An artist friend of mine once said, “We’re the only people who have to work to work.” She’s right. Librarians don’t have day jobs. Neither do teachers, fireman, or accountants.
For years I made a living working various contract and part time jobs so that I would still have time to write. I’ve been a cater-waiter, a telemarketer, a box office staffer, a light walker (ask me, it’s cool) a script formatter, a receptionist, a front of house manager and a theatre festival administrator. These jobs afforded me time to write, but not much else. When I couldn’t stretch my dollars anymore I opted for a full time, permanent position at a community centre where I still work today. This Monday to Friday nine to five job allows me time to write as well as the ability to live. Since making a living from my writing may take years (or never happen at all) I’ve been asking myself if there are any advantages to working a day job other than a steady stream of income. I’ve decided there is. A day job can teach me how to deal with unpleasant people and situations so I will know how to deal with them as a professional writer. Here is a list of what many various day jobs have taught me thus far (…or are trying to teach me…)
How to ask for what I want
A lot of us have trouble with this. We think we’re being pushy. If you’re an artist you may think you don’t deserve to get what you want. Not so. Ask nicely, but ask. Present your reasons. Tell the person you’re asking how it benefits them to give you want you want. Even if your request is rejected, hearing no is not nearly as bad as never having asked.
How to be assertive
You don’t want to be aggressive, but you don’t want to be a push-over, either. Staying firm is tough. That’s why you should practise.
How to follow up
As nice as it would be if everyone returned your messages or emails in a timely manner, most people don’t. There is absolutely nothing wrong with following up. Remember, most people did intend to get back to you. Some of them just need reminders which they will usually thank you for.
How to meet deadlines
If you’re not great at time management and have no idea how to create a work back schedule, now is the time to learn. If you don’t need to meet deadlines at work, practise by giving yourself writing deadlines, applying for grants or submitting to short story contests.
How to deal with difficult personalities
Little Miss Defensive. Mr. Passive Aggressive. Little Miss Poor Communicator. And Mr. Unprofessional. (I do have cartoon images in mind in case I want to turn them into children’s books) I still have trouble dealing with these personalities sometimes, but I’ve gotten better. I now know what to expect and how not to get angry.
How to work with volunteers and assistants
Some volunteers and assistants are brilliant!… Others are not. But if they are giving their free time or being paid peanuts, they deserve your respect. Coach the ones that need it, but thank the ones who don’t. Think of how happy you are when someone appreciates you. Return the Karma.
Balancing a day job with your writing is tough. If you’re having one of those days that makes you want to hang up a sign that says, “Gone Writin’”, ask yourself what you can learn from this situation. How can apply it to your writing career? Yes, you should write as much as you can as often as you can. Write, but keep your day job. Keep your day job and learn.