To work or not to work…

Photo: Taymaz Valley, Flickr
Photo: Taymaz Valley, Flickr

For most of us, deciding whether or not to work as well as write is a choice we don’t have the luxury of making. But the assumption is that, if money were no object – if we suddenly became independently wealthy, or became hugely rich (or at least self-sufficient) off the proceeds of the Next Big Thing – that we’d quit our day jobs immediately and devote our lives to writing.

I used to think so too. But recently I’ve begun to wonder how I’d go as a full-time writer. At the moment the discussion is purely academic (I have bills to pay like everyone else) but maybe in the future…and I’m not sure it’d be as rosy as I sometimes think.

I don’t just have a job outside my writing, I have a career, and one that I’m generally very happy with. I’ve bounced around a bit between journalism, communications, international relations and strategic analysis, but in everything I’ve done I’ve learned a huge amount and I know it’s influenced the way I write. I enjoy the interactions with my colleagues and the new experiences and challenges that you can only get by pushing yourself out into the world. My workplaces have also funded professional development opportunities for me over the years that I could only dream about as a sole-trader who has to write for a living. I’ve also had the chance to visit countries, meet people and do things I would never have dared to on my own. New experiences are grist to the writer’s mill, and I’m not sure I could give that up even if I was financially able to.

The other side is time management. It’s easy to think that I’d be so much more productive if I could write full time, but I know myself well enough to realise that this probably isn’t true. The old adage about how if you want something done you should ask a busy person to do it certainly applies to me. When I have limited time, I know I need to make the most of the hours I can snatch here and there; when I’ve got long uninterrupted periods, it’s so easy to while them away. I wrote the first draft of Greythorne by getting up early and plugging away at the computer for an hour each morning before work; I’m so not a morning person, so this was a real struggle, but after about two weeks I realised that I was actually really enjoying it. It helped that it was summer, so it was light early and relatively warm (there’s no way I could do that in the winter!), but it also felt really good to have achieved something productive before I’d even left the house.

I don’t know if I’ll ever sell enough books to have to seriously confront the question of whether or not to work but, if I do, I wonder if the answer will be quite as straightforward as I always thought it would be. Nonetheless, it’d be a good problem to have.

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