Writer with a Day Job

Being a writer with a day job, I am currently at an English department retreat, learning how to do oral interviews for incoming English Language Learners. This post is coming to you through Internet magic!

I thought that I would do a quick review of a writing book that I just finished, Writer with a Day Job: Inspiration and Exercises to Help You Craft a Writing Life Alongside Your Career by Aine Greaney. You can see why I might pick this book up.

How was it?

I enjoyed the book. There were three salient things I took away from the experience.

1. Greaney is not talking about publication when she talks about writing. Her concern is that you find time to be creative, that you do not allow your work life to take all your writing away. What you do with your art after you’ve produced it is up to you.

2. It’s entirely appropriate for some people to have a passion for their job as well as for writing. Sometimes as a writer who really likes her job, I feel surrounded by people who want to quit their jobs and write. Certainly, that would make it easier to write, but I might miss being connected with education. A bit. Okay, a lot.

3. Writers gain a lot from being employed. Besides the steady paycheck, they gain things to write about, organizational skills, and a professional demeanor. That’s just for starters.

The book isn’t perfect. For example, the writing exercises are pretty standard stuff. Then again, I don’t think that’s why most people will come to the book.

Another issue I have is Greaney’s stance that you can write in 5-30 minute snatches of time. She proposes that little drips and drops of time are good for certain kinds of activities, but I imagine eventually you might need to write in more than 15 minutes a day. I get the main point: write when you can, over don’t write at all, and that’s a fine message. I also recognize this as a technique I used to do a lot of my work in graduate school. I would find it difficult to write a book in half hour increments.

The chapters on retreats and workshops are pretty good. And Greaney’s emphasis is on building the whole writer: drafter, editor, reader, all the experiences. If you do count all that development time, you can spend meaningful time developing yourself. Her chapters on revision I find superlative.

Bottom line: Will this help you get some ideas to manage your writing life and your other career? You betcha. And I dunno, maybe you can complete a novel in 20 minute snippets.

Author: Catherine Schaff-Stump

Catherine Schaff-Stump writes fiction for children and young adults. Her most recent book, The Vessel of Ra, is the first book in the Klaereon Scroll series. She is currently working on its sequel, as well as penning the middle grade adventures of Abigail Rath, monster hunter.

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