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theorange
05-28-2012, 10:40 PM
Have there been any authors who have written extremely high quality, artistic books in the last 20 years who have done it while holding down full-time jobs? If so, who?

In particular, is there anyone who's written astonishing work while also holding down a job as a lawyer or a doctor or other typically high-working-hours professional?

fireluxlou
05-28-2012, 10:51 PM
Well China Mieville has a bibliography of over 30 works fiction and non-fiction and is an Associate Professor of Creative Writing at Warwick University.

From Warwick Uni's site:

He teaches on the Practice of Fiction module (EN236); and supervises students on the Creative Writing MA. He also teaches a non-credit course on early twentieth-century 'Weird Fiction', running in January and February every year.

http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/arts/english/about/people/permanentacademicstaffstaff3/chinamieville/

Calla Lily
05-28-2012, 11:05 PM
What's the purpose of the question? What are your definitions of "high quality" "artistic" and "astonishing"?

Becca_H
05-28-2012, 11:12 PM
I think the OP is asking about if it's possible to dedicate the time into writing that it takes to go from writing crap from writing well, if you have a major commitment.

The answer is yes.

You just need to dedicate hours to it, which will naturally involve sacrifices in other areas. But if you make them, your writing skills will improve.

Take Jennifer Echols, who had numerous books out while working as a copyeditor. She used to wake up early to work on copyediting so she could write during the day. (She also ran quite a few marathons as well.) It's only recently she's stopped copyediting.

theorange
05-28-2012, 11:14 PM
What's the purpose of the question? What are your definitions of "high quality" "artistic" and "astonishing"?

Well I deliberately left these vague. The purpose of my question is to know whether there are people who have recently created artistic masterpieces -- define that as you will -- in the time remaining after demanding, unrelated jobs, or whether great art only seems to manifest when it's given full-time attention.

Becca_H
05-28-2012, 11:15 PM
Also, Maggie Stiefvater is a freelance artist on the side (or maybe it's 50/50, not sure).

Mr Flibble
05-28-2012, 11:18 PM
The purpose of my question is to know whether there are people who have recently created artistic masterpieces -- define that as you will -- in the time remaining after demanding, unrelated jobs

Yes, there are.

cmi0616
05-28-2012, 11:22 PM
Charles Bukowski worked in a post office for a long time. Joshua Ferris wrote the award winning Then We Came To An End while working at an Ad agency. I believe Jonathan Franzen worked as an English professor at Swarthmore before publishing his first novel.

lorna_w
05-28-2012, 11:27 PM
I don't think Scott Turow ever quit practicing law. I think Grisham did, but didn't he write his first novel on the train to and from work? (I get them mixed up; sorry.) Didn't Stephen King work through his first couple novels?

Many, many, many literary writers teach at MFA or English programs f-t. Most literary novels don't earn bupkis, so this isn't some brave choice, it's an "I'd like to eat more than once a day" choice. But even Toni Morrison kept her day job after Beloved was such a hit, I believe. I think Amy Bloom did work for awhile as a psychiatric social worker while writing award-winning short literary stories, but I also think she no longer does work a day job

Calla Lily
05-28-2012, 11:29 PM
*feeling like I have a chip on my shoulder*

Several writers I know have FT jobs, plus freelance jobs, and still come home to cook, clean, and take care of their families. Myself included. Do we write "artistic masterpieces"? I don't--I write beach reads and am proud of them.

*leaves conversation because of said chiplike feeling*

willietheshakes
05-29-2012, 12:26 AM
Me.
And, you know, virtually every writer I know.

Xelebes
05-29-2012, 12:34 AM
Most phantasmic writers write with a full-time job, if only to keep themselves involved in experiences that allow them to continue writing stories. It's rather anxiety inducing with all the dullness and ennui from sitting at home with your cat on your lap as you write.

bearilou
05-29-2012, 12:49 AM
Me.
And, you know, virtually every writer I know.

Yeah. This.

Unless the real question is 'what are my chances of really hitting the big time while working my ass off in a 40+ hour week' as a justification to quit said job.

Soccer Mom
05-29-2012, 12:56 AM
Have there been any authors who have written extremely high quality, artistic books in the last 20 years who have done it while holding down full-time jobs? If so, who?

In particular, is there anyone who's written astonishing work while also holding down a job as a lawyer or a doctor or other typically high-working-hours professional?

Yes. Great art doesn't pay the rent or put food on the table. Oh, it can eventually pay once it is sold, but while writing it, you have to live on something.

I'm also curious why you are asking this question. Are you looking for permission to quit your day job and have someone else support you?

theorange
05-29-2012, 01:18 AM
I'm also curious why you are asking this question.

Well, there are definitely personal career implications in this, but I'm also curious about the topic generally.

If for example you look at some of the canonical novelists of the past century and a half: say, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Woolf, Proust, Faulkner, Nabokov, Joyce, Roth, Bellow, Atwood, McEwan and so on... these are not people who held down 40-hour+ a week jobs. Thomas Pynchon worked for 2 years for Boeing before his first novel, then quit. David Foster Wallace taught a bit. Academia/creative writing instruction/freelancing seem to be a bit more frequent, but standard 9-5 grinds seem to be rare.

Then there's another question of the differences between types of jobs. As cmi0616 pointed out above, Bukowski worked at a post office. TS Eliot worked as a banker (but his friends wanted him to quit...they worried it affected his art). Would any of them have worked as a surgeon, or done some other job that required 60-80 hour weeks -- and, even more than time, required their mental energy and occupied their mind?

bearilou
05-29-2012, 01:30 AM
If for example you look at some of the canonical novelists of the past century and a half: say, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Woolf, Proust, Faulkner, Nabokov, Joyce, Roth, Bellow, Atwood, McEwan and so on... these are not people who held down 40-hour+ a week jobs. Thomas Pynchon worked for 2 years for Boeing before his first novel, then quit. David Foster Wallace taught a bit. Academia/creative writing instruction/freelancing seem to be a bit more frequent, but standard 9-5 grinds seem to be rare.

Then there's another question of the differences between types of jobs. As cmi0616 pointed out above, Bukowski worked at a post office. TS Eliot worked as a banker (but his friends wanted him to quit...they worried it affected his art). Would any of them have worked as a surgeon, or done some other job that required 60-80 hour weeks -- and, even more than time, required their mental energy and occupied their mind?

I admit to a bit of curiosity as well but probably on a more general scale. I'm always interested in writers who have gotten published and worked the 40+ hours weeks but not just in mental energy expenditure but in physical as well. Working 60-80 hours a week as a lawyer or a surgeon is grueling, no doubt, but so is factory work where you're on your feet all day. Or long-distance truck drivers. Delivery drivers. Or day care providers.

And if anyone thinks sitting behind a computer all day in a full-time job is a bed of roses. That can get taxing on a body, too.

Then there's those writers who do all that, then come home and see to the needs of their family before their own writing, as callalily61 above said. I mean, the laundry doesn't do itself, right? It's one thing to come home and have the spouse take care of all the familial needs so the writer can write after their grueling day. What about those who don't have that kind of support?

MyFirstMystery
05-29-2012, 01:31 AM
I understand your curiosity about this subject. I don't think that having a high-intensity career and being a writer are incompatible, as one can feed into the other.

That being said, we have to set aside the time to write. It might be harder to do as a surgeon, but we all lead complicated lives, right? We work a non-writing jobs, we write, we have hobbies and friends, and many of us (not me) are raising families.

No limits, just finding the right mix.

MFM

willietheshakes
05-29-2012, 01:35 AM
I'm also curious why you are asking this question.

Well, there are definitely personal career implications in this, but I'm also curious about the topic generally.

If for example you look at some of the canonical novelists of the past century and a half: say, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Woolf, Proust, Faulkner, Nabokov, Joyce, Roth, Bellow, Atwood, McEwan and so on... these are not people who held down 40-hour+ a week jobs. Thomas Pynchon worked for 2 years for Boeing before his first novel, then quit. David Foster Wallace taught a bit. Academia/creative writing instruction/freelancing seem to be a bit more frequent, but standard 9-5 grinds seem to be rare.

Then there's another question of the differences between types of jobs. As cmi0616 pointed out above, Bukowski worked at a post office. TS Eliot worked as a banker (but his friends wanted him to quit...they worried it affected his art). Would any of them have worked as a surgeon, or done some other job that required 60-80 hour weeks -- and, even more than time, required their mental energy and occupied their mind?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Physician_writer

leahzero
05-29-2012, 01:40 AM
That being said, we have to set aside the time to write. It might be harder to do as a surgeon, but we all lead complicated lives, right? We work a non-writing jobs, we write, we have hobbies and friends, and many of us (not me) are raising families.

Yes, but that's not really what the OP is talking about.

Is it possible to write a novel while working a demanding, time/energy/whatever-intensive job? Of course.

But the OP is asking if it's possible to create art under such circumstances. High art, fine art, novels that endure, that become classics, etc. Art that is rich with meaning, allusion, symbolism, insight. Art that transforms and transcends.

And I think the answer to that is more complicated.

Bubastes
05-29-2012, 01:41 AM
I understand your curiosity about this subject. I don't think that having a high-intensity career and being a writer are incompatible, as one can feed into the other.

That being said, we have to set aside the time to write. It might be harder to do as a surgeon, but we all lead complicated lives, right? We work a non-writing jobs, we write, we have hobbies and friends, and many of us (not me) are raising families.

No limits, just finding the right mix.

MFM

This. What works for one person may not work for another. Some people thrive in high-intensity careers and have great support at home, so it may be easier for them to write than, say, a person whose career drains them. As MFM said, it's all in finding the right mix.

bearilou
05-29-2012, 01:48 AM
But the OP is asking if it's possible to create art under such circumstances. High art, fine art, novels that endure, that become classics, etc. Art that is rich with meaning, allusion, symbolism, insight. Art that transforms and transcends.

And I think the answer to that is more complicated.

I think first we'd need to agree on what fits this description. Or at least come up with a list that we could possibly mostly agree on.

Then it's simply a matter of doing a little background research on the authors and getting a look at what they were doing when they wrote it.

quicklime
05-29-2012, 02:31 AM
people can, and do, multitask. it seems that is the base of your question, you're just asking a bit further: can people do it WELL?

