Thursday, 2 July 2009

Working Girl - Elen Caldecott

I loved Nicola’s post earlier on this week. All the questions made me smile-wince, or swince as it will now be known. But there is one that always evokes a bigger swince than the others; and that is the dreaded ‘JK’ question.

Not that I mind being asked if I’m the new JK, well, not that much anyway. What I mind is the assumption that it’s only a matter of time before children’s writers buy great swathes of Morningside and use £50 notes to paper their new mansions; as though that’s the normal career path. Of course, my friends mean well. Of course, they’re being kind. But there is still a sense – among non-writers – that writing is a solid route to bucket-fulls of cash.

And thrice Ha!

I did an MA in creative writing. Throughout, visiting speakers and the course tutors would do their best to open our eyes to cold reality. ‘It’s tough to get published and it’s tough to make money even when you are published’, they said. Often.
But it’s only now, with a first book out and two more scheduled, that I’m starting to see their point.

But, I am not here to whine. Oh no.
On the contrary; today, I want to celebrate. I want us to applaud the wonder that is the Day Job.
Too often, it’s seen as a dreadful impediment to the ‘real work’ of a writer; your perceived success depends on how quickly you can give it up. But for many writers, you can never give up your day job. And we can sometimes be made to feel bad about that by friends and family who should know better.

Well, I love my day job, and I (probably) wouldn’t give it up even if those rolls of £50-note wallpaper do turn up. I sell tickets 3 days a week in an independent cinema. I work alongside interesting people and our customers are superb too. And, yes, I do get to see the films for free. Writing fits around the job perfectly and having to work makes my writing time even more precious.
Also, the fact I have to leave the house three times a week means I have to shower and get dressed. If I were a full-time writer I’m not so sure that would happen...

Lots of writers are teachers, or work in publishing, or even fly planes (I only know of one who does that, to be fair). We are all real writers, and we can all (mostly) pay the bills.

Long live the day job!

p.s. the photo is of me and some pals at Watershed - I am the Eric nearest the camera!
Elen's Facebook Page


Unknown said...

Ellen, you are sooo right. The day job is often what allows you to keep on writing - roof over your head/ food on the table etc. It took me a long time to accept that lesson and acceptance makes life a whole lot more settled and stops that niggling feeling of resentment.

Linda Strachan said...

Yes, one of the problems of giving up the day job means you have to be so much more disciplined about your time, making sure that actual 'writing time' is sacrosanct. When you fit writing around another job you are forced into smaller packages of writing time so you often make the most of it.
Not that I am complaining, I love the fact that I don't have to clock in to another job but it can also mean that I forget when to stop!
One of the problems of being self employed (especially when you love your work!) is that there is always the tendency to keep going even when you know you should stop.
I do envy you the opportunity to see all those films, though Elen. I usually end up missing a lot of films I would love to see on the wide screen.

Stroppy Author said...

You're right about the dressing and showering.... maybe I need a day job ;-) At least I have to take my daughter to school, so that imposes some sanitary discipline

Nicola Morgan said...

Very good post - and it got me thinking that (although I am a "full-time" writer, ie one with no day job) perhaps it's the day job that stops authors becoming rather weird and unworldly and therefore maybe we should ALL get day jobs!

Meg Harper said...

I don't have a day job as such - but I do have a portfolio of other free-lance work that writing is rather a small part of! And I'm here rather late on this lovely birthday because I've been free-lancing away for 3 days near Leighton Buzzard at a secondary school arts week, doing drama workshops based on my book 'Fur' - one of those lovely opportunities where everything works together! I used to think that I wanted to be a full-time writer - after all, I do love writing - but I have discovered that I love the variety of times when I am alone and can write and other times when I'm out working in schools or heritage venues or running my youth theatre or being a counsellor - and it all provides rich material for my writing as well as keeping me sane! We are all so different in the way we work - and I totally relate to Elen's frustration that Joe Public has a fixed view of how we all are. A kid once said to me, 'But Meg - you're a writer! Why are you here doing youth theatre?' And I just thought, 'I simply don't know where to start!' But then until I spent a whole day walking up mountains with a bowel surgeon, I thought she spent all day, every day carving up people's bowels! What? You mean she doesn't.....?