Later this week, I will put in my final hours at my day job. For the first time since I was eight years old, I won’t have a job, but I won’t be unemployed. Instead, I’ll be self-employed as a full-time writer. I’m not exaggerating when I say this moment has been more than twenty years in the making. When I decided not to pursue a PhD all those years ago, my reasoning was simple. I wanted to be writer. Not a writer/professor, just a writer. From where I was standing, it seemed to me that working as a secretary was more likely to provide me with the extra time and emotional energy to pursue my writing than working in academia. With that thought in mind, I got the first of several secretarial jobs, and started work on the first of many novels. I took Anthony Trollope as my patron saint. For thirty-three years he supplemented his writing with a paid position in the British Post Office.
There was no fast forwarding through the next twenty years, but for your sake, I will sum up: I worked. I wrote. Slowly, I started selling what I wrote. Some short stories, some essays, then a first novel, then a few more. This year, I reached a tipping point. My writing income exceeded my secretarial income, but more pressing, my writing time exceeded my secretarial time. I was exhausted and burned out. As scary as it was to consider being self-employed, I knew I had to choose. Of course, I chose writing.
Something interesting happened as soon as I submitted my official resignation. People starting coming around to congratulate me, but once the well wishes were offered, most people had the same question: “What are you going to do with all your time now?” I found myself explaining repeatedly that writing takes up just as much time as a regular job, and frequently a lot more. In fact, for the last five years or so, I’ve essentially worked two full-time jobs.
In a good week, I spent forty hours at my day job, and then came home to put in another forty hours on writing and writing-related tasks. Skyping with book clubs, producing newsletters, answering emails, and interacting with readers on social media can really eat up the time. Not all weeks were good, though. All of January and February this year, I worked on a major revision of my next book. My writing time was more like fifty hours a week, plus ten hours for the aforementioned writing-related stuff, all tacked onto the forty hours a week at my day job. I was officially a workaholic putting in hundred-hour weeks.
The funny thing is that every time I explain this math to people, they are shocked. They say, “You write forty hours a week?” [Read more…]