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Misery, Unhappiness, and Why We Write

The new Day Job article is up where I tackle the motivation to write and what kind of day job a writer should have.

Comments welcome here or there!

I wanted to add The Day Job articles to my list of Writing Topics on This Site, but I realized I hadn't put together a table of contents of the articles.  So, here's a complete list of The Day Job articles:

What About the Day Job?  A discussion of the idea you need to be miserable to write.
Keeping the Writer Alive.  Why it is important to get away some times.
Art and Competitiveness in a Scary Publishing World.  How you can be artistic and commercial.
Publishing a Short Story Collection.  The perils and benefits of a collection of your short work.
Sense of Wonder, Writing Landscapes, and the Imaginative Muscle.  How writing about landscapes is vital in imaginative literature.
What are You Writing For?  Should your main goal be to be published, or is there a better route to writing?
Rookie Mistakes.  Things new writers do that shoot themselves in the foot.
On Establishing a Personal, Canonical Collection of Short Stories.  Recognizing your personel influences.
Convention Dos and Don'ts.  How to get the most from a writers convention.
Making a Writers' Group Work.  Suggestions for a helpful writers group.
InterNetTion.  How the Internet can be a 24/7 science fiction convention.
Carpe-Penicullus.  Time is short.  How are you going to use it?
Quitting It.  What whould you be thinking about if you want writing to become the day job?
Get Out of the House.  The dangers of writing at home.
Writing Thoughts to Contemplate.  Finding jewels of writing advice.
Generating Hard Science Fiction Ideas Painlessly.  The title says it all.
Finding the Time.  How to shoehorn writing into an already busy schedule.
Being Professional.  You don't have to make your living at writing to be a professional.
Growth, Learning, and the Search for Teachers.  How do you keep learning when you're not at school?



( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 16th, 2009 01:18 pm (UTC)
a.k.a., "Another great writer lost to Prozac." ;)

My requirements for the day job were that it:

a) Pay the bills, and
b) Stay out of the way otherwise.

Back in the days of the dot-com bubble, I had a very exciting job that kept me busy and paid well; I still wrote then, but because I was eager to do it for a living so much as because I just find it fun.

That said, it's certainly easier to write satire when you're at a crap job than it is when you're at a good one, because there's more you want to rip to shreds. But honestly, I wouldn't think the tradeoff was worth it.

-The Gneech
Apr. 16th, 2009 02:58 pm (UTC)
I don't know that JSF meant you have to be miserable to be a writer, just that you may be less motivated to write if you have other things to do that you enjoy more, or that take more of your energy.

It's absolutely true that I wrote more when my job was lower down the ladder and less mentally challenging.

I have a story I wrote for fun one night when I was supposed to be writing college-application essays, in which I said, "Many thanks to the University of Virginia for giving me something to avoid." It was (and remains) true: I do more writing when the writing is a form of procrastination from something else.

When lower down the employment ladder, it was easier to procrastinate on my job. But now... Well, lj has stolen some of that procrastination, but the reality is that the responsibilities weigh on my mind. I go home, and the job often comes with me, or I'm totally wiped out and can't even consider writing.

Many writers work around this by getting up early and doing their writing before their workday sucks the energy away. I keep thinking about doing this, but alas, I am a night owl, and the notion of going to bed at 9pm and getting up at 5 or 6 doesn't seem likely for me.
Apr. 16th, 2009 06:41 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the links to previous articles from The Day Job. I always enjoy reading your column and am glad I can go back and read the ones I missed.
Apr. 16th, 2009 07:30 pm (UTC)
I have noticed that since I started teaching history at a local community college two years ago that my writing output has dropped to nil. Some of this is probably a result of the need to write lecture notes, grade exams, read in prep for the lectures and the like. In any case, at the end of the day, I have very little creative or intellectual energy left for writing.

I do not know that one needs a miserable day job in order to write. But I think having a day job that allows you to write at the same time (my security job sometimes provided this opportunity) made it possible for me to write the two stories which I have sold since 2007. I would sit at my post from 0700 to 1500 hours and write my projects out longhand. I'd transcribe them at home and print the results. The next day I'd edit and revise.

Misery isn't needed per se, but some quiet time in a comfortable space by yourself is mandatory.

S. F. Murphy
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )