I got the idea for the book, “Writer with a Day Job” while sitting outside my office building. This was the corporate building (I have since switched jobs) where I made my living, to which I commuted five days per week.
I was sitting on the stone steps at the back of the building, eating a lunchtime salad and trying very hard not to dribble the balsamic vinaigrette dressing onto the typescript pages I was editing. That day’s lunchtime writing assignment: to read and edit a creative nonfiction essay about pet ownership. Now that I think about it, I never finished that essay–so don’t look for it in the New Yorker.
So there I was, eating, reading, writing–only glancing up from my manuscript to check my watch for when it was time to go back in through those glass doors and back to my cubicle and my other, paid job.
I had about 40 minutes in which to edit and re-draft my essay. As a lifelong procrastinator who tends to draft in my head and then write things just before submission date,I knew just how much work you can cram into 40 minutes.
There’s nothing like a sunny spring day in New England to bring the cubicle corporatoids skittering into the daylight. So as I sat there reading and editing, the rest of the office crowd emerged blinking into the sunlight to mill around that nondescript courtyard. They gossiped, paced or gabbled on their cell phones.
The truth? I wanted to tell them to shut it. But then, this wasn’t my personal writing studio. So actually, I was the one who had to shut out all those voices and distractions.
And then I had a vision. No, seriously. And please don’t summon the whacko police–at least not yet. But in my mind’s eye, I saw all of us day job writers across America–thousands of us sitting in bagel shops or huddled in doorways or sitting in our cars with our iPods, trying to jam in a little bit of writing while waiting for the kids to get out of soccer practice or while sitting in the dentist’s waiting room. Mine wasn’t the Hollywood vision of a creative writer. But it was the authentic, 21st-century version.
Then I thought of all the writing students who have attended my writing classes and workshops for adult learners. Nurses. Accountants. Marketers. Dads. Moms. Doctors. Lawyers. Carpenters. Except for a very lucky or a bestseller few, most of us writers are holding down a day job while also writing. We’re walking that tightrope between creating art and paying the rent.
So the book, “Writer with a Day Job” was born.
I took another bite of my salad and turned over my typescript page and began to scribble some initial ideas for the book.
For the next few weeks, at home or on the commute, I had more ideas for the book.
But listen, ideas are one thing. Translating those ideas into useful, in-the-trenches guidelines is another process. Could my own experiences in the craft and process of writing be useful to other writers?
You be the judge.
Writers Digest Books published “Writer with a Day Job” in June 2011. As well as guidelines, inspiration and tutorials, the book includes interviews with 20 creative writers from across the country. These are novelists, essayists, memoirists and poets who have or currently balance work, parenting and writing.
Since the book’s publication date, other writers–all of whom are balancing work, family and creativity–have emailed with their comments and questions.
And now … Ta! Da! Le blog, “Writer with a Day Job.”
Let’s make this our virtual salon.
As I add new posts and guest posts, I invite you to comment. I invite you to share your own experiences, successes and … ahem … challenges in finding balance between your writing and your working lives.
Meanwhile, here’s an excerpt from “Writer with a Day Job.” Yes, wouldn’t you know it? It’s about writing on your lunch hour.