Quit Day Job

How to balance full-time work with creative projects

28 November 2018
Comments Off on How to balance full-time work with creative projects

From Fast Company:

“Teacher burnout” refers to a state of chronic physical and emotional exhaustion brought on by prolonged periods of stress. Combined with low wages, inadequate funding, and disheartening educational policy, burnout has resulted in eight percent of teachers in America throwing in the towel over the past decade.

As a teacher myself, it’s been interesting to reflect on what keeps me coming back to the classroom, five years into this difficult yet ultimately rewarding job. What it comes down to, I think, is that teaching is not the only thing that keeps me going. In my opinion, relying solely on a day job or career to fulfill your ambitions and keep you mentally stimulated is risky business. Instead, I like to incorporate a smattering of fulfilling creative projects within my day-to-day life to help me keep my teaching job in perspective. And while it isn’t always easy to do it all, there are ways to balance things out.

Over the past few years, in addition to teaching full-time, I’ve managed to finish a master’s degree, start a record label, contribute to various publications, and release/perform music as Nassau. Through it all I’ve practiced, failed at, and re-tooled strategies for balancing full-time work with multiple creative side projects. In this guide you’ll find a handful of takeaways for staying sane, organized, and intentional while trying to do it all.


Your day job matters a lot

It really does! The average person will spend over 90,000 hours, or about a third of their lives, at work. With another third of our hours spent sleeping, the time we actually have for “living” seems modest at best. If you’re holding down an unfulfilling 9-5 with the primary ambitions of supporting yourself and your creative work (versus building a career in that area), ideally this job should provide you with at least one of three things: more time, more resources, or a skill set that will help you be successful in your creative endeavors.

As you contemplate what type of day job might make sense for you, consider the feelings you’ll want to have after completing a shift, or after heading out from the office. Probably “drained, grumpy, and sick of everyone” are not feelings that are on your list. So think about it: What type of work or situations might you seek out that wouldn’t leave you in a bad mood after working? By spending some time brainstorming about the job that could be a nice complement to your personality and side projects, you’ll put yourself in a better position to find the right type of gig.

. . . .

Finding the right gig to nicely balance with your personality and creative work isn’t going to happen overnight. As you work towards finding the right role, pause and reflect on your thoughts and emotions whenever possible. In each type of positions, ask yourself: Were there new trends in your behavior? Did you notice an uptick in your creative work and productivity outside of your 9-5?

As you think about what type of day job might make sense for you, a simple exercise to try starts with taking inventory of your skills and passions. Write them down. Go for quantity here: What are you good at? What comes naturally? Anything goes. Then look for patterns or themes. You may even group your skills into categories including “things I love doing,” “things I get paid the most for doing,” “skills I want to improve,” or “skills I haven’t used in a long time, but would like to use again.” Identifying patterns will enable you to honor and recognize the expertise you already possess, and can help you find employment that complements not only you as a person, but your creative practice as well.

As you do the above exercise, you should also be honest with your intentions, and even name them. Would you like a job that makes you lots of money? Expands your network? Gets you working with your hands? Trust your brain and your body–you’ll thank yourself when you’ve landed the right job that’s actually helping you get what you want (not just what you think you should want), and are also able to have time and energy to produce creative work you’re proud of.

Link to the rest at Fast Company

Indie Authors Quitting Their Day Jobs – 2017 Edition

5 April 2017

TPV visitor Devyn suggested it was time for another invitation for authors who have been able to earn enough money from writing to quit their day jobs to share their stories.

PG’s first invitation on this topic was in 2014. Devyn pointed out that the last invitation was in April of 2016.

Here’s the original 2014 invitation:

PG received the following suggestion from Dennis:

What if you put up a post that asked anyone who has recently been able to go “full time”, quit their day job and write, to post their name. Maybe they could also put when or how soon they are planning to do it.

That would be anecdotal evidence to support what Howey and Data Guy have been showing since their first report.

If you care to contribute such anecdotal evidence in comments to this post, please do.

If you think it’s your private business, don’t be offended. Just don’t post anything.