Of course; some can, some cannot.

Are you a surgeon asking?

You say you deliberately leave the question vague and that is all good and well, but if you want real, specific answers, real, specific situations and/or limitations might be useful...i.e. beyond being vague, what are you really asking? because at the base, vague level, the vague answer is "yes."

yes.

Mr Flibble
05-29-2012, 03:17 AM
standard 9-5 grinds seem to be rare.Excuse me while I giggle inanely (is it 95% of novelists that have to have a day job too? Pretty sure)

You aren't looking very hard


And last November my job went tits up. I was working 60-70 hours a week - and still managed to get 20k words in that month

I am I everyone? No.

But yes, it can be done. And has been done. Very very often.


But the OP is asking if it's possible to create art under such circumstances. High art, fine art, novels that endure, that become classics, etc. Oh dear - I feel a turn coming on. Fine art is in the beholding much like beauty.

Some of my fave novels were written while the author held down a full time job. ( so were many supposedly artful books)

What is a book? Is it art - does that 'art' make it better? Or is sheer pleasure in the reading of it a more worthy gauge?

Or is a book you can just lose yourself in worth more than any artistic intent?

Is it possible to create art with the same effort that is required to make a beach read? Depends on the writer - I suspect it comes easier for some than others. And I suspect that art is defined differently for different people.

Myself? I place pleasure in reading above art. I have to enjoy reading a book, and then I can reflect on its art. If the artful book bores me, I put it down. If the writing of the book was easy - does that make it less artful? If it was hard, does it make it more so? No. The end result is what matters. ALWAYS.

And pleasure (for me) > art.

Hmm. I may feel another post coming on.

Soccer Mom
05-29-2012, 03:32 AM
I'm also curious why you are asking this question.

Well, there are definitely personal career implications in this, but I'm also curious about the topic generally.

If for example you look at some of the canonical novelists of the past century and a half: say, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Woolf, Proust, Faulkner, Nabokov, Joyce, Roth, Bellow, Atwood, McEwan and so on... these are not people who held down 40-hour+ a week jobs. Thomas Pynchon worked for 2 years for Boeing before his first novel, then quit. David Foster Wallace taught a bit. Academia/creative writing instruction/freelancing seem to be a bit more frequent, but standard 9-5 grinds seem to be rare.

Then there's another question of the differences between types of jobs. As cmi0616 pointed out above, Bukowski worked at a post office. TS Eliot worked as a banker (but his friends wanted him to quit...they worried it affected his art). Would any of them have worked as a surgeon, or done some other job that required 60-80 hour weeks -- and, even more than time, required their mental energy and occupied their mind?

You do realize that a 9-5 job is not 60-80 hours a week. I really don't know that it's fair to compare writers from 100 or more years ago with today (Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky). Nabokov was a teach and only quit to write full time after Lolita brought him financial success. Proust was a wealthy dilettante and lived with his parents. Joyce was a teacher, banker and had numerous money making schemes, especially starting cinemas. It was late in his life when he received financial support from others to write full time. By then his health was failing and it took him years to finish anything. Saul Bellow wrote his first novel while in the merchant marines.

I guess my point in all that it's a false perspective to think that because these writers did not always have career while they creating that there was nothing to distract them from their art. They had wives, children, money woes, health concerns. They weren't living in an air-conditioned turret, untroubled by the concerns of those with jobs.

NeuroFizz
05-29-2012, 03:51 AM
It is certainly possible to produce quality novels while working 50+ hours per week, at least for some people. It all depends on the person and the situation. And this includes time to strive to continually learn and improve in the craft, which is necessary to hit the quality marks some of us expect of ourselves.

As for the question of lasting artistic masterpieces, that's never for the writer to determine. Any new or developing writer, with no chops or evidence of honorable acceptance, who sees him/herself as able to sit down and produce a lasting masterpiece, has an ego that is lapping his/her accomplishments.

Medievalist
05-29-2012, 03:53 AM
Well I deliberately left these vague. The purpose of my question is to know whether there are people who have recently created artistic masterpieces -- define that as you will -- in the time remaining after demanding, unrelated jobs, or whether great art only seems to manifest when it's given full-time attention.

Yes. They have.

In fact I'd argue that great art only manifests after life happens.

Also? You need to read a lot more about the writers you're discussing. Nabokov and Roth had tenure. Woolf helped run a press, had a spouse with income, and money in the family. Atwood taught and wrote for hire—as did Faulkner, among others. Many of them had or have spouses or SO—Claire Bloom wasn't hurting for money, for instance.

What the people you have listed in the original post have in common (aside from writing) is mental illness and or tragedy, for a fair number of them. Perhaps that's a better angle to pursue?

lorna_w
05-29-2012, 03:53 AM
Also factor in primary responsibility for child care. Most "art" taught in lit classes was produced by males who never changed a diaper in their lives and didn't know where they were kept. (Read Tillie Olsen's Silences and of course Woolf on traditional roles for women and how that impinged on writing time.) These days, of course, it's a rare man who does not change at least some of the diapers. And then you have to factor in class to the child-care issue. Upper-middle-class parents who can afford nannies or day care or ballet classes have more time to write. (Of course, dividing writing into "art" and "popular/hack" is more about class than about quality of prose anyway.) A poor single mother who writes any novel is something of a miracle. A poor single mother who gets to make it all the way through a law degree is something of a miracle. I don't expect to see any who have done both and, moreover, won the imprimatur of the academic guardians of taste.

Do correct me on that if you know of one.

Ari Meermans
05-29-2012, 03:56 AM
As for the question of lasting artistic masterpieces, that's never for the writer to determine. Any new or developing writer, with no chops or evidence of honorable acceptance, who sees themselves as able to sit down and produce a lasting masterpiece, has an ego that is lapping his/her accomplishments.

Very well put, Neuro. This is what I believe, as well.

Soccer Mom
05-29-2012, 04:00 AM
let's see. You wanted some specific examples. Jack London was pretty much a hobo, prospector and day laborer his whole life. William Carlos Williams was a pediatrician. Langston Hughes was a busboy while writing his poetry. He was able to stop that after he was discovered.Kurt Vonnegut managed an auto dealership. Assimov was a professor of biochemistry. Wallace Stevens was an insurance executive. Henry Miller was a personnel manager. Kafka was a legal secretary. Faulkner was a postmaster.

zanzjan
05-29-2012, 04:40 AM
Have there been any authors who have written extremely high quality, artistic books in the last 20 years who have done it while holding down full-time jobs? If so, who?

In particular, is there anyone who's written astonishing work while also holding down a job as a lawyer or a doctor or other typically high-working-hours professional?

I wrote, revised, and began submitting my first novel over the course of four months while working 70-80 hours a week (on call 24/7) as a sysadmin for a high-tech startup, while being a single parent to a small child, and while working through the fairly immediate grief of having lost a number of people I knew on 9/11 including a coworker I put on Flight 11.

Now, was it a work of "high art"? Who the hell knows? And I say that having, myself, an actual degree in Fine Art. But that first novel manuscript eventually made it remarkably high up the food chain of publishing before fizzling (it was way too long) and while I don't know that anything I've written or published since then is "astonishing", I've entertained people, and frankly I'll take that over transformative any day of the week.

Nor, given circumstances that would allow me to write full-time, would I choose to do so; I believe the quality (and quite possibly the quantity) of my writing would suffer badly if I did.

Susan Littlefield
05-29-2012, 04:49 AM
Stephen King was an teacher. John Grisham was an attorney.

aikigypsy
05-29-2012, 05:26 AM
Maybe what you want to know is whether it benefits writers to focus exclusively or primarily on their writing, instead of pursuing another career. I'd certainly like to know that, but I doubt we could get a solid answer. Most writers have to do other paid work while writing, at least the beginning of their careers, and usually beyond.

The most successful writers, for me, are risk-takers, and that probably covers their personal lives as well as their art. Taking time out from a more reliable career write is a huge gamble, one most of us will lose, at least in financial terms, but I'd bet that more great art comes out of that strategy than out of the safer, write-on-the-weekends approach. Then again, I do agree that each of us has to find our own balance, and for some people it's probably best to take a dual-career approach.

Unimportant
05-29-2012, 05:34 AM
High art, fine art, novels that endure, that become classics, etc.
I agree, but that's incompatible with the OP also asking if it's been done in the last 20 years. How can a book from the last few decades be proven to endure and be a classic by now?

NeuroFizz
05-29-2012, 05:57 AM
The most successful writers, for me, are risk-takers, and that probably covers their personal lives as well as their art. Taking time out from a more reliable career write is a huge gamble, one most of us will lose, at least in financial terms, but I'd bet that more great art comes out of that strategy than out of the safer, write-on-the-weekends approach. Then again, I do agree that each of us has to find our own balance, and for some people it's probably best to take a dual-career approach.
The names mentioned upstream in this post suggest that many contemporary writers of significant success didn't quit their day jobs until they had already proven they could earn a living through their writing. Not much financial risk taking there. Furthermore, the starving artiste versus the unwilling-to-commit part-time hack is a very tired myth. Being innovative and fresh has nothing to do with the amount of time a person has to devote to their craft. If you want to get into variables that are important, dedication is going to be at the top of the list, and it takes just as much dedication to squeeze writing into relatively few available hours as it does to do if full time. Another variable is having a fleet intellect--one that is constantly trying new things from a position of solid attention to the craft, and one that has an insatiable curiosity and bloodthirsty imagination directed at the development of that craft and to storytelling. Again, this has nothing to do with the number of hours the writer can put his/her butt in the writer's chair. And it certainly has nothing to do with a person's willingness to take low-odds financial risks.

Miss Plum
05-29-2012, 06:09 AM
I can't believe no one's said this yet, but --

STEPHENIE MEYER.

Yes, Stephenie Meyer was a full-time, stay-at-home mom who had to discipline herself to steal time every day to write a 500-page novel called Twilight. She was probably putting in, what, nearly every waking hour on her day job? It may be debatable whether the result was high art, but she worked hard on listening to her characters, rewriting when her publisher asked for a sequel, and building her world.

