Writer with a Day Job – Welcome

Creative Writing: You want the Side Salad with That?

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.

About Aine Greaney

I'm an Irish writer living in greater Boston. I've published four books--two novels, a small collection of short stories and a how-to writing book, "Writer with a Day Job" (Writers Digest Books). I've also published lots of short stories, essays and feature articles. My latest project, "What Brought You Here" is a non-fiction narrative about being an expatriate in America. Find me on Twitter @ainegreaney. Or at my author web page, www.ainegreaney.com. As well as creative writing, I am the communications director for a healthcare non-profit. I also lead creative writing workshops at various libraries, schools and arts programs. At my workshops, I've been inspired by lots of wonderful writers--most of whom work a day job!
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8 Responses to Writer with a Day Job – Welcome

  1. I have a running argument with some of my budding writer friends, several of whom insist they have to have a block of time, the perfect office, total quiet, and so on, in order to write. My response is that all those reasons are excuses; and they are excuses I used for far too long. Never did my home look better than when I had something I had to write!

    I still struggle with perfectionism–nothing I write in this twenty minutes is going to be any good–but I’ve come to understand the paralysis of the blank screen is worse.

    Thank you for starting this blog; I’m delighted that all of us “part-time” writers have a place to communicate.

  2. Aine Greaney says:

    Hi Nancy, Welcome to the blog. Thanks so much for your wise and thoughtful commentary. I agree. I once dreamed of writing full time. I still do. But back when I did, I found that I spent far too much time dithering about my writing and feeling bereft if the tiniest thing went wrong. When you work a day job–as we do–there’s far less time for navel gazing. As a professor of mine used to say, ” a done project is a good project.”
    Welcome! I look forward to having you on board.

  3. Edith says:

    Nice blog, Aine. I’ll be stopping by regularly.

    I have a lot of trouble fitting in daily writing, mostly because of a long commute and a definite need for an hour of exercise every day. But I don’t have my day job on Fridays, so that’s my ‘ideal’ block of time. I don’t schedule appointments until late in the day, I don’t clean or shop or even exercise until I’ve written for several hours that morning. And it works! A book and a half got written, plus a handful of short stories. Can’t wait for my Writing Fridays.


  4. Gerrie Ordaz says:

    Hello Aine! Thank you for writing the book and starting this blog. I just bought the book this weekend and am about half way through. What has struck me so far is you give realistic, helpful advice with warm encouragement. There were a couple of writing books that, while they acknowledged the reality of having a day job, didn’t give much hope or concrete advice as to how to do it. I work in a medical laboratory with very short breaks (a 20 minute and a 30 minute), so it is my goal to take to heart the importance of writing whether I’m “in the mood” or not. I think your book will also help me with coordinating all the demands of my home life as well. Overall, it’s that warm encouragement that makes me feel I can do this! Thanks!

    • Aine Greaney says:

      Thanks, Gerrie, for your kind words. I’m glad the book is proving helpful. Actually, if you look at the interviews in the back of the book, Karl Iagnemma, http://www.karliagnemma.com/ advises on the benefits of snatching those short, available writing opportunities. He also works in the science field and is an award-winning fiction writer.

  5. Heather says:

    I’m so happy I stumbled onto this site. I had no idea when I bought Writer with a Day Job that it had just been released. In fact, I bought it on the release date. I was at the bookstore for the second time in two weeks perusing the writing references as I always do. Your book caught my eye immediately. I was so drawn to it that I purchased it before I had even looked through it. I’m only on page 69, but I’m taking my time to really let your lessons soak in.

    I’ve read many reference books and writing magazines, but at times I come away from reading them feeling bad about myself as a writer. Not everyone has the luxury of writing 24/7. Your book is practical, realistic, and straightforward. I cannot THANK YOU enough for writing this book.

    • Aine Greaney says:

      Thanks, Heather, and this is so nice of you to write and tell me how you found the book and how it’s going for you. I agree: I often find that some of the writing mags and books are nice, but don’t really apply to me. I’m lucky if I get a little writing crammed into my morning or on my day off from work. But .. everyone has his or her process. I think it’s important to honor our processes. I’m flattered by your kind words and please hop on by and visit us at Writer with a Day Job again….

  6. Sophia says:

    Dear Aine, I purchased your book tonight at Barnes & Nobles, they were open until 11pm. I couldn’t wait to read it so I sat on a chair and read a bit inside. Every word simply resonated with all my feelings right now, I’ve been in the corporate world for 15 yrs with a daily conflict. Thank you for publishing this amazing book. I am positive that you will heal and help more people then you will ever know…when I publish my book, it will most certainly be attributed to your life story. You are more then an inspiration to me – I adore your simplicity, strength and wisdom. Congratulations on your book! Wishing you abundant love and blessings~ Sophia O. (Boynton Beach, Florida)

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