Feel free to post anonymously or under an online pen name if you like. If someone points out a trollish comment, PG will probably delete the comment when he gets around to it.

Please share your experiences in the comments to this post. If you posted in response to earlier invitations, feel free to post an update here if you like.

If you would like to review stories in response to previous invitations, you can click on the Quit Day Job category link.

Quitting Your Day Job – 2016

11 April 2016

I’ve had several requests for another post that invites indie authors who have made enough money from their writing to quit their day jobs to tell their stories.

Just explain your adios day job story in a comment to this post. Share a lot of details or a few. If you told your story before and have an update, please post that as well.

A lot of our visitors are working very hard to be able to quit their day jobs and can benefit from the examples of indie authors who have succeeded.

Here’s a link to all the TPV posts about quitting your day job. The earliest post has 561 comments, a record for this blog.


Indie Authors Quitting Their Day Jobs – 2015

28 January 2015

The most commented posts in the history of The Passive Voice have been those requesting the stories of  indie authors who have been able to quit their day jobs and live on their writing income. The first post is here and the second is here.

It’s a new year and time to share some more stories. To prime the pump, here’s a story that James N. Cook shared the last time PG invited these stories.

Since the age of twelve, I wanted to be a writer. But as time went on, and I learned more about the process of legacy publishing, I decided it wasn’t worth the time, effort, and heartache.

So I joined the Navy out of high school, served for six years, got married, left the Navy, and then bounced around from job to job while I worked my way through college.

The desire to write never left me, but I figured pursuing an education was a much more sensible and productive way to spend my time (I also wanted to be the first person in my family to earn a bachelor’s degree). So that’s what I did.

After graduation, I took a job with a major investment firm and started working my way up the corporate ladder. It was good, steady work at a stable company with sufficient pay and benefits to provide well for my family. I had made it. I had achieved the stated goal.

And I hated every second of it.

I was an avid reader. Still am. I had story ideas floating around in my head, distracting me at the oddest times. I used to tell my wife about them, and her response was always the same: “You need to start writing.” Finally, she got so fed up with my lack of action she told me she would not listen to another story idea of mine until I started writing them down.

This happened right about the time she bought me my first Kindle and I learned about KDP (late 2010). So in March of 2011, I sat down in my recliner, perched my laptop on my knees, opened a blank Word document, and started work on my first novel, No Easy Hope.

The first month I released it, November of 2011, it sold 201 copies. I was pretty happy with that.

In December of 2011, it sold 2,013 copies.

Talk about a surreal experience. I remember walking outside in the cold and putting my hands on my knees and taking deep breaths until the dizziness subsided. After a few minutes of this, I realized two things:

My bare feet had gone numb, and I was smiling.

In July of 2012, I released my second novel, This Shattered Land. The following month, total sales of the first two novels were over 8,000 copies.

I remember in late July of that year showing my wife the sales figures, and the look on her face, and the tone of her voice when she said, “If you make ten thousand dollars in a month, you can quit your job.”

August 17th 2012 was my last day at Vanguard.

And I haven’t looked back. I have released three novels since then, all of which have done well enough to keep me writing full time. I’m currently earning more money now than I have ever earned in my life, and I have Amazon and KDP (not to mention Createspace and ACX) to thank for it.

I don’t know what the future holds for all of publishing, but I know this: Authors have more choices now than they have ever had in the history of the world. In this business, there are no guarantees, but if you have the talent and the drive and you are tireless and you never give up, your chances of making it are better than they have ever been.

I am the writer Joe Konrath and Barry Eisler and others predicted. I’m the guy Traditional Publishing needs to be afraid of. Not because I was rejected by them and went on to find success on my own, but BECAUSE I NEVER EVEN TRIED.

And I can guarantee you this: I am not the only one.

How many writers labored for years under the old system only to never find success? How many found success only after decades of effort and mountains of rejection letters? Those writers will tell you there is no guarantee of success in self-publishing. And I agree. However, your chances aren’t any better in the traditional world, and at least with self-publishing you don’t have to query an agent, deal with an editor, or surrender control of your work.