I think 99% of writers have a demanding job outside their writing. Who in the world isn't terribly busy? Who has tons of time on their hands? I guess people who are single or at least childless, and independently wealthy.

buz
05-29-2012, 06:38 AM
Everyone has said smart things that I agree with. :D

I will just say that individual experiences with any job, or lack thereof, is extremely subjective. You can have no obligations and create nothing and never have a brilliant thought. You can have a million obligations and still find time to write or invent a new kind of child safety seat or paint or whatever you feel compelled to do. It depends on the person. It depends on the job. It depends on the specific environment of the workplace, the people there, the particular opportunities for mental stimulation, the energy required, the energy fed back to you, how much it sucks out of you, how passionate or compulsive you are about writing or the job itself, and how all of that affects you. Which is going to vary. A lot. :D

I haven't written anything of artistic merit, pretty much ever. The first draft of an ms was written during a month of unemployment slash vacation, when I was finally happy and well-rested for the first time in a while. The draft was bad. I ended up rewriting it completely, this time while employed at a torturously dull, mind-numbing, repetitive dead-end job that is exhausting and induces a very heavy brain fog, 60-70 hours a week. That version was a helluva lot better. It just took longer. Granted, I sat down and learned stuff about writing in between. But I don't think the job or lack thereof made too much of a difference for the writing itself. Except areas where I told myself I couldn't go to sleep until I finished writing a scene, and then ended up just writing some throwaway crap that was horrible so I could go to sleep. :P

I am, however, a simple moron, not an artist, so. Don't know if that is at all relevant.

Susan Littlefield
05-29-2012, 08:08 AM
I can't believe no one's said this yet, but --

STEPHENIE MEYER.

Yes, Stephenie Meyer was a full-time, stay-at-home mom who had to discipline herself to steal time every day to write a 500-page novel called Twilight. She was probably putting in, what, nearly every waking hour on her day job? It may be debatable whether the result was high art, but she worked hard on listening to her characters, rewriting when her publisher asked for a sequel, and building her world.


Wasn't this also the case with J.K. Rowling? She's also a very successful writer.

Medievalist
05-29-2012, 08:24 AM
Wasn't this also the case with J.K. Rowling? She's also a very successful writer.

The OP isn't interested in success in terms of money or happy readers; he's interested in "literary success."

dangerousbill
05-29-2012, 08:29 AM
I understand your curiosity about this subject. I don't think that having a high-intensity career and being a writer are incompatible, as one can feed into the other.


My career was creative and demanding, and the urge to write was on hold for 45+ years. Although I wrote some fiction while employed by a university in my late working years, it wasn't until I was retired that I had the creative energy to work at it.

muravyets
05-29-2012, 09:11 AM
It depends entirely on the individual whether he or she can produce artistically valuable work while also holding down a full-time, non-writing job. It's a matter of time management, energy, self-discipline, and last but not least, the nature of their talent. Some people can do it, some can't. There's no way for any of us to find out if we ourselves can do it except by trying. So, you know, run the experiment -- get a job, then start writing. See what happens.

Unfortunately, there's also no way to know whether one's failure to produce artistically valuable work is due to job pressures or to lack of talent except by running another experiment. Quit the job, keep writing, and see what happens then.

All that said, I will add though that I think relatively few writers, or visual artists, maintain jobs that require enormous dedication and emotional or mental involvement and that have nothing to do with their creative endeavors. I'm talking about things like brain surgeon or attorney, etc., the kinds of jobs that typically need the same level of dedication that creative work demands. Oh, some do, no doubt. There are always a few overachievers. But I think a lot people have just one central focus of their being that expresses and satisfies their innermost self. Just one ultimate bliss. I think this is why so many creatives quit their day jobs as soon as they can earn money from their creative work. I think it's also why many have lower level jobs that don't eat as much of their brains as their creative work does. The best of our output is, or should be, reserved for what matters most to us in life.

fireluxlou
05-29-2012, 11:13 AM
Wasn't this also the case with J.K. Rowling? She's also a very successful writer.

J.K. Rowling wasn't a stay at home mum, she was a single mother though and she has held numerous jobs throughout her earlier life. She was a teacher of English as a foreign language in Portugal with her first husband, but then she moved back home with her baby after the divorce, and found herself jobless as she didn't have a PGCE to teach in the UK.

So whilst writing Harry Potter, she had a baby and she was studying full time (you can only do PGCE's full time) for a PGCE so she could teach in Scotland. And during this time she survived on social security to get by.

When the first book was published she was advised to get a day job by Bloomsbury but didn't because the same year of the books release she recieved an £8000 grant from the Scottish Arts Council to continue writing full time.

seun
05-29-2012, 12:04 PM
Academia/creative writing instruction/freelancing seem to be a bit more frequent, but standard 9-5 grinds seem to be rare.


This made me laugh my arse off.

fireluxlou
05-29-2012, 12:11 PM
This made me laugh my arse off.

Are any jobs 9-5 these days?

I know managerial and assistant manager at my work at 7-6pm every day, but my job is always 5-6 hours a day like 1-5pm or 10-3pm or 9-1pm.

And supermarket jobs are 12-8pm or 10-8pm, or 10-3pm or 6-1pm/2pm

seun
05-29-2012, 12:31 PM
It wasn't so much the time issue that made me laugh; it was the idea of writers not supporting themselves with a day job seeming unusual.

Mr Flibble
05-29-2012, 12:38 PM
Are any jobs 9-5 these days?



Most office jobs still are, aren't they? All he people I know who work them do roughly 9-5 (with flexi)

Terie
05-29-2012, 01:02 PM
Are any jobs 9-5 these days?

I know managerial and assistant manager at my work at 7-6pm every day, but my job is always 5-6 hours a day like 1-5pm or 10-3pm or 9-1pm.

And supermarket jobs are 12-8pm or 10-8pm, or 10-3pm or 6-1pm/2pm

Most full-time jobs outside of retail are still in the 9-5(ish) range. Retail, where stores are open more than 8 hours, is different, but retail isn't the majority of jobs.

fireluxlou
05-29-2012, 01:07 PM
Most office jobs still are, aren't they? All he people I know who work them do roughly 9-5 (with flexi)


Most full-time jobs outside of retail are still in the 9-5(ish) range. Retail, where stores are open more than 8 hours, is different, but retail isn't the majority of jobs.

Ah I see. I live in a working class area so most people work in factories, pubs or retail once they leave school at 16.

Mr Flibble
05-29-2012, 01:11 PM
Ah I see. I live in a working class area so most people work in factories, pubs or retail once they leave school at 16.

I live in a working class area too, but most people work in offices, or in a trade (electrician etc, who also work mostly 9-5 or 8-4). We don't have many factories for a start....

fireluxlou
05-29-2012, 01:27 PM
I live in a working class area too, but most people work in offices, or in a trade (electrician etc, who also work mostly 9-5 or 8-4). We don't have many factories for a start....

Oh there's a lot of factories down South Wales, there are stone, mechanical and furniture factories. Also lots of factories which have million pound deals with supermarkets, the ones my family work in are medicinal and my s.o.'s mother works in one that makes products for Morrisons, Tescos, Sainsburys and Asda. The factories kind of replaced the Coal mines down in the Valley's when the mines got shut down in the 80s.

Terie
05-29-2012, 01:29 PM
Ah I see. I live in a working class area so most people work in factories, pubs or retail once they leave school at 16.

I live in a working class area, too, but that doesn't mean I don't know what it's like outside that area. Okay, so I actually DO work in an office job outside the area, but I'm also fairly sure my neighbours know that there are such things as full-time office jobs, even if few of them actually have one.

fireluxlou
05-29-2012, 01:37 PM
I live in a working class area, too, but that doesn't mean I don't know what it's like outside that area. Okay, so I actually DO work in an office job outside the area, but I'm also fairly sure my neighbours know that there are such things as full-time office jobs, even if few of them actually have one.

Oh I know what it's like outside the area. I know full time office jobs exist but I'm only speaking from experience though about my area as I suppose it's quite rural in comparison.

Mr Flibble
05-29-2012, 01:42 PM
I'm in a kind of rural ish area. Two factories to speak of (okay, a fair few that employ say 20 people), both of which hire as many or more office staff/tradesmen (my dad was staff electrician for one for forty years) as they do production line staff as it's mostly automated.

Lots of office based businesses though, and most school leaver type jobs are for that - data entry, filing etc, or learn a trade. Trade is still very popular - my local pub is infested with brickies, chippies, plasterers, sparks....and they mostly work 8-4 or thereabouts

It's going to depend a lot on the area you're in though - some areas are more factory-based than others. Still, there's plenty of 9-5 jobs about (even in factories - the office staff work 9-5 mostly, at least they do round here)

Stacia Kane
05-29-2012, 02:50 PM
I can't believe no one's said this yet, but --

STEPHENIE MEYER.

Yes, Stephenie Meyer was a full-time, stay-at-home mom who had to discipline herself to steal time every day to write a 500-page novel called Twilight. She was probably putting in, what, nearly every waking hour on her day job? It may be debatable whether the result was high art, but she worked hard on listening to her characters, rewriting when her publisher asked for a sequel, and building her world.

I think 99% of writers have a demanding job outside their writing. Who in the world isn't terribly busy? Who has tons of time on their hands? I guess people who are single or at least childless, and independently wealthy.


Thank you for pointing out that being a full-time stay-home mom is indeed a demanding, stressful, challenging career.

You don't need to be collecting a paycheck to work hard at something.

Whether or not Meyer's work is art may matter to the OP, but not to me, when it comes to the level of challenge/creativity/demand placed on Meyer by her "real" job.


I've been a stay-home mom for twelve years now. And my books may or may not stand the literary test of time, and they may be genre fiction, but I certainly think they're meaningful and have depth.

writerjohnb
05-29-2012, 03:43 PM
I work a full-time job as a master mechanic in the building controls field and I've found time to write 6 novels and dozens of stories. Are they artistic? Who knows, but I give them my best shot. My main goal is not art, but to give the reader an intriguing, well-written story that leaves them satisfied when they finish the book.

Writing is my hobby. I don't sit around and watch people run around and throw balls on television and find I have plenty of time for writing in the evenings. It's not how much time you have, it's all about how you use it.

