Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Two Months of Writing Full-time by Tamsyn Murray

As you'll probably know if you've read previous blog posts, I finally gave up my day job at the start of July to write full-time. It took seven years to get to that point, from the moment I decided to take writing seriously (rather than shilly-shallying around) to the point of earning a living from writing and it was a pretty terrifying leap to make. But I went with it, hoping that it would work out.

Here I am almost two months on, and I thought I'd report back on how it's been. Quite a few people have told me I'm living the dream and it's certainly true that writing full-time was a dream of mine for years - if you only knew how many hours I spent at my day job wishing I was writing (maybe you do - maybe you're doing the same thing right now). So what have I been doing with all that time?

I joked with day job colleagues that I was buying a sunlounger for the long summer days. Apart from that being a little optimistic given the Great British Summer, it turns out it was a pipe dream in terms of time, too. The thing about writing for a living is that it suddenly becomes a job and all those emails and admin jobs I squeezed into spare moments at the day job had to be done in my writing time. I had two books to write in a very short period of time so the plans I'd had of writing during the day and spending time with my family, or reading, in the evenings hasn't happened yet - I am still up until gone midnight working most nights. I've delivered two books, rewritten three and have a fourth edit plus a copyedit awaiting my attention. People joke that writers work all the time and I think that's true - I'm writing this blog post on holiday and that copyedit needs to be delivered tomorrow, so it has to be squeezed in between sightseeing and relaxing. Writing has become a job very quickly for me.

This isn't a complaint - far from it: I still love writing and I hope that never changes. I know I am lucky to be able to do it for a living. But it is a cautionary tale for anyone who dreams of writing full-time - for me, it's hard work and pretty relentless. I still worry about being able to pay the bills and so any time I slack off, I have a little voice nagging at me to get back to it. I'm sure people think writers spend their days wafting about in kaftans (or is that artists?) waiting for inspiration to strike. I've had to pull on a jumper (ah, summer) and go after it with a rope. I've had to sit at my table every single day. I've had to be determined and business-like and professional and disciplined. And I've worked much harder than I ever did in my 9-5 job.

Do I regret giving up my day job? Maybe a little on payday. But I couldn't possibly have done what I've done these last two months if I'd still been working 9-5 too. For me, giving up that job was a necessity. I definitely haven't given up work, though. Quite the opposite.

10 comments:

Stroppy Author said...

Good post, Tamsyn - and congratulations on making the move! Anything that reminds people that 'writing full-time' is just that - you write and do other writing-realted tasks all the working (and sometimes waking) hours - is a good thing. Too many people seem to think that 'writing full-time' = 'dossing about most of the day'. I keep detailed time logs (so I know which projects are worth taking and which worth refusing) and last year I worked an average of 36 hours a week for 52 weeks. It's not giving up your day job, it's changing it - just as it would be if you went from one employer to another!

Penny Dolan said...

Well said! Should be obligatory information for anyone imagining writing is an idle life. Good wishes to all your forthcoming books.

Candy Gourlay said...

Wishing you well, Tamsyn. Working full time is no picnic - especially because everyone else doesn't see writing as working! (Stroppy, keeping logs sounds a good idea!)

Susan Price said...

Congratulations, Tamsyn, and well said! I am seen as a dosser because I don't get up at 6am, or even 7 or 8. And I don't stand at bus-stops. What people don't see is that I work through the evenings and often into the night. I work juat as hard as they do, I just do it according to my own timetable, not someone else's.

Joan Lennon said...

Writing is hard core and so are we!

Tamsyn Murray said...

Thank you! I like Stroppy's idea of keeping a log - very sensible. And I do think it's important that people understand that writing is work - I have been pulling my hair out at times these last few months. I'll report back again at six months!

Richard said...

David Gerrold went all out logging his time. Not only could he see how much time he'd spent and how many words he'd written, he could even see which were the best times of day to work.

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Sheena Wilkinson said...

This resonated SO MUCH, Tamysn - in fact I have blogged here about it several times! Good luck with it all. I earn about 2 p from the actual writing, but seem to manage. At first I was very panicky about not saying no to things in case I never got asked again and starved, but I've mellowed and learn to pace myself. I don't always treat myself as well I'd expect to be treated by a boss, so be warned about that and be nice to yourself! I still feel a bit wicked at times, in a delicious way -- mainly when my former colleagues are back at school.

Katherine Roberts said...

In my experience, writing for a living is rather like Joseph's dream of the seven fat cows followed by the seven thin cows that came along and ate them. Hoping the good years will continue for you, but if you can put something aside when things are going well that might extend the period you are able to write full time.

kathryn evans said...

Ahh - the joys of working for yourself - everybody thinks they can drop in anytime because youre at home right? At least I'm used to it with farming so if I ever get to the stage of writign full time, the full time bit won't be a shock!