Why I Have to Write, Even While Working Full-Time
I tell people I have a job and a half. My full-time job, the one that pays the bills and keeps me fed and able to see my doctor, that’s the one where I spend 40+ hours every week (plus commute). That’s my day-job, and that’s my priority right now.
That’s what I do.
My other job, the one to which I aspire to devote at least 15 hours a week and maybe I’ll earn a little coin so I can splurge and see a movie or order in, that can’t be my priority right now.
But that’s who I am.
My day job, while something that I really enjoy, is not what I ever pictured myself doing. And as much as I truly like it, it’s not as emotionally fulfilling to me as my writing. Honestly, I don’t think anything will ever make my heart soar and my soul stutter into place the way writing does.
No other job could so fully match doing with being for me.
But I’m not in a place where I can afford to live while devoting the full-time job sphere to my writing. I don’t have the connections to score the high-paying gigs, and I haven’t yet cultivated the talent to make good on them. For every essay that I write and love, I spend way too much time trying to find a place to take it.
In short, I have a day job because I’m not Roxane Gay, who can tweet her desire to write about a TV show (for pay), and within less than 24 hours she’s got an assignment. She fought for her place and her right to do that, with talent and wit and sheer determination, and I applaud that, and am more than a little envious, and it’s something I aspire to.
If I’m ever going to get there, though, I need to learn to write through my day job.
Which is proving harder than I ever would have thought imaginable.
I live off of to-do lists, and when I go to bed in the mornings (because I work a graveyard shift and my days and nights are upside down), I give myself a small list of writerly things to work on before I catch the train to my job. And on my nights off, I give myself a much larger list of things to do.
Because I’ve been making lists for a while, I’ve learned how to make them work for me: I have to do my work in small chunks, and I have to mix it up and schedule in down-time. So I’ll write an essay, read a book, critique a friend’s book, watch some TV, work on my novel, write a blog post…and so on, and so forth.
I thought it would be easy. I have my list, I know what I have to do, so I’ll just do it.
And yet I find myself struggling all the same. I don’t just have to work on my novels during my off hours; I have to work on my personal blog; on the group blog I help run; on freelance essays; on reading and reviewing ARCs; on reading and critiquing friends’ novels…
I want to do all of the above. Sincerely and wholeheartedly. It’s just that when I sit down to do it, my mind wanders. Or if I pause for a second, I can’t get back into the right mindset.
I’ve wasted countless weekends passing the hours by hitting “next” on Hulu and Netflix binge-watches.
I never feel good about those weekends.
Yet, every once in a while, I make the system work for me. I accomplish things. I write. And in those moments, I finally feel…complete.
Ugh, that sounds so cheesy, doesn’t it?
But it’s true. Writing is not just something I do, it is a core part of what makes me, me. And it’s something that I need in order to feel fully human, fully myself.
Sure, I can go without writing for weeks at a time and think everything’s okay. But the second I sit down and words begin to flow, it’s like…my brain wakes up again. My heart sings. And something goes, “Oh. Oh, this is how it could have been, all those weeks.”
I make time to write not just because it’s a part-time freelance career I’ve chosen, and it brings in some extra money.
I make time to write because if I don’t, I lose track of who I am. And I never want to do that.
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