Why is writing better than most other jobs, you ask? Read on and find out. Full disclosure: Since I haven’t ever worked as a rock star, neurosurgeon or fire fighter, I can’t say that writing is better than every other job out there. But I have worked as an evaluator, strategic planner, researcher, mediator, conference coordinator, lobbyist and analyst, so I’ve got a few careers covered.
But first, a short plug for an anthology I am honored to be part of: The Gamer Chronicles was released last week and is already garnering fabulous reviews. It is available at a promotional price of $1.99 for a short time only, so make sure to check it out.
So why is writing full time better than a lot of other jobs? Given that I have now been back working a non-writing job pretty much full time for the last two years, I’ve had a lot of time to think about what I miss about writing full time. Here are my 8 reasons why writing is better than other jobs:
1) Less dread
You know that feeling in the pit of your stomach when you have to do something you don’t particularly like on any given work day, like managing a difficult client, working with a borderline sociopath co-worker, driving to a meeting over icy, snow-covered roads, or admitting that a project is not going particularly well? I am not saying every day has those challenges. Some work days are downright enjoyable and inspiring, but you always know that in every week, there is likely to be one or two dread days or moments where you are at the coalface of your work. With writing, not so much – sure there is the existential dread of a book getting poorly reviewed or not selling well, but that dread is less immediate or in your face.
2) No boss
I guess this only applies if you are indie published because your editor or publisher could be considered a boss. Don’t get me wrong – my boss at work is fabulous and possibly one of the best bosses one could ask for. I also work in a fairly flat organization and get to call a lot of my own shots. But that doesn’t change the fact that I have a boss who is the ultimate arbiter and that I sometimes disagree with the choices he makes. The decisions he makes with regard to who I work with, what projects I take on, and the measures of success of those projects can cause me a lot of stress. I also work in a very competitive arena with a lot of high achievers. We are all always expected to be turning out brilliant work and being completely collaborative, and I feel like he is always watching (which he is, and has to). The no boss aspect of indie writing or more accurately being totally my own boss and defining my own success, for me, is a win-win.
3) I was in great shape
While I actually worked more hours a day as a writer, my schedule was completely my own, which meant that I could do a cross fit class at noon, or tack an extra 15 minutes on to my cross country ski and just make up for it in the evening. Now that I work full time, my day is squashed full of phone meetings and in-person meetings. I have to fit in exercise around that. While I still manage to do so most days, my sessions are not nearly as long or intense. I am also just more exhausted.
4) Meaningful feedback
I get good feedback and a decent amount of appreciation from my work. I often get told my stuff is fantastic and exceptional and that I am a leader in my field (I also get less than positive feedback too because hey, we can’t always hit the mark). That is gratifying, but it is not the same as getting a review, or email from a reader saying that my writing has touched them, or inspired them or changed their life. Very few reports are going to change someone’s life in the way that writing a really spectacular book is going to.
5) Everyone knows what a writer is
When I was able to say I was a writer, people instantly know what that is. They may have a lot of questions, like do you actually make a living, and are you a “real” writer, but they can conceptualize what a writer is. When I say that I am an evaluator, I get a lot of really blank stares. Even in my own organization where we have made evaluation a supposed “priority”, most people fail to really engage it. They assume that I have it covered and it is always last on our agendas. People think I do mysterious things with statistics and numbers. They also have unrealistic assumptions about what is actually measurable in an extremely complex system. Writing seems more concrete and graspable.
6) I learned more
Being a writer forced me to actually learn the rules of punctuation and grammar. (Of course as soon as I put that out there, someone is going to be identifying the grammatical errors, dangling participles and comma splices in this post. Learning grammar and punctuation does not make me perfect at it.) Before I was a writer, I had only a vague sense of what was correct or not, having learned mostly by reading and imitating. Being a writer forced me to make a more intentional study of grammar and punctuation. It also forced me to study and deconstruct novels and short stories, so I could understand what made them work, or not. I had to learn marketing and what makes a book cover pop. I was the ultimate decision maker and expert and it forced me to up my game on many fronts. In my job, I have people to handle things like marketing and overall strategy for me. I don’t have to constantly be as well-rounded.
7) Writing feeds the soul
No matter how much I enjoy my job and the people I work with, there is nothing like the feeling of serendipity and excitement of a scene or narrative arc that came together just the way you wanted it to, the way you needed it to. Just as a reader becomes invested in the narrative dream of a novel, wanting to stay in that world after the book has ended, truly feeling the joy and sadness of the characters, so too can a writer. It is like being able to live multiple lives, and having the opportunity to retreat to the sometimes more satisfying and exciting lives of your characters when you need to. And even better, you can control those lives, allowing them to experience wins when you need or want them to, allowing them to find love, or come out the other side of despair. You can make the people you are writing about be who you want or need them to be, which gives reprieve from a world where you most definitely do not have that level of control.
8) You can go down the rabbit hole
Writing often involves a lot of research and discovering how things are connected. Writing is all about the details, what people were wearing, how things smelled, arcane ideas or facts. While I do research for my work, it is always time limited. I need to find the most credible sources of information that tell us 80 percent of the story and are factually accurate. In writing, you can go down rabbit holes and explore speculations and other ways of thinking about the universe, magic, and history. You can pursue interesting details, that would not make the 80 percent cut required for my work. You can stumble on strange but fascinating theories about how things are connected to each other. Because somewhere down that rabbit hole is the one idea or fact that is going to make your narrative work.
Why do you think writing is better than other jobs? Stay tuned for my next blog where I might talk about the ways writing is worse than other jobs.