JohnB

PulpDogg
05-29-2012, 03:49 PM
I'd also post the question of how many of those classical, high works of art were considered art at the time they were published. I don't know enough about the backgrounds of those writers to have an opinion on that - but wasn't Lolita a huge scandal when it came out and only years later became a classic?

As someone said earlier - when the OP asks for these kind of works in the past 20 years, can we really already name some works like that?

If we simplify the question to "can works of art be produced while holding down a full-time job?" then the answer is a definite yes. I don't think personal circumstances matter that much in the grant scheme of things. Of course they matter on an individual level, some people might need to write full-time to produce anything of value, some people might produce the greatest work there is while also changing diapers and collecting money as an accountant or something. Just like some people find a 2000 words a day schedule "brutal" and other people can easily write that in an hour.

folkchick
05-29-2012, 04:13 PM
The book I have coming out in August is young adult paranormal romance and I'm sure the literary world will roll it's eyes at that. But I also write mainstream/literary and can honestly say that both require hard work. The YA is three years in the making and much lost sleep; two young children, a house to clean, food to cook, clothes to wash/fold, IEP meetings for my daughter, doing homework with her every night. Other than that stuff I spent every moment I had to make this book the best it could be. And I made an album too! So, it can be done.

As for the quality . . . the acquisitions editor told me my writing was very good, exquisite in parts. My editor told me that going over the manuscript one last time how she was struck by the lyrical quality of my writing, and that I had a fine gift.

If the above sentiments are true, then it is only because I never saw a genre, I only saw a story that needed to be fine tuned to its fullest ideal.

That being said, there are many grants out there for writers who wish to pen the next great novel. Also, the thesis for MFA programs is a completed novel, with a certain amount of credit hours devoted solely to writing.

shaldna
05-29-2012, 04:33 PM
I'm also curious why you are asking this question.

Well, there are definitely personal career implications in this, but I'm also curious about the topic generally.

If for example you look at some of the canonical novelists of the past century and a half: say, Tolstoy,

Soldier - full time job. Then dedicated educational activist - almost full time job.


Dostoyevsky,

Was a doctor. He only started to write AFTER he was discharged and only to make money.


Woolf

Wolf was a journalist before she was a novelist and as such was already working in the creative field. However, it was also the 30's and most married women didn't work.


Proust

Started work at the Mazanine library but went on sick due to ongoing ill health. Wrote obsessively.



Faulkner

Flying corps in early life and then a University position in the '50's - after his pulitzer.


Nabokov

University lecturer


Joyce

Teacher and singer - from working class family, writing full time was no possibility at first.

etc etc.

The thing is, before they were literary stars, they needed to eat just like the rest of us.

Jamesaritchie
05-29-2012, 06:23 PM
Have there been any authors who have written extremely high quality, artistic books in the last 20 years who have done it while holding down full-time jobs? If so, who?

In particular, is there anyone who's written astonishing work while also holding down a job as a lawyer or a doctor or other typically high-working-hours professional?

High quality, artistic books? I'd call BS on this. There are books that people love reading, and books that stand the test of time, and to me, J. K. Rowling is just as high quality, and just as "artistic", as anyone out there.

But however you define "artistic", it takes no more time and effort than any other writing. There's this truly silly notion among many that great "art" whatever that is, somehow takes much longer to create, and it's pure BS.

Whatever your definition, some of the greatest literary books in history were written in weeks or a few short months.

Really, why limit it to the last twenty years? People generally have more time now, not less. The eight hue per day, five days per week job is a fairly modern idea. Twelve hours per day, six days per week was very common not all that long ago. And life took more time outside of work then, as well.

And if you can write novels while in Harvard medical school, as Michael Crichton did, you can write them with any job, anywhere.

If you want to write a novel, you'll write a novel, regardless of your day job. Whether or not it's high quality and "artistic" will depend on your talent, not on how many hours your day job requires.

lorna_w
05-29-2012, 09:13 PM
I haven't written anything of artistic merit, pretty much ever. ...I am, however, a simple moron, not an artist, so. Don't know if that is at all relevant.

Not true. As one of your first and most loyal fans (don't worry, I won't become a stalker), I see such a creativity and originality and interesting voice in your work that I could imagine some Marilyn Stasio picking you out (and she does this to certain genre writers) and raving in the NY Times how you transcend the genre and so forth and so on. And then you'd get taught at the academy and people would say, oh yes, see how this reflects the subconscious paradigms of the blahdeblahdeblahde and didn't Bahktin once say that lalalalala and as Engels said of the working class imagination, honkhonkhonk*, and there you'd be, an Artiste. And you'd have to do what an acquaintance of mine says you're supposed to do when people "find" meaning and allusions and depth in your work that you never intended. You nod sagely and say, "not many people see that."


*Am quoting my very own PhD papers here, especially the honking.

happywritermom
05-29-2012, 09:47 PM
Personally, I think it's all about priorities and time management.
I'm struggling with that now.
I am a stay-at-home mom with four young kids; I desperately need to get back into shape for my health and sanity; we have aging parents and in-laws who need us; we're about to build a new home; and I want/need to write.
I'm sure I don't do any of those things as well as I could if I could just manage to juggle top-rating for my priorities. But that's not me. I prefer to put my kids first (most of the time) and make time for the rest as I'm able.
So if I had remained in journalism, I would not be writing novels right now. I would find it impossible.
I would feel compelled to focus on my kids first and my career next, which would leave me no time for anything else (which is one reason I left my career).

Now, if I were a married lawyer with four children in day care or with my spouse and I wanted to write a literary best-seller, I could probably work 50 to 60 hours a week in the legal profession and hire a nanny or count on my spouse to care for the kids in the evenings while I wrote a couple thousand words each night.

I could do the same on the weekends.

I could focus, focus, focus and write the coolest thing the market as even seen. I'd never see my kids or spend time with my spouse, but that would be a choice I'd have made.

Or I could spend the evenings with my family and write a thousand words one or two times a week, or maybe 2,000 words once a week or two. I'd get the book done eventually, but it would take a few years. It might not even be done to my satisfaction until I'm close to retirement (Think Frank McCourt).

If I had no family, or if I had no kids and an either understanding or equally occupied spouse, and no other major priorities, then it'd be no problem either. (This all assumes the talent and skills.)

So I think it can be done.
It's possible to fully throw yourself into a demanding, time-consuming profession and still write a literary best-seller. But those are not the only two factors.
It's about the other responsibilities in life and how we choose to handle them.
It's about priorities.

Susan Littlefield
05-29-2012, 11:43 PM
The OP isn't interested in success in terms of money or happy readers; he's interested in "literary success."

Oh.

frimble3
05-30-2012, 01:24 AM
I really don't know that it's fair to compare writers from 100 or more years ago with today (Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky).
-Snip-
They weren't living in an air-conditioned turret, untroubled by the concerns of those with jobs.
Tolstoy is also not a reasonable comparison in that he was the son of Russian nobility. He had an estate and serfs. Yes, he was really enlightened, and started schools, etc, and he had troubles of his own, but in terms of this discussion, his job was making other people work 60-80 hour weeks. :)

Ken
05-30-2012, 01:41 AM
... the poet Wallace Stephens was the vice president of a bank, and he was an artist in every sense of the term. His poetry is really deep and searching. And on the other hand, there's Emily Dickinson who never worked a day in her life and also produced sublime stanzas. Another example is Franz Kafka, who not only worked a 9-5 job but also hated and despised it. No need to even get into how great he was. Goes without saying.

Ultimately, I think, great writers will find a way to say what they've got to say no matter what situation you place them in. Make 'em work a 16-hour shift in a coal mine 7 days a week and they'll still get out their masterpieces. As for the rest of us blokes, jobs can make a difference. Work a crummy job or slave too many hours and your creativity may fly south along with your desire to write.

So finding a situation that works for you is important. It varies from individual to individual, but I guess in general you've got to find something that doesn't overtax you beyond a certain point. Working 40 hours a week can be fine so long as the job is descent. Working 60, not so much so.

Medievalist
05-30-2012, 01:55 AM
And on the other hand, there's Emily Dickinson who never worked a day in her life and also produced sublime stanzas.

There is a tendency to dismiss women who do not work outside the home, one that individuals may not even be aware of or intend.

Dickinson spent close to thirty years caring for her bedridden mother, and running the "Homestead," for her parents.

Stacia Kane
05-30-2012, 01:55 AM
Wasm't it Trollope who invented the red postbox while he was a postal clerk? And who woke up two hours early every day, and spent that two hours writing solidly--when he finished one book, he'd immediately get a new sheet of paper and begin the next one, working until that two hours was up no matter what?

(He also stopped mid-sentence when the two hours ended, if memory serves.)

Calla Lily
05-30-2012, 02:32 AM
Thank you, Medi.

happywritermom
05-30-2012, 02:40 AM
Yes! Thank you from me as well, Medievalist

Ken
05-30-2012, 03:23 AM
There is a tendency to dismiss women who do not work outside the home, one that individuals may not even be aware of or intend.

Dickinson spent close to thirty years caring for her bedridden mother, and running the "Homestead," for her parents.

... you're probably right.

In Emily's case I just didn't know that she had that responsibility. I read a bio on her, but it didn't really emphasize that point. (Besides being a great poet, she was a great and caring person/angel.)

And in other cases it isn't so much a matter of dismissal, at least for me, but just not tuning into the fact. I fully appreciate the work women do at home and have nothing but admiration and respect for the self sacrifice that entails. It's a job and then some. I've witnessed that firsthand.

So again, it's more a matter of my not putting two and two together. And maybe like you say, there is a part of me that really doesn't value that work as much as I should. Couldn't say for sure. I've got biases. Whenever I'm aware of one I try my best to overcome it.

But you can only do so much. Foibles are like weeds. Just when you think you've got rid of them all, up sprouts another.

Ken
05-30-2012, 03:26 AM
Wasm't it Trollope who invented the red postbox while he was a postal clerk? And who woke up two hours early every day, and spent that two hours writing solidly--when he finished one book, he'd immediately get a new sheet of paper and begin the next one, working until that two hours was up no matter what?

(He also stopped mid-sentence when the two hours ended, if memory serves.)

