The Ups and Downs of Having a Day Job

Very few artists are born rich. Very few artists become rich. And when I say “artist” I am using it broadly. Painters, writers, musicians, sculptors, and the like have typically existed on the lower rungs of the fiscal ladder. Of course, once a person is discovered, they may make a lot of money very quickly. But until then, until that moment of making it big, most of us will be living cheap just to get by. And if that means washing out and reusing your Zip-lock baggies, so be it!

Achieving your dream of [insert dream here] will most likely also include a day job. Or a night job. Or a day and a night job. Or any job you can find. And although working some crummy job may not be your first choice, it might very well end up being your only choice. To help keep it all in perspective, I thought I’d go over a couple of the pluses and minuses of having a job!

Less Free Time

There are only 168 hours in a week, so if 40 of them are spent working, that’s a pretty substantial amount. Take out another 56 or so for sleeping, another 14 for eating, a couple hours here and there for those intensive phone calls with mom, and before you know it there is very little time left for writing. This, obviously, is a major bummer when getting a job. The plus side of this, however, is you will quickly realize how important each and every minute is. Watching TV doesn’t seem so important any more, an hour shower might turn into a quick rinse, and so forth. You’ll find ways to find free time. And waking up on your day off will be incredibly easy, because hey, you’ve got the whole day to write! Less free time only means you will train yourself to use what you have, and use it wisely.

Interactions With Others

I’ve had my share of annoying coworkers. And I’ve helped my share of irritating customers. It can be a grind some times. Many times after coming home from work I have spent the first solid hour complaining about some idiot I had to deal with all day. But here’s the upshot; as a writer, it’s all gold. No, really. Stop looking at your life like it’s your life, and start looking at it like potential writing material. Every person is a character, every argument is conflict, every situation a plot line. Stories are all around you, and working a job is an easy way to find them.

You’re Not The Boss of Me!

I’ve had some good bosses, and some bad bosses. But even when my boss was cool, most of the time I still sort off wished he wasn’t there. Having a boss can be a bummer, especially if you work at some big, evil, nasty, corporate place. The kind of place where the boss of your boss has a whole team of bosses. A whole chain of heartless weasels making up rules, telling you when to do what, and how to do it…. I ain’t gonna lie, that situation can straight up suck. I know, I’ve been there. Sometimes the worst job imaginable is the only way to make rent, so don’t feel guilty if you end up as small gear in an ugly machine. Instead, just use that gross feeling as motivation to get out of the situation. Think about how rad it will be once you don’t have to work that job with that boss. This might mean finding a better job with a better boss, but what it should also mean is that you would be much happier if you could make a living as a writer! Find ways to make yourself your own boss. Look around for some freelance writing, submit writing to magazines and newspapers, and most importantly, finish that project you’ve been thinking about for months! The sooner it’s done, the sooner you might be able to quit that crummy job!

When is Pay Day Again?

The dream, obviously, is to get paid for doing what you love; write. And it is completely possible. And although the notion of a “starving artist” is quite romantic (feel free to use it as motivation and inspiration) that doesn’t mean you should actually be starving. Work your job, and pay your rent. Save a bit of the extra money, and waste a bit of it as well. Buy books by your favorite authors, get that typewriter from the thrift store, and purchase a few stamps for all the correspondence you love so much. Hell, buy yourself a desk! A nice one, with drawers, that is just the size you’ve always wanted. Between the job you don’t want and the money you’ve spent, you should have plenty to write about.

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About Billy McCall

Billy has been writing and self-publishing since middle school, and isn’t about to stop now. His main realm of expertise is zines, but he has also written for various magazines and newspapers over the years, published one novel, and even writes the occasional song. Currently he is living in New Mexico with his dog and two type-writers. He considers hand-written letters to be the highest form of flattery.


  1. Chris Rush Dudley on January 22, 2013 at 7:12 pm

    Good advice. It is hard for me to escape the feeling that I might have missed a fantastic writing opportunity by running away from the Air Force recruiter. I don’t regret avoiding the military, for philosophical reasons, but my school mates who did join and stayed in are now, 25 years later, retiring with full benefits and a regular check. They’re farbgarbin$^$@#^ retiring in their mid-40s. A writer, for the mere sale of his soul to the war Gods, would have on the order of 40 more years of free and clear time to write, collect retirement checks, and enjoy health benefits, all the while mining 25 years of military characters for stories.

  2. LEX on February 7, 2013 at 8:29 am

    This piece is a great argument for marrying RICH!

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