A Day Job

Writers need a day job. According to a survey of almost 2,500 working writers the median income of the professional author in 2013 was just £11,000, a drop of 29% since 2005 when the figure was £15,450. The typical median income of all writers was even less: £4,000 in 2013, compared to £5,012 in 2005 (The Guardian). So unless you’re lucky enough to make a really good living from your writing – cue JK Rowling – you need a day job.

For me, finding the right day job was a calculated decision; I downsized my career. I had arrived at a place I didn’t want to be, so I stepped off the career train. This sounds so simple, doesn’t it? It wasn’t. I remember thinking, Is this the most stupid thing I’ve ever done? But I still did it: I walked into the unknown. It took a long time to find the right part-time day job; and then settling in at the bottom of an organisation, even though it is a college of art and design was, shall we say, trying. Setting about establishing my proofreading and copy-editing business and getting it off the ground was easier.

Most people don’t follow their dreams. ‘They settle for the ordinary, as if they’re afraid of potential greatness inside them. Following your dream can be lonely, as it sets you apart from others. Just because it’s the right thing to do doesn’t make it easy.’ (Robert Rowland Smith)

 

 

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Displacement or Writer’s Block?

Displacement is defined as ‘an unnecessary activity that you do because you are trying to delay doing a more difficult activity’, whereas writer’s block is a ‘condition in which you lose the ability to produce new work, or experience a creative slowdown’. I’m very good at displacement, not so good at writer’s block.

For me, displacement is a means of getting into the zone, a series of rituals that lead me into the world I’ve created; taking the dog out, closing all those irritating chores and admin tasks down in order to clear the decks. Or it can simply be a means of wasting time. You’d be surprised at how much time I can waste, or maybe you’re not? However, it doesn’t always work. Sometimes the only way is to walk away for the day because the writing is just not happening.

Displacement can be a way of ordering my thoughts, thinking about where I left off, collating all the light-bulb moment notes I’ve scribbled – the flashes of inspiration when an idea strikes, often at the strangest of times, and a twist in the plot or character’s motivation is resolved. And then there’s the organising of my immediate writing environment; putting away what I don’t need, making sure I’ve got what I do need to refer to is close by. This could also be called “knolling”, ‘the process of arranging related objects as a method of organization’ and, for me, it’s an aspect of the discipline of writing.

I never really believed in writer’s block until it happened. I was juggling too many things, over-tired, this needed doing, that needed doing. As the weeks went by and then months, a year, I convinced myself that I’d made a conscious decision to have a break from writing. There was absolutely no space in my head and whatever rituals I did, I just couldn’t get into the zone. But then I thought, it will come back, there will be space in my head again. Nothing ever stays the same, everything changes. Apparently under stress the human brain shifts control to the instinctive processes, the fight or flight response, and this hinders the creative processes.

How to begin…

How does one begin a blog? By beginning is the obvious answer. I feel ridiculously anxious about this; writing a blog ought to be relatively easy for a writer!

What is a blog anyway? A quick google search tells me ‘a blog is a regularly updated website written in an informal style’. Not much to go on for a newbie.

So, perhaps a diary, much like I wrote as a teenager? Informative, detailing my life as a writer and the struggle for publication? A ranting venue for my inner most thoughts? To create space in my head? A personal creative outlet? Structuring my thoughts so I don’t go completely mad? Something to do as a displacement activity? A release from writer’s block? This could go on forever! I suspect, for me, a blog is a combination of them all, and I have begun.

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