... gotta read up on him. Sounds like an intense author. He's one of the few classic novelists I haven't read.

buz
05-30-2012, 04:02 AM
Not true. As one of your first and most loyal fans (don't worry, I won't become a stalker), I see such a creativity and originality and interesting voice in your work that I could imagine some Marilyn Stasio picking you out (and she does this to certain genre writers) and raving in the NY Times how you transcend the genre and so forth and so on. And then you'd get taught at the academy and people would say, oh yes, see how this reflects the subconscious paradigms of the blahdeblahdeblahde and didn't Bahktin once say that lalalalala and as Engels said of the working class imagination, honkhonkhonk*, and there you'd be, an Artiste. And you'd have to do what an acquaintance of mine says you're supposed to do when people "find" meaning and allusions and depth in your work that you never intended. You nod sagely and say, "not many people see that."


*Am quoting my very own PhD papers here, especially the honking.

:ROFL:
It is very nice to come home from a stressful day to that. :D

I DO TRANSCEND THE GENRE FOR I REMAKETH THE DICK JOKE AND STUFF *transcendence jazz hands*

Academy's gonna fall on some hard times, I imagine. :P

/derail

Bubastes
05-30-2012, 04:17 AM
Wasm't it Trollope who invented the red postbox while he was a postal clerk? And who woke up two hours early every day, and spent that two hours writing solidly--when he finished one book, he'd immediately get a new sheet of paper and begin the next one, working until that two hours was up no matter what?

(He also stopped mid-sentence when the two hours ended, if memory serves.)

Yes, that's him. He kept a diary to track his writing quota, and I believe he wrote seven pages a day before work, day in and day out.

Miss Plum
05-30-2012, 04:24 AM
Wasn't this also the case with J.K. Rowling? She's also a very successful writer.
The only reason I didn't mention her was that I thought she got a grant of some sort to complete the first Harry Potter, but Fireluxlou straightened me out on that (she got the grant to continue writing after she finished the first Harry Potter). NEVERTHELESS, I'd have stood up for her as a single mom because of the subjectivity of the term, "literary success." As I stated, Stephenie Meyer (whose works I dislike) actually did put in her time and satisfy the rudiments of her craft.

Medievalist, Stacia, and happywritermom, your views are exactly why I brought up Stephenie Meyer! I thought we were waaaaaaaayy past the time when we'd hear that "Emily Dickinson never worked a day in her life"!

The Kidd
05-30-2012, 04:46 AM
Stephen King worked in enough time to write novels after grading papers every night. Teaching is a high-stress low-pay job, so there you go.

I'm definitely not published, nor do I write literary gold, but I work 5AM-1PM (sometimes many hours longer) five days a week at a dead-end job and I still manage to write about 20k a month. It is definitely do-able. If you are serious about writing, you will find a way to get the words on the screen, notebook, sticky note etc.

zanzjan
05-30-2012, 05:51 AM
All that said, I will add though that I think relatively few writers, or visual artists, maintain jobs that require enormous dedication and emotional or mental involvement and that have nothing to do with their creative endeavors. I'm talking about things like brain surgeon or attorney, etc., the kinds of jobs that typically need the same level of dedication that creative work demands. Oh, some do, no doubt. There are always a few overachievers.

I fit this category, and I absolutely refuse to believe I am in any way an overachiever*. You'd be amazed at how much writing time you can get if you just stop watching TV.

Also, I think it's incorrect to assume that it's only the highly-paid professions that require a lot of mental/emotional/creative involvement.


There is a tendency to dismiss women who do not work outside the home, one that individuals may not even be aware of or intend.

Dickinson spent close to thirty years caring for her bedridden mother, and running the "Homestead," for her parents.

Yep, and that attitude is still going strong.

And at the same time, women who work outside the home are frequently considered bad/uncaring mothers. Yet another way in which women get the short end of the stick regardless of what end they're on. :(


If you are serious about writing, you will find a way to get the words on the screen, notebook, sticky note etc.

This.

--
(* my parents will back me on this. At length.)

JKRowley
05-30-2012, 09:45 AM
Many classics are not considered classics until years after publication. I think the Harry Potter series may qualify someday, although JK Rowling was brought feet to the fire many times for her prose.

She was a single mother, writing on the train or coffee shop. Classic tale of rags to riches.

I just read this week The Lord of the Flies was a failure when it was first published. It only became a classic later.

theorange
05-30-2012, 09:49 AM
The views so far are interesting. Among the great writers of the past -- so far I've seen a lot of allusions to academic lecturer positions and freelance journalism positions. These are not typical 40-hour/week jobs. Often these positions consume far fewer than 40 hours a week, especially in creative writing positions where part of the job is to spend time writing.

Even when these great past authors had the 40-hour a week jobs, they often had years in their lives when they did nothing but work on their writing. Or if they had jobs they would essentially neglect them to the greatest extent possible to focus on writing, or were there only for a few years before they quit.

Another question is: why should writing be considered less demanding than the other great arts or professions? For instance, would we think someone could be a teacher as their day job but be a great cardiologist in their spare time? Do we think Michelangelo could have been a wool merchant and sculpted David on nights and weekends?

And if not -- why is writing different? If we want to create great writing, why should it not be just as jealous and demanding as anything else? I'm not saying that there is not a difference; there may well be. But I'm curious as to what it is.

fireluxlou
05-30-2012, 10:32 AM
The views so far are interesting. Among the great writers of the past -- so far I've seen a lot of allusions to academic lecturer positions and freelance journalism positions. These are not typical 40-hour/week jobs. Often these positions consume far fewer than 40 hours a week, especially in creative writing positions where part of the job is to spend time writing.

Even when these great past authors had the 40-hour a week jobs, they often had years in their lives when they did nothing but work on their writing. Or if they had jobs they would essentially neglect them to the greatest extent possible to focus on writing, or were there only for a few years before they quit.

Another question is: why should writing be considered less demanding than the other great arts or professions? For instance, would we think someone could be a teacher as their day job but be a great cardiologist in their spare time? Do we think Michelangelo could have been a wool merchant and sculpted David on nights and weekends?

I don't think we live in an economic climate where it's possible to just spend years honing your craft without a wage to support one's self. Not one that values artists and painters and writers the same way Michelangelo's time did. A lot of us have people in our lives, other than ourselves to think about when it comes to our writing which means we have to also support them, so we can't solely focus on our craft. The one's I have known to do this come from a moderate wealthy family that can support them being jobless.

Well not sure if you know but Cardiologist teachers are practising medicine at the same time. Which means they teach students and treat patients, in the UK teaching is usually alongside their practising, so 50/50.

And with Michelangelo I do think it's unfair to compare past cultures and the way people lived & valued art back then, to current times. He could have been a wool merchant but he came from an average wealthy family and Michelangelo's full time job was art. He made a wage from being an apprentice, the populations of countries weren't as big as then. Art like Michelangelo's was valued much differently back then as well.

I get a feel from your posts you have this romanticism of how a writer should be, of how books should be made, of how great books are made.


And if not -- why is writing different? If we want to create great writing, why should it not be just as jealous and demanding as anything else? I'm not saying that there is not a difference; there may well be. But I'm curious as to what it is.

It can be, but people can spend whatever time they want on their writing and what they feel they can cope with. Great work is very much subjective.

Old Hack
05-30-2012, 11:15 AM
The views so far are interesting. Among the great writers of the past -- so far I've seen a lot of allusions to academic lecturer positions and freelance journalism positions. These are not typical 40-hour/week jobs. Often these positions consume far fewer than 40 hours a week, especially in creative writing positions where part of the job is to spend time writing.

Teaching creative writing at a University level is hugely time-consuming. A good friend, who taught part-time on the MA course I took, had to work a minimum 40 hours a week to fulfill her obligations to her students.

NeuroFizz
05-30-2012, 11:53 AM
Writing is a solo activity. Because of that, it can fit into any variety of personal lifestyles. What you can't seem to grasp is that writing excellence is not, in any way, related to the amount of time a person has available to write per week. A person with a 50+ hour per week job, whether it's auto mechanic or brain surgeon, can still achieve career writing excellence, while a person whose sole weekly activity is writing may never achieve the same level of excellence. The latter person may be able to produce more words per week, but that still could all be crap writing. Some people with occupations that require intense concentration or intense activities have the ability to tune that out entirely in their non-work times and yet transfer that intensity to their other chosen activity, while some people who have full time to write can't seem to finish anything they start.

Evidently, what you want to hear is that writing full time is the only way to achieve career writing excellence, but it just isn't true. Dedication, talent, ability to learn, willingness to learn, imagination, life experience, self-motivation, and many more things, are factors that feed into one's ability to gain the necessary experience to work toward writing excellence. And while different people will develop these things at different rates, there are no guarantees on how one's writing will eventually turn out versus the time that person has to spend on writing per week, or the depth or intensity of that person's career activities.

[portion of post deleted]


One of the contentions here (maybe from another thread) is that someone giving up a full-time job is a risk-taker and this makes that person a better bet to do something unique and innovative. In my job, risk-taking is a way of life since every theory that is proposed, and every interpretation of collected data is subject to extreme examination, and runs the risk of being found to be dead wrong, now or in the future. That kind of risk-taking experience, coupled with the financial security of my job, gives me a totally liberating sense within my writing that I can embrace any new, innovative, outlandish, or extremely risky writing challenge I want without worrying about running low of groceries or hot water. I would suggest that a sound financial base allows one to take greater risks and learn from them because of the confidence given by the financial security. And risk taking that dwarfs that of full-time writing is an integral part of some occupations, and that experience can be applied to writing innovation and excellence.

PulpDogg
05-30-2012, 01:00 PM
Wasm't it Trollope who invented the red postbox while he was a postal clerk? And who woke up two hours early every day, and spent that two hours writing solidly--when he finished one book, he'd immediately get a new sheet of paper and begin the next one, working until that two hours was up no matter what?

(He also stopped mid-sentence when the two hours ended, if memory serves.)

I read about this in Stephen Kings "On Writing" - I am not really sure though if it was Trollope. But King told it exactly like that - writing for 2 hours each morning. When he wrote "the end" he started immediately on another novel.

