaper here, I’m referring to sitting at home and writing books full-time as your job.
But I can’t afford to do it
I debunk the “I can’t afford to do it” myth straight away. This is usually an excuse rather than a valid reason. Most people in western societies can downsize, or move to a different part of the world that is considerably cheaper to live. There are options here for most people to build up a cushion to allow them to become a writer full-time, for a period of time at least. While there are clearly exceptions, most of the time the actual risk of becoming a full-time writer is not that much larger from a financial point-of-view than starting any job. It might not work out, but you certainly won’t be fired by anyone except yourself!
The problem is social, not financial
Even without this often stated reason of “I can’t afford it”, I don’t recommend most people do give up their day job to become full-time writers. This is because you need to be a specific personality type to cope with being a writer full-time, unless you make a real effort to overcome the isolation of being a full-time writer. Many “full-time” writers only write for a few hours a day, because of this.
When I worked part-time for 4 months I did a lot more writing than I’ve ever done attempting to work full-time as a writer. I soon found my energy levels to be very low and my motivation to do writing (or anything much) disappearing when I wrote full-time. It is now I am beginning to work out how to work at home productively.
Introverts and Extroverts
Working at home on your own all day works best for people who are extreme introverts. An introvert is someone who gains energy from being on their own. Extroverts are people who gain energy by being with other people. Most people are somewhere between the two extremes. I am certainly not an introvert, a fact I discovered in my efforts to be a writer full-time!
Note that this is NOT the same as being shy or outgoing. This is a popular misunderstanding of what an introvert is. I am shy but I am not an introvert, if anything I am probably an extrovert. Similarly I have known people who get tired out very quickly when around other people: these are introverts. Some of them are very friendly, outgoing people.
Unless you find yourself renewed by spending whole days on your own, being a full-time writer can be a very bad idea, at least to begin with. Your energy can easily drop to levels where you actually write less than you did when you worked full-time doing something else.
Don’t give up the day job….
I’d suggest to most people to keep the day job but try to reduce your hours, even better go part-time, to ensure that you see if the transition to full-time writing will work for you.
There are various strategies for dealing with the social isolation, if you are not an extreme introvert, usually involving having much more connection with your community, both online and off – going to Meetups, conferences and joining Mastermind groups. You do not need to have a “proper” job, but you do need some activity with a social dimension to replace what you’ve lost by not having an office job. It might even make sense to change your profession of your “other” job to one where you have more time for writing and maybe have more social exposure in that job.
I hope this is of help to people thinking of writing full-time. If you liked this show you might like my episode on Reasons to Self-Publish and Reasons Not (Episode 5) and my episode Book Reviews, Dr Who and Mo Farah (Episode 12).
If you are interested in self-publishing you can get a free step-by-step self-publishing checklist, and a free e-mail course on self-publishing, based on the checklist here.