Search This Blog

Friday, July 15, 2011

Should I Quit My Day Job? (ConCarolinas Writing Panel)

"I'm sorry, you can't fly."

I blinked. "What?"

"You can't fly. Your passport's expired."

4 a.m., June 2nd, 2011. I was so excited, I could barely sleep the night before! I was headed to North Carolina, the furthest I've ever traveled from Vancouver, and I was going to meet writers I admired in person! Can you say *squee*? I totally squeed. What can I say? I was excited.Waiting in the Air Canada lineup, I was darn near bouncing.

And then I was told that I couldn't go.

How could I have missed this tiny detail? I'd been planning my trip meticulously, even booking my flight and hotel months in advance so I could get a hefty discount. Renewing my passport wasn't even on my radar; my darling husband had mentioned offhand a few weeks previously that our passports weren't up for renewal until 2012. And I, dope that I am, didn't think to double check.

They calmed me down in good order. For a token fee (if you call seventy-five bucks token), I booked on a later flight, the red-eye leaving at eleven that night. And then I was told to go to the passport office and I *might* be able to get a rush job. For a fee, of course.

So, the rest of the day was spent rushing back and forth, withdrawing from the savings, acquiring a new passport photo, barely getting my forms submitted in time because I had to go home and retrieve my ticket as proof that I needed the rush; and then being told, at the end, that it "might" be ready in time. I barely stayed sane thoughout the process, but I lucked out with friends cheering me on via Facebook.

And when I returned to the office at 4 p.m., my passport was ready.

*meek yaaay*

I've been told by all of my American friends that such a thing is impossible in the States. I am grateful that I was able to get my passport renewed. It meant I arrived late to the convention and on very little sleep, but even after I "battled hostile customs officials and the Canadian passport bureaucracy to make the trip" (David's words, not mine, but lovely hyperbole all the same), it was so worth it.

And finally, early afternoon on the Sunday, it was nearly time for me to catch my flight home. I had time for just one more panel, one that featured nearly all of the Magical Words writers (among others), about the realities of a writing career. Enjoy!

* * *

Should I Quit My Day Job? (a.k.a. the Magical Words Panel #2)

Authors: David B. Coe, Faith Hunter, Stuart Jaffe, A.J. Hartley, Edmund Schubert, Rachel A. Aaron, Allegra L. Torres (a.k.a. the Chainmail Chick)

Probably Not:
- Unless you have someone in your family (e.g. partner) who has a stable job to support you
- How secure are your other income and benefits?
- Do you live frugally?
- As a writer, you can't live on advances.
- You can only safely quit your day job when you can safely live off your royalties (rare).
- The market can change.
- Little extra income streams can also help: e.g. investments,, side projects
- Frugality is vital. Are you really, truly frugal?
- The writing market is volatile.
- BENEFITS are the big thing you lose when you quit your day job (and believe me, they do matter. Health and dental adds up!)
- Control of everything is an illusion
- We can't control the market, or historical/world events.
- There is a major difference between quitting a job and quitting a career.
- So it comes to time management. Writing time plus job plus real life.
- It's better to treat writing money as extra.

Be realistic:
- Writing full time is not a golden chalice. You can get lonely and depressed as a writer, too. So if you quit your day job, make sure you still have a life.
- When you work for yourself, you never leave work! You must make time to do so.
- $25K/year is a successful writer these days.
- If you're not doing this because you love it, don't do it!
- Remember you're creating a product to sell.
- 95% of writers have another job.
- A.J.: write fast!

Writing Fast:
- If you have no choice, sit down, put aside emotions and internal editors.
- Pantsing vs. plotting: you can't be a pantser if you have to write fast. Must have a plot/outline to work from.
- There's always something to get in the way - don't let yourself get distracted.
- Push the story through.
- Know that it needs to be done, so do it.
- Don't set unrealistic goals.
- Forgive yourself if the day didn't go as you wanted. Move forward.
- You must develop self-discipline if you want to do this for aliving.
- Leave blanks to fill in later, to move faster.
- Have an outline!

* * * 

I hope everyone's enjoyed this set of notes ...

Oh, crud. Just like that little tiny passport error (and believe me, I learned my lesson there!), I totally skimmed what I had, and I just noticed that I actually went to one last panel after this, one on mythology and folklore. (Which makes sense, but at this point the memories from Sleep-Deprived Sunday kind of run together.) I'll post that sometime in the next few days.


  1. Glad you were able to get things straightened out. :) Enjoyed reading all these wonderful tips you brought back with you.

    I figured out quite awhile ago I wouldn't be able to quit my job..dang it..

  2. Thanks, Laura! I'm glad they're useful.

    Honestly, I love my job and while it would be nice to only write, I am content with what I have right now. If I am so lucky as to be able to do this full time, that would be awesome, but for now, I cannot complain about what I do have.