I have to look up that passage in Kings book. I always found anecdotes like that fascinating.

Stacia Kane
05-30-2012, 01:37 PM
Another question is: why should writing be considered less demanding than the other great arts or professions? For instance, would we think someone could be a teacher as their day job but be a great cardiologist in their spare time? Do we think Michelangelo could have been a wool merchant and sculpted David on nights and weekends?


And if not -- why is writing different? If we want to create great writing, why should it not be just as jealous and demanding as anything else? I'm not saying that there is not a difference; there may well be. But I'm curious as to what it is.


(Fireluxlou has already pointed out that in fact many people teach full-time and hold demanding "part-time" jobs as well. It's very common in the medical professions. There are also plenty of people who are semi-retired from demanding professions but who still consult on occasion while working "lighter" jobs. There are all kinds of people out there.)

Who's said writing isn't demanding? Who's even implied that, or that it's not hard work? I haven't seen anyone even come close to that.

Of course it is. Many of us can personally attest to that. So what? The fact that it's demanding doesn't mean that many people can't and/or don't have other demands in their lives, and it doesn't mean the only way to create great art is to focus on it to the exclusion of everything else.

Of course Michelangelo could have sculpted David on nights and weekends, if necessary. Because he was a great sculptor, and if he had to fit sculpting into something else, he would have done so, and my firm belief is that his work wouldn't have suffered one bit. When you have Michelangelo's talent, your work shows that, no matter how much time it takes you to complete a sculpture or painting or whatever else. Michelangelo did quick sketches that are breathtaking.

Great artists create great art. They create great art because they have talent and ability and drive. It doesn't matter if they're spending all day every day creating it, or if they create it in one-hour-a-week increments. What matters is that they do create it.

My work takes up a huge amount of my energy, time, and thoughts. That doesn't mean it suffers because I have to set it and my thoughts on it aside for parts of the day so I can focus on other things. That doesn't mean I have endless hours in which to do nothing but write and think. My work doesn't suffer because I take time away from it. Actually, if anything I believe it's helped by that, because many of us who create art (both those of us who do it for a living and those who have other sources of income; both those who are published and those who are not) find that our subconscious minds insert things we hadn't planned, or solve problems while we focus elsewhere. Having a full life and NOT spending every minute with our heads up our creative bottoms often feeds the work, not detracts from it.

I'm sorry to be blunt and perhaps harsh here, but if you have the talent, ability, focus, and drive, you can create great art in five minutes a day. If you do not, you can spend a year doing nothing but writing and it will still not be anything great.

Time spent =/= greatness. Greatness = greatness, and time is a side issue.

Again, I apologize for being blunt. But I suggest you focus less on how necessary it is to quit your job so you can write great works or on somehow believing that it's impossible to create great works while actually living life, and more on not making excuses like "But my job is too demanding" to explain why you're not writing great works already. I see so many people insisting that they could write if they just had time, and my answer is always that nobody--or very few people--just has time. You have to make time. You have to do it. You have to quit messing about with distractions like needing just the right pen, or just the right computer program, or you need to take time off work, or you need to go on a retreat, or you need to take a class, or you need to join a critique circle or a writers' organization, or whatever else you "need" to do in order to write. It's all bullshit. If you want to write you need to write. Period.


What are you writing, at the moment?

mistri
05-30-2012, 03:16 PM
As writers we have to accept that there might be times in our lives where it is very hard to find long portions of time to write, but what's more important is to make good use of the time you do have.

It used to irritate me when people say you 'always' have time to write. If you have a very demanding job or family life it can be tough. I worked in book publishing for a while and struggled to do my own creative writing after a day of editing other people's books. When my son was a newborn I rarely got close to a computer. I felt guilty when people suggested that if I really wanted to write I'd find a way - but now I think I understand a bit better what that really means.

You have to look at what you can do over a longer period. If you keep putting words down, eventually they will add up - and the more often you manage it, the quicker it happens.

Some days I can't write. I don't feel guilty any more. I write as often as I can, and I try not to spend 'writing time' pottering about on the internet. It means I am probably writing only three or four days a week rather than every day. But I am still making progress and I have days where I can just relax. If I wanted to make progress quicker there is more I could do - I could stay up later or get up earlier - but this works for me.

Personally, I'm probably not producing 'great art' in the time I have, but it's decent enough and I think another writer could make art.

You need to worry when you use a fulltime job for *never* writing. Writing regularly is more important than writing all the time, in my opinion.

buz
05-30-2012, 03:34 PM
The views so far are interesting. Among the great writers of the past -- so far I've seen a lot of allusions to academic lecturer positions and freelance journalism positions. These are not typical 40-hour/week jobs. Academic positions are often more than 40 hours, and I'm not sure why freelancing would take less time. Often these positions consume far fewer than 40 hours a week, especially in creative writing positions where part of the job is to spend time writing. ?

Even when these great past authors had the 40-hour a week jobs, they often had years in their lives when they did nothing but work on their writing. Well, if I had the money to quit my job, writer or no... Or if they had jobs they would essentially neglect them to the greatest extent possible to focus on writing, or were there only for a few years before they quit. Examples? And again, if I had the money to quit...

Another question is: why should writing be considered less demanding than the other great arts or professions? It is demanding in different ways and is highly flexible. I would also argue it is less demanding than being a doctor or something. You're not deciding life and death on a daily basis; you're trying to provide entertainment. (Or "art," whatever.) For instance, would we think someone could be a teacher as their day job but be a great cardiologist in their spare time? As has been pointed out, people who teach medicine both teach and practice. Also, being a cardiologist is a lot less flexible than writing; it's quite different. Do we think Michelangelo could have been a wool merchant and sculpted David on nights and weekends? He got paid to sculpt David. Michelangelo didn't just paint and sculpt whatever the hell he wanted--someone commissioned him to do something and paid him for it. (I mean, he had some leeway--he did negotiate to turn the Sistine Chapel into an explosion of awesomeness, rather than what he was initially asked to do. But apparently he didn't even want to do it in the first place.) That was a different time. If someone pays me to write, I will quit my job and write.

And if not -- why is writing different? Because you don't get paid until, you know, you do. If you're a cardiologist or a teacher, you have been through training, met certain requirements; you have been selected from a pool of candidates, and people know you're at least on a baseline of competency. You will get a salary as you are doing the work and and it does not rely on a finished product. Writing requires a product before the money, and a good one. So for creative writing endeavors, you must write for free, at first. If you are wildly successful at it, then you can quit your job and survive on writing. If we want to create great writing, why should it not be just as jealous and demanding as anything else? Because being jealous and demanding is the behavior of a butthole, and also, as I may have mentioned, I'm not paid for it and need money for things. I'm not saying that there is not a difference; there may well be. But I'm curious as to what it is. Because writing can be done anytime and anywhere. You can't be a cardiologist anytime and anywhere all by yourself. And you get paid to provide a service. In writing, you get paid to provide a product. If you are not being paid to write, then you have no business being "jealous and demanding" (and I question whether anyone has any business doing that ever), because you need a place to live and stuff.

Let me ask this: If the artist has no job and no income and no product to sell, who pays for the artist whilst he works on making whatever product he feels like making (not creating something on commission, just doing what he wants)? What exactly is the solution you have in mind, here?

lorna_w
05-30-2012, 03:45 PM
An awful lot of b.s. is handed down to young people in American U. English departments. Among the b.s.: writing is a romantic and noble endeavor, craft should not be studied but magically absorbed, being a spouse-beating drunk is proof positive you're a good writer, it's totally reasonable for the 60 year old writing prof to screw his 19 year old students, there's "artistic" writing and "popular" writing is lesser and far easier to create, and the worst, writing is all about the author and not at all about the audience. All boil down to some form of "we are better than them" which is cold comfort...and which, as a recovered academic, I came to believe derives from the bizarre history of the English Department (it sprang from Midwestern U.S. Ladies' reading clubs, and it really doesn't belong in a serious modern scientific research university, so it has an inferiority complex, and out of that inferiority complex comes the need for "we are better than them.") The sooner a young writer gets away from that nonsense, lives a life away from the college world, and meets writers who write all sorts of different things, the better off s/he'll be.

Jobs are good. They put us in contact with people and situations that inform our writing. They help us understand we are not better than, just part of the rest of humanity.

quicklime
05-30-2012, 04:05 PM
The views so far are interesting. Among the great writers of the past -- so far I've seen a lot of allusions to academic lecturer positions and freelance journalism positions. These are not typical 40-hour/week jobs. Often these positions consume far fewer than 40 hours a week, especially in creative writing positions where part of the job is to spend time writing. oh geez...I can't believe so many of the folks i knew in academia were ALL doing it wrong.....that notithstanding.....hmmm, people who are highly trained writers are being cited as successful writers--I suspect that has more to do with the fact a lot of authors come from academia and journalism than some sort of covert cherry-picking.

Even when these great past authors had the 40-hour a week jobs, they often had years in their lives when they did nothing but work on their writing. no, very few of them did....unless you count after they hit it big enough to quit their day job.....but they usually "hit it big" with something unique....written while holding a day job. Or if they had jobs they would essentially neglect them to the greatest extent possible to focus on writing, or were there only for a few years before they quit. no. just no. seriously, you clearly want to hear otherwise, but folks can and do multitask...even with something as "special" as writing.

Another question is: why should writing be considered less demanding than the other great arts or professions? For instance, would we think someone could be a teacher as their day job but be a great cardiologist in their spare time? they'd have issues getting licensed, and I'm not sure I want a cardiologist who works fifteen hours a week on it ballooning my arteries, but i knew folks who worked on dogs in grad school and spent most of their time writing grants and in faculty meetings, but who were still owl-shit slick in the lab...when they finally got there. Do we think Michelangelo could have been a wool merchant and sculpted David on nights and weekends? yes, actually, I do.