I like being in control. I like being able to write whatever I want and publish it as soon as I am finished with it. I like 70% royalties. What I don’t like are onerous contracts, sharing my profits with an agent, or giving up more than half of my royalties to a publishing house. That’s why I self publish.

Also, don’t let anyone tell you self publishing is expensive. It doesn’t have to be. I published my first novel for ninety dollars–that’s $90.00–and it has gone on to sell over forty thousand copies. Pretty good ROI if you ask me.

So if you are considering self publishing, my advice is to go for it. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. You might not be an overnight success–hell, it took me two years to reach the point I could write full-time–but you can make money from your work while you strive to take your writing to the next level. That’s what I did.

Those first royalty checks weren’t enough to retire on (still aren’t, actally), but they made paying the bills a heck of a lot less stressful. So do what I did: start making money from your hobby. Trust me, it beats the heck out of getting a part time job. In many cases, it pays better too.

Now stop reading this and go write something.

Here’s a link to James N. Cook’s books

Please share your stories about quitting your day job in the comments to this post.

Brace yourself. I know this is shocking, but I’m about to rant again.

28 January 2015

From author and TPV regular Libbie Hawker:

Virtually everybody who first sets out to make a career as a writer does so under some form of delusion–take your pick: that it’s easy, that it’ll make you rich, that once you have a book deal your problems will be solved, that all you’ll ever have to do is write, that all good books get published. I found the process of snapping out of these various delusions rather painful–what do you mean, the career I’ve wanted since I was eight years old isn’t anything like the media and other writers and the whole damn world have led me to think?–and I’d rather not see more writers hurt by the same uncomfortable wake-up calls. So I think it’s important to disseminate the truth about writing–about what it means to be a working novelist. Writers are, after all, my people, and nobody wants to see a member of their own tribe suffer.

. . . .

In the Salon piece, Bauer asserts that “full-time authors” are putting on a certain masquerade. She uses her own life as the ultimate example–

Here’s my life. My husband and I get up each morning at 7 o’clock and he showers while I make coffee. By the time he’s dressed I’m already sitting at my desk writing. He kisses me goodbye then leaves for the job where he makes good money, draws excellent benefits and gets many perks, such as travel, catered lunches and full reimbursement for the gym where I attend yoga midday. His career has allowed me to work only sporadically, as a consultant, in a field I enjoy.

–to assert that all full-time writers a) live a privileged life (not true) and that b) they couldn’t possibly get there or stay there on their own. They must have outside support in order to obtain the privilege we associate with “the writer’s life.”

. . . .

Except that Bauer isn’t right. She’s dead wrong. I agree with her that it’s both important and rather creepy-feeling to talk about one’s class and one’s income, but I also think it’s important that the truth gets out there. The whole truth, not the “truth” as distorted by Bauer’s privileged perspective.

. . . .

I don’t like seeing other writers discouraged, so I’m about to introduce you to a full-time novelist who earns more than her husband does. I’m about to introduce you to a working writer who has no other job, no family connections, and no education–no privilege or advantage of any kind, in fact, unless you count general societal white privilege, which is probably counter-balanced by the very real bias in this industry against female authors and also by the fact that I grew up poor as hell.

Yep, that working novelist is me.

. . . .

I’m not disclosing this for head-pats or to make you think I’m cool. I’m disclosing it to comfort those who were discouraged by Ann Bauer’s skewed ideas about what is required in order to write full-time. I’m trying to undo some of the damage this vicious myth does to aspiring writers—that you have to be rich to begin with, or marry into money, or else your dream will never become a reality.

. . . .

I was born in rural Idaho to a family of middling but unspectacular means—by rural Idaho standards. In Seattle, where I live now, my family’s comfortable income wouldn’t pay for rent in a shoebox, as we found out when my parents divorced and my mother moved us to Seattle to be close to her family.

. . . .

We sometimes had to turn to the welfare dole just to keep food on the table, and I quietly went without the things my friends had—the things I desperately longed to have, too, like summer camp and horse-riding lessons. I know my mom and granny would have given me those childhood experiences if they could. But I also knew, as young as I was, that my family just couldn’t afford it.

