Saturday, August 22, 2015

Writing around the day job

Like many writers I know, I write around the work I am paid to do—the “day job.” While I don’t mean for the writing to take a back seat, that often seems to be the result. I’ve been in publishing for over 25 years, have 13 titles available (most still in print) and a 14th in the final stages of production. I maintain a website and have a paid publicist/web designer who sometimes earns more than I do. Nevertheless, criticism about the “dilettantes” and “hobbyists” in the writing world still makes me squirm.

Is it guilt because I know I could probably find a few more hours a week if I was willing to sacrifice sleep or couple time with my honey or the few small efforts I make in the community? Am I squirming because I sometimes hit periods of exhaustion when the words won’t come or occasionally suffer crises of confidence that make me erase everything on the screen? Or am I worried I may really be treating the work as if it were my hobby and not the one thing I’ve aspired all my life to do?

I suspect the answer is D. All of the above. If I were brave enough, perhaps I could break free of the day job and live with the consequences until the royalties began flowing in. Then again, what if they don’t? See? I’m back to that crisis of confidence again.

The stories are many and varied about the writers who’ve lived in their cars or on other people’s couches (J.K. Rowling being the current favorite) because they believed so fully in their own work. Did the world have hostages it held until the royalties came? Because I did: I had a family. And since I still have people in my life, even if they aren’t dependent anymore, I still have hostages—at least to some degree.

For now I’m going to go on writing fiction around the day job and creating fantasies in my head about being brave enough to leap. Maybe those will be the best stories of all.

Susan Aylworth is the author of 13 published novels and has a part in three boxed sets, all 16 titles available now. Mother to seven, she is "gramma" to 24. She lives in northern California with her husband of 45 years and the two spoiled cats they serve. She loves hearing from readers @SusanAylworth, at, or You can also follow her on Pinterest and Instagram.


  1. I left my long-time demanding day job to write novels (and freelance financial articles) full-time and still have guilt moments that I'm not spending enough time on my novel writing.

  2. Susan. I can really relate to this. Every day I promise to write. Mostly that promise gets broken. The day job pays the bills and hopefully when I retire I can write more. Today I promise to actually do that. Fingers crossed

  3. Boy, Susan, you really hit home with this one. I'm retired and still don't devote nearly enough time to my novel. In fact, I sometimes think it's worse because my day doesn't have structure unless I give it one. I think this is an issue all writers, especially women writers, struggle with. But for today, I'm not going to treat my writing like a hobby. I'm going to give it priority - after I get home from church and have a nice lunch with my husband. Hmm ...

  4. Guilty. I just accepted another job which will give me even less time for writing, but I'm still hopeful I'll be able to put the words on the page. There just don't seem to be enough hours in the day. Glad I'm not alone! I'd suggest a support group, but that would take even more time away!

  5. Susan--
    I can relate. There is always something else that wants my attention. It is indeed difficult to make writing a priority all the time. But with 13 completed novels to your name I really think you can stop feeling guilty. Give yourself a break :-)