And if not -- why is writing different? If we want to create great writing, why should it not be just as jealous and demanding as anything else? if you want to create great writing, you should probably take it off its pedestal and quit pretending it is something more precious than it truly is. most of the writers I've read essays from love the craft....but more than a few still compare it with digging ditches or other "work" work. Many of them have fairly limited patience for the notion you put everything else aside and write; they have their quiet time, but they carve writing time out of their day, not the other way around. Very few of them were trustafarians or bums on their way up. I'm not saying that there is not a difference; there may well be. But I'm curious as to what it is.

i think your argument is deeply flawed. The bulk of authors out there and their lives would strongly suggest it.

aikigypsy
05-30-2012, 04:52 PM
I personally believe that it is good to take time to concentrate on writing, without the distraction of a demanding job. Is it necessary, though? Obviously not for everyone. I agree that work done in small, steady increments over a long period of time is generally better for a long-term career in writing than taking a summer off to write The Great American Novel, but we all have different optimal ways of working.

What I see here, in the world of the internet, are a lot of people saying, "I work 90 hours a week, take care of my newborn and my aging parents and I still write 2,000 words a day, every day!" (slight exaggeration). "If I can find time to write, anyone can!" I do not know any of these people in real life. Most of us have a lot of personal needs, like food, sleep, and contact with the outside world, which need to be taken care of before we can do our best work. For example, I personally do not work well when I'm getting less than 7-9 hours of sleep a night. I see lots of people on the internet (but again, not so much among the people I meet face to face) who seem to survive fine, just fine, on 3-5 hours' sleep. It is important for me to recognize that I am not one of those people. It doesn't help my work to sacrifice sleep for an extra hour of writing time. It just doesn't. Finding energy for writing is just as important as finding time.

Does everyone here agree that for the most part we can't say what great writing is, for purposes of this thread? Commercial success is easier to determine, but maybe that's beside the point, too.

Should someone quit their job to write? Financially, the answer will almost always be no (in the absence of paying contracts and/or a steady stream of royalty income). Personally and artistically, I don't think it's as clear-cut. Jonathan Franzen (cited on p. 1 of this thread) did teach at Swarthmore, but as I understand it he took time off from his career in academia to write The Corrections. Could he have written it while teaching full-time? I sure don't know. Maybe, maybe not.

Like most writing advice, I think that "Don't quit your day job" needs to be looked at more as a strong suggestion than an iron-clad law.

Ken
05-30-2012, 04:55 PM
... that's awesome, Neuro. Thnx for sharing. For a long time I've thought about going back to school and taking some mathematics classes, but put it off because of my schedule and all. Maybe I'll finally go through with it this year. If you can do all that then I suppose I can manage one class or at least give it the ol' college try.

quicklime
05-30-2012, 04:57 PM
aki,

more time can be an attractive thing, but there's a few considerations:

1. more time in front of the typewriter, trying to write while you wonder how the fuck you're gonna pay your rent, probably doesn't equal better work.

2. more time in a bubble, insulated from the hassle of real-life interaction, real people, etc. probably isn't exactly your friend either.

3. again, very few folks did this. Fewer still do today, what with things like healthcare, but even if you go back 20, 50, or 100 years, for every slack-ass who wrote a critically acclaimed book, I suspect you can point to at least five similar books written by folks who were also employed, many of them with "demanding" jobs. You CAN find folks who gave up on day jobs to write classics, but they're still outliers....most folks paid their bills, or they wrote their masterpiece after they'd paid their dues and were writing commercially as their income.....very few just sat on their asses.

Bubastes
05-30-2012, 05:02 PM
I would suggest that a sound financial base allows one to take greater risks and learn from them because of the confidence given by the financial security.

I wanted to quote this so it wouldn't get lost in the shuffle. When you don't need to sell a story to survive, you can take much bigger risks.

Toothpaste
05-30-2012, 06:00 PM
One of the best literary books I read last year happened to be written by a friend of mine. She has a full time job, and two kids. She wrote the thing on the streetcar to and from work.

Medievalist
05-30-2012, 06:47 PM
Like most writing advice, I think that "Don't quit your day job" needs to be looked at more as a strong suggestion than an iron-clad law.

I don't. Really.

It's hard to make a living writing. If you have a spouse who is willing to be the wage earner, that helps, but managing finances as a writer—even a book a year writer—is no easy thing.

If you're going to quit your day job to write full-time, I'd wait until you have a year's worth of savings, at least, and can buy health insurance. Or I'd wait until you've got two or three books in print and contracts for more with one or two in the pipeline.

That backlist is pretty important in terms of income because every new book you sell sells more of the backlist.

There's a reason so many of the older canon writers are male; they had spouses who ran the household and more often than not, brought in money too. Writing full time is a luxury.

quicklime
05-30-2012, 06:57 PM
this whole thing reminds me of the guy a couple years ago who quit his job AND moved his family to Colorado so he could write his masterpiece....did he ever sell? IIRC, no.



I find the notion someone is such a genius they can write a book for the ages, but so bad at multitasking that they can only do so if that's their only occupation in life, to be a bit odd.



(that's without even looking at the actual historical record, which, as pointed out in many posts here, just isn't at all in line with this supposition)

Medievalist
05-30-2012, 07:04 PM
The views so far are interesting. Among the great writers of the past -- so far I've seen a lot of allusions to academic lecturer positions and freelance journalism positions. These are not typical 40-hour/week jobs. Often these positions consume far fewer than 40 hours a week, especially in creative writing positions where part of the job is to spend time writing.

You really have no idea at all of the life of an academic, even one teaching creative writing.

Let me tell you about what it's like.

You teach either three or four classes a semester, if you're tenure track. If you're a full prof you teach two and two, and have a semester of sabbatical every seven years or so, if you've earned it by publishing and service and good evaluations.

Figure for every class you need at least ten hours a week prep time (That's the figure used in calculating FTEs). Even if it's a class you've taught every year for the last ten years. You'll also have grading to do and the class itself. At least one of those classes will be a "new" class; if you're lucky you were able to do all the prep in the summer.

You've also got advising, and if you're a full you probably have two or three grad students at the dissertation stage, and that's a fair amount of work as well.

You have departmental responsibilities with respect to hiring, curriculum, recruitment.

And you've got to publish academic work, or perish.


Even when these great past authors had the 40-hour a week jobs, they often had years in their lives when they did nothing but work on their writing. Or if they had jobs they would essentially neglect them to the greatest extent possible to focus on writing, or were there only for a few years before they quit.

A lot of them had wives to do the heavy lifting and bring in money as well.


Another question is: why should writing be considered less demanding than the other great arts or professions? For instance, would we think someone could be a teacher as their day job but be a great cardiologist in their spare time?

Where do you think surgeons learn? I know about a surgeon who ran a cardiology practice, invented a surgical clamp, bred horses, and was an athletic competitor. He also published in his field.

We have Colorado Guy as a member, who who's an M.D., has written three books, and has a family.


Do we think Michelangelo could have been a wool merchant and sculpted David on nights and weekends?

Chaucer was an officer of the crown, running the import business. He actually had an extremely demanding job. So did Shakespeare.


And if not -- why is writing different? If we want to create great writing, why should it not be just as jealous and demanding as anything else? I'm not saying that there is not a difference; there may well be. But I'm curious as to what it is.

Dude you apply the butt to the chair and you write. If it means writing during your lunch hour in a janitor's closet, you do it. If it means getting up at 4 am and writing until 6 am and then going to work, and then going to class, you do it.

Being a writer doesn't entitle to you squat. You choose to write; you make sacrifices. You adjust your priorities. You are appreciative and grateful for a spouse who brings in money, or runs the household on a budget, and manages.

Being a writer means someone has got to have a keen talent for managing the finances, and that person is a miracle worker. Even if you're Steven King, it takes a while to get there.

Also? Your harping on "great literature" is wearing a little thin, not to mention more than a little undergraduate. The canon is not sui generis.

Calla Lily
05-30-2012, 07:17 PM
Speaking my mind. Probably a poor decision, but I'm fed up. Duck and cover, please:

theorange: My husband's been out of work for three and a half years. I work a full-time job in medical research and freelance as a copyeditor. I am keeping a roof over our heads at the moment. I am keeping food on the table, the lights on, and managing the household--because that's always been what I do. I do most of the cooking because I'm a better cook, and my husband referees soccer and basketball and umpires baseball/softball to bring in a little money.

In this 3.5-year span I've written four books. Two are on any bookstore shelf you care to check out, one is hitting shelves next February, one is on sub.

This is what writers do: They WORK. Long hours. They work hard. They get up early, stay up late, write on their lunch hour, do whatever it takes to get the book written.

Total strangers tell me they love my books. I've been on TV and radio. I got here because I work my butt off 17 hours a day, every day.

And I write genre fiction.

Total strangers have told me I'm a great writer. In those words. Major review sites have praised my books.

Make of that whatever you will. I have contracted books to write and fan mail to answer.

And I can name a dozen writers just like me.

JSSchley
05-30-2012, 07:32 PM
a) see Medi's comment about academic workloads. I don't know a single professorial soul who doesn't work at least 60 hours a week.

b) Here's an anecdote which may be of use to you. One of my mother's friends growing up was a prolific poet (he also taught full-time at one of the local Catholic high schools, and was even the vice principal for a while). He was a great mentor to me in my own development as a writer.

When I was about fourteen or fifteen, we had this conversation.

Him: "So, you'll have a day job as a writer."
Me, laughing: "Right? Because writing barely pays anything. I know that part!"
Him: "No, because otherwise, you won't have anything to write about."

Writers with little life experience tend to write dull stuff. Give me an ex-nun like callallily any day--now there's someone with stories to tell that I want to read.

Calla Lily
05-30-2012, 07:41 PM
DISCLAIMER: JSSchley is not an employee of callalily61 Incorporated, and received no monetary compensation for her post.

:) Thank you.

JSSchley
05-30-2012, 08:00 PM
JSSchley is not an employee of callalily61 Incorporated

Hah! Well, you happened to have posted before me and are a great example of an author with an unorthodox (former) career that has greatly shaped the stories she tells in a really cool way.

Of course, I'm laughing at calling it unorthodox if we consider the religious meaning of orthodoxy... :)

Calla Lily
05-30-2012, 08:08 PM
:D

willietheshakes
05-30-2012, 08:14 PM
OP, there seems to be something you clearly want to hear, and nobody is saying it, darn it, so here it is:

You should quit your job so you can focus on your work. No great writing has ever come from anyone who had other demands on their time. You should take advantage of family and friends as much as possible, borrow money you have no intention of returning, and do it all in good faith, because that's how great art happens. And if anyone asks, you can say that you got encouragement from a published writer on-line.