. . . .

In my early life, fate shot my chance at Writerly Privilege in one foot by sticking me in a decidedly non-privileged family. (That’s irony, in case it doesn’t come across. My family is awesome and I wouldn’t change my past even if I could. Okay, maybe I’d spend one summer at camp.)

I shot my potential privilege’s other foot, though, by deciding not to go to college.

I knew I wanted to be a writer someday—all that time my sister and I spent as latchkey kids while Mom and Granny worked, we mostly spent reading, and I knew from the first time I cruised through Watership Down in the second grade that I would accept no career other than writing.

. . . .

To recap, let’s tally up the strikes against my Writer Privilege: not from old money; not a socialite; did not go to college; doesn’t even have a valid high-school diploma.

. . . .

My richest year post-divorce and prior to marrying my second husband (who, like Bauer’s second hubby, is a real partner and adds immeasurably to my life) I earned a whopping $11,000.

. . . .

But as dirt-poor as I was, I still look on that time as one of the best points in my life. It’s not enough to say that my writing flowed. It ripped out of me; I was so unable to not write that I carried a little pocket-sized notebook and a pen with me all the time, and whenever a compelling thought or a lovely sentence would pop into my head, I’d stop what I was doing and write it down.

. . . .

But why the notebook? Why didn’t I stop what I was doing and go work on my actual novel?

BECAUSE I WAS WORKING. All the time. I had two jobs, each about 37 hours per week, one of which required me to commute 114 miles round-trip each day.

. . . .

But I didn’t let that stop me. During this insanity, I wrote Baptism for the Dead, which stood as my best novel ever until Tidewater came along, and depending on your tastes, you might still find Baptism to be the superior book.

. . . .

I realized that the intense feelings that allowed me to produce high-caliber art wouldn’t be with me forever. I found out during those strange, poignant, intensely beautiful days what it means to be a real writer: that you do it—you do the task, you complete the chapter, you work with discipline and focus—even if you have to juggle a divorce and two jobs and a 114-mile-a-day commute. You write, no matter what else is happening around you, including the necessities of your day-to-day life, or you don’t write. You are a writer, or you are not a writer, regardless of whether the timing is perfect, regardless of whether you have a desk to sit at, regardless of whether you can make your mid-day yoga class that your husband’s insurance pays for.

In those difficult days, I learned that the timing might never be perfect—ever. I learned to listen to my senses and my emotions as I worked at my day jobs, so that I could tap that well of words when it was time to write. I learned to make time to write, every single day. I learned that being a writer doesn’t mean living a certain lifestyle. It means dedication and drive. It meant, for me, not waiting for my career to land in my lap due to circumstances or privilege. It meant grabbing hold of the identity I’d always sensed was mine, from the first time I’d read Watership Down as a latchkey kid, and making it my reality in spite of my stunning lack of just the right set of privileges.

Link to the rest at Libbie Hawker

Here’s a link to Libbie Hawker’s books

A raw blog post

30 October 2014

From author Colleen Hoover:

Three years ago this week…

I lived in a mobile home. A very small, 1,000 square foot trailer house. With black linoleum, horrendous gold trim, an air conditioner that didn’t work, a patio door that didn’t open because the floor was rotted through and appliances that would only run one at a time or the breaker would trip. We had a huge pile of trash in a backyard pen because for an entire year, we couldn’t even afford the $25 a month trash service.

I drove a minivan that had no heater, and every winter I would have to leave for work at 6:30 in the morning and pull over every few miles just to wipe and defrost the windows so I could see out it.

Our kids were on free lunches, and for a while, we qualified for food stamps.

All of this, and I had a college degree, which I was utilizing. But working as a social worker wasn’t paying all of the bills, and I was still having to borrow money from my mother and fatger to make ends meet. When my older sister would come visit, she would bring me groceries. My aunt would send my kids shoes for Christmas, because we could hardly afford them. We dreamed of living like kings on payday, but in reality we were paupers, digging in the couch cushions during the week to afford the banquet TV dinners we lived on most of the time.

Sounds terrible, doesn’t it?

It wasn’t.

It was wonderful.

I loved my life. I loved my crappy house. I loved that my children were growing up in the town I grew up in, and going to the same school I attended. I loved living half a mile from my mother, and taking the boys for walks every night. I loved paydays, when we would splurge and take the boys to Wal-Mart to buy them a toy. I loved when my mother would show up at my house after everyone went to bed and she’d give me twenty dollars and we would drive to the casino and play penny slots for five hours straight. My favorite present was when my little sister gave me twenty dollars in quarters for Christmas a few years ago because we love arcades, and we spent the entire twenty bucks on claw machines. I loved the days my older sister would come visit and bring me her old clothes and old makeup and groceries and it would feel like I hit the lottery. And I especially loved it when my husband and I would dream about one day building our own house. Of course we never believed it would actually happen, but dreaming was free and it was fun. So we dreamed a lot.

I worked eleven hour days, but I loved my job and I loved the women I worked with. In October of 2011, my son told me he wanted to audition for a play and I knew the hours would kill me, but I loved that he was brave enough to audition in front of a crowd at the age of eight. When he got the part, I was both ecstatic and pissed off. Of course I wanted him to get the part, but my husband was working over the road and was only home a couple of days a month. That meant every weekday, I’d be leaving my house at 6:30 am and wouldn’t get home until 9:30 every night, after rehearsals. But I made it work, with the help of a lot of people.

A friend of mine, and sometimes a few of the teachers at my children’s school, would drop my son, Cale, off at my work every afternoon. My other two children would go to my mother’s house every night. When work ended at 6pm, we would head straight to rehearsals. This went on for a couple of months, and sitting in the auditorium sometimes got boring. I would borrow my mother’s laptop, which honestly couldn’t even be considered a laptop. It was one of those mini laptops that was so tiny, it was hard to type on. Not to mention it was missing a few keys. It was really sad looking, but I didn’t own a computer, so I made it work.

I would play around on youtube, read a book or two on Amazon, anything to pass the time. But one night after watching a lot of slam poetry on youtube, I decided I wanted to read a book about a slam poet. When I couldn’t find one, I started writing one.

I wrote the first few paragraphs on that tiny laptop in the auditorium of the Sulphur Springs community theater. All I could think about while I was driving home was how much I wanted to write another paragraph. And another. I would take my mom’s laptop home with me at night and stay up writing until about 2am. Then I would drop it off in her car at 6:30 every morning so she would have it when she worked all day. Then on my way home every night, I’d borrow it again and use it until 2am. The cycle continued for a week or two, until I had about four solid chapters. I still didn’t know what I was writing. I had no idea that I would eventually let people read it. I just knew that it was fun and I was sacrificing sleep and sanity to do it. It felt so good to be excited about a hobby. I was falling in love with Lake and Will’s story and it consumed me night and day. I would write at work on breaks and lunch and between clients. After a couple of weeks, I printed the first few chapters and gave them to my mother to see if it was something she liked. I also gave them to my boss, who honestly didn’t think anything of it when I said I was writing a book. She was used to my crazy ideas. I think the month before, I wanted to open a pottery story. The month before that I wanted to major in business. The month before that, I wanted to go back into teaching. It was always something new, so she wasn’t expecting this to stick, and honestly, neither was I.

After they read the first few chapters, they didn’t come to me with praise or criticism. They didn’t say how good they thought it was, or how crappy they thought it was. Both of them just basically said, “Where’s the next chapter?” And when I said, “I haven’t written it yet,” it was as if I slapped them in the face. Their reaction was by far better than any compliment they could have given me.

It was my inspiration.

. . . .

My older sister is a different story. She had huge dreams for this book and she’s a very big believer in positive thinking. She makes vision boards every January, and the week before I self-published SLAMMED, she wrote on her vision board that she hoped I would make $100,000 that year from the book. When I saw it, I got so mad at her. I knew that was ridiculous and she was just setting herself and everyone else up for failure. I thought that if she had that expectation of me, she would be disappointed in me. I made her take it down. I didn’t even want my book mentioned on there, because to me, it was just a silly story and no one other than my friends and family would ever care to read it.

When I self-published it to Amazon, I think I sold 30 copies the first week or month. I can’t even remember. I just know it was enough to pay not only my water bill, but my electric bill. And most of those sales were from the first day when all my friends downloaded the book out of curiosity, so I knew the next month wouldn’t really see any sales and things would slow down. But that didn’t matter to me, because I wrote the book simply because it was fun, not because I wanted to make it a career. The thought of actually writing full-time was a crazy notion and I wouldn’t even allow myself to entertain it.

I started on the sequel, Point of Retreat, shortly thereafter.

. . . .

I remember calling my mother one day saying, “SIX people bought my book today and I don’t even know them!” It was insane.

. . . .

Then came the big day. The day every writer dreams of.

The day I was notified that I had hit The New York Times.

Link to the rest at Colleen Hoover and thanks to Randall for the tip.

Here’s a link to Colleen Hoover’s books

With a Little Help From Her Friends

7 October 2014

Harper Lee’s big break:

…in 1956 Lee was a rather taciturn 30-year-old ticket agent for the British Overseas Airways Company, who, like many aspiring writers, had come to New York City to pursue her dream. But after seven years of struggle, it seemed beyond her grasp. And without further help, and with no Kickstarter for another 53 years, that is perhaps where her dream would have ended.

Luckily, thanks to an introduction from Truman Capote, her childhood friend and neighbor, Lee had made two very good friends in New York: a Broadway composer named Michael Brown and his wife, Joy, a Balanchine dancer.

Lee became a bona fide extension of the Brown family, and any free time she had that was not devoted to writing was spent with Michael, Joy and their three boys at the Browns’ East 50th Street brownstone. The Browns had read Lee’s short stories, and they appreciated her dream — and her immense gift — better than anyone. They also shared her frustration at the challenges of writing while holding down a full-time job.

So, in the fall of 1956, when the Browns came into some cash because Michael had been hired to create a show for Esquire magazine, they decided to do something about Lee’s situation and to give their friend a big break — literally. When Lee opened her Christmas present from the couple that year, she found a note that read: ”You have one year off from your job to write whatever you please. Merry Christmas.

Author nurturing, 50’s style.

Just over a year later, she had a finished manuscript and a publisher. And the result of the Browns’ generous gift (which Lee later repaid in full) and Lee’s newfound freedom was no less than the Pulitzer Prize-winning, best-selling novel of the 20th century, To Kill a Mockingbird .

More detail at OZY.

Indie Authors Quitting Their Day Jobs – Redux

18 August 2014

The single most popular post (measured by number of comments) ever to appear on TPV was Indie Authors Quitting Their Day Jobs.

In the original post, PG simply passed on an invitation from a visitor to the blog for indie authors to who had been able to quit their day jobs and write full time to share their stories.

PG bumped the original post up to the top of the listings a couple of times, but something about the post, perhaps the 500+ comments, seemed to break the WordPress theme PG uses with this blog and result in strange display problems.

So, in deference to WordPress, PG is going to highlight one of the QDJ (Quitting Day Job) stories from the prior posts.

Feel free to add your own QDJ experiences in the comments to this post. If you add comments to the original post, they’ll likely appear somewhere near the bottom of a tall stack of comments.

From author R.D. Brady:

I quit my professorship last January. (Yup. I went all in to focus on writing without knowing if it would do well.) In June, I self-published my first novel and then my second in the same series in December.

My third’s coming out in the next week or two. To date, I’ve sold over 50,000 copies of the first two books in the Belial Series. (In fairness about 20,000 were free downloads.)

I also make a lot more than I ever did as a professor.

I am so glad I took the plunge and that I followed the advice of successful self published authors, such as Joe Konrath and Hugh Howey. In fact, after reading about the traditional verse self-published approaches, I didn’t even consider the traditional published route. I headed straight to Amazon. And I am so very happy that I did!

Here’s a link to R.D. Brady’s books

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