Is that what you've been waiting for?

(I'll DM you my PayPal information: me telling you what you want to hear comes with a price-tag attached. You can expense it as "hiring a freelancer".)

Stacia Kane
05-30-2012, 09:28 PM
I personally believe that it is good to take time to concentrate on writing, without the distraction of a demanding job. Is it necessary, though? Obviously not for everyone. I agree that work done in small, steady increments over a long period of time is generally better for a long-term career in writing than taking a summer off to write The Great American Novel, but we all have different optimal ways of working.


No one is saying it's absolutely a BAD thing to take time off to write. (And absolutely, whether you work for a paycheck or not, one must concentrate on one's writing in order to do it. ;)) What we are saying is that it's utterly and completely unnecessary, and that doing so doesn't guarantee one will create Great Literature any more than not quitting a day job to focus on writing will.


What I see here, in the world of the internet, are a lot of people saying, "I work 90 hours a week, take care of my newborn and my aging parents and I still write 2,000 words a day, every day!" (slight exaggeration). "If I can find time to write, anyone can!" I do not know any of these people in real life.

How many writers do you know in real life?

I know lots of people like that. Callalily is just one of them. I don't work for a paycheck 90 hours a week (and have, for the last three years, made more on writing than I ever did on any day job), but I still work a lot of hours, and work hard, raising my children/taking care of my home and husband/making meals/washing up/doing laundry/running errands/etc. in addition to writing and all of the promotional work etc. it's necessary for me to do (blogging, tweeting, interviews, guest posts, a Q&A group, Facebook, etc. Which generally take at minimum twenty minutes or so a day, but blog posts or interviews can take four or five hours, depending).

I try to write 2000 words/day every day. My output of late hasn't been quite to that level every day but I also have days where I make up for it with 3000 or even 4000 words. I wrote my novel UNHOLY GHOSTS in seven weeks, 2k words a day minimum with no days off. I personally know more than a few other writers who have done and continue to do the same.

Writing is like a muscle. The more you exercise it, the easier it gets to keep doing so. I took an extended amount of time off in the fall because I almost died. It's taken me a bit of time to get going again; that muscle atrophied a bit, and there were many days where I only managed 300, or maybe 600, or maybe 400 words, because I was simply out of practice a bit. But I'm getting there again, and it feels good, and I'm pleased.



Most of us have a lot of personal needs, like food, sleep, and contact with the outside world, which need to be taken care of before we can do our best work. For example, I personally do not work well when I'm getting less than 7-9 hours of sleep a night. I see lots of people on the internet (but again, not so much among the people I meet face to face) who seem to survive fine, just fine, on 3-5 hours' sleep. It is important for me to recognize that I am not one of those people.

*raises hand again* I am one of those people. I would say that during the week I get anywhere from three-six hours of sleep a night. I'm an insomniac and always have been, even before I started writing. I also tend to work best at night but writing gets me mentally and emotionally keyed up, which makes it very difficult to then relax and sleep.

I'm sure you didn't intend it that way, but your "I meet people who say they work and write, and people who say they don't get sleep, but only on the internet" sounds a lot like "I meet those people who say those things, but only on the internet where they're obviously totally lying." Just because you aren't aware of any people like that in your circle of acquaintance doesn't mean we don't exist. :)




Does everyone here agree that for the most part we can't say what great writing is, for purposes of this thread? Commercial success is easier to determine, but maybe that's beside the point, too.


Hmm. I think there are cases which can be argued, but I believe there's a canon of "great writers" on which culture is in agreement.

I do, however, agree that if we're focusing only on the last twenty years that's a lot harder, because it takes time for a novel to be considered "great" or "a classic." People didn't consider Dickens's works to be classics when he wrote them; he was writing serials in periodicals for threepence a word or whatever. It's only when they stand the test of time that we can call them "classics."



Should someone quit their job to write? Financially, the answer will almost always be no (in the absence of paying contracts and/or a steady stream of royalty income). Personally and artistically, I don't think it's as clear-cut. Jonathan Franzen (cited on p. 1 of this thread) did teach at Swarthmore, but as I understand it he took time off from his career in academia to write The Corrections. Could he have written it while teaching full-time? I sure don't know. Maybe, maybe not.


Yes, but again, it's not so much about whether it's a good idea to quit one's job to write as it is whether it's possible to write "great literature" while working full-time at a demanding job. And of course it's possible. I believe Franzen would have/could have written THE CORRECTIONS (which I have never read) even without taking time off. If the talent, ability, and drive are there, they're there.




Like most writing advice, I think that "Don't quit your day job" needs to be looked at more as a strong suggestion than an iron-clad law.

Not if you have bills to pay, and not if you don't understand the financial realities of being a full-time writer.

Calla Lily
05-30-2012, 09:35 PM
Stacia, Serious WritersTM take time off only for actual death. and then they make sure to find a psychic to channel their next book through. Only dilettantes take time off for almost dying. My idol is shattered.

:D :LilLove:

bearilou
05-30-2012, 09:51 PM
Like most writing advice, I think that "Don't quit your day job" needs to be looked at more as a strong suggestion than an iron-clad law.

Like most writing advice, it needs to be taken into serious consideration before haring off willy-nilly.

Especially if others are dependent on your income.

Especially if you're considering it while under the impression that once you quit, you'll focus on writing full time and pound out a novel that is sure to sell and once it does, will catapult you into the ranks of authors who can make their living writing books.

The first one is simple responsibility. To quit and thrust the burden of economic survivability onto a spouse would be a decision, I hope, that is taken into consideration only after serious discussion with the spouse that will be picking up the load while you write.

The second one is indicative of some seriously malfunctioning expectations and a complete lack of knowledge of how the business works (and that goes for both trade publishing and self-publishing).

It may not be an iron-clad rule of advice for you but I think it's dangerous to say 'strong suggestion' without of any of the (while probably implied, it's surprising how many people don't pick up on the implications) warnings that go with having unrealistic expectations of what is means to make a living writing.

Most writing advice shouldn't be given without some sort of explanation as to why doing it or not doing it is a bad idea.

aikigypsy
05-30-2012, 10:43 PM
How many moderately successful, recently published writers do I know in real life? Just a handful. Their approximate career details are:

1. Worked a part-time job (20 hours/week) and lived off that and a little savings for a year or two (can't remember exactly) while writing her first novel. Since then has been living on her novel-writing income.

2. Worked part-time as a delivery driver while writing first book. Now writing full-time (not convinced that it's the right choice, but there it is).

3. Retired, running seasonal B&B, while getting graduate degree in creative writing, and continues to write while running the B&B (which is pretty part-time work, from what I've seen).

4. Retired, got a graduate degree in writing, and spent a few years researching and writing first book (non-fiction).

5. Keeps a full-time job while writing her fiction.

All of these people understand the financial picture of writing, but they have made different decisions based on their needs and circumstances. I won't count the more famous writers I occasionally cross paths with, because I don't know them well and they are outliers. Big financial success is not part of the most-likely-case scenario for fiction writers.

In fairness, I do believe there are some extremely high energy people who don't need sleep, but it's rare. My main point is that we can't all be that way, and it's unproductive to insist we all be like that.

I stand by my point that "don't quit your day job" is not universally applicable, just like "eliminate all adverbs."

Okay. I am going to do my best to stop looking at this thread now, as I feel that people have been ganging up on me and the OP, and it's getting silly and repetitive.

quicklime
05-30-2012, 10:50 PM
In fairness, I do believe there are some extremely high energy people who don't need sleep, but it's rare. My main point is that we can't all be that way, and it's unproductive to insist we all be like that. except this is a ridiculous straw-man.

Nobody said you don't need or want sleep, the OP's question was "does a demanding job preclude writing well?" It wasn't "can I succeed without a day job?" or "do i need to be sleep-deprived to write", it was "does having a demanding job get in the way of great writing?" and the answer is no.


You find the time, you find the ability, and you do it. Very few commercial or highly regarded authors, by percentages, had the option of doing whatever they liked, they were real people. they had jobs. they had responsibilities. they still managed. and straw-men aside, they still slept, too, I suspect.


Okay. I am going to do my best to stop looking at this thread now, as I feel that people have been ganging up on me and the OP, and it's getting silly and repetitive. and this is just plain whining. you had your say, most folks disagreed, so now they are "ganging up on you" for being able to express an opinion in opposition to yours....like someone flipped on a bat-signal and we all rushed to our monitors. Having an unpopular opinion is fine, trying to become a martyr for it is not. ...

Soccer Mom
05-30-2012, 10:55 PM
There is no "ganging up" in this thread. I think it's actually remained very civil--unlike the Great Serial Comma Wars of '09 and the 2011 Fanfic Debacle Debate.

ETA: And I believe Quicklime is correct. The OP wanted to know if Writers of Great Art could do so with day jobs. I posted a list of highly regarded writers with jobs and I'm totally butthurt that the OP just ignored me. *sniff* I expect that from my kids but I prefer it when forum members pet me a bit more. My ego is fragile.

Calla Lily
05-30-2012, 11:04 PM
*pets Soccer Mom but is careful of Cranky Kitteh in headgear*

buz
05-30-2012, 11:07 PM
There is no "ganging up" in this thread. I think it's actually remained very civil--unlike the Great Serial Comma Wars of '09 and the 2011 Fanfic Debacle Debate.

ETA: And I believe Quicklime is correct. The OP wanted to know if Writers of Great Art could do so with day jobs. I posted a list of highly regarded writers with jobs and I'm totally butthurt that the OP just ignored me. *sniff* I expect that from my kids but I prefer it when forum members pet me a bit more. My ego is fragile.

For what it's worth, I read it and found it educational. Thank you. *hopes to be butt-soothing*

Bubastes
05-30-2012, 11:08 PM
There is no "ganging up" in this thread. I think it's actually remained very civil--unlike the Great Serial Comma Wars of '09 and the 2011 Fanfic Debacle Debate.


And don't forget the 100 Year Dan Brown/Stephenie Meyer/JK Rowling War or the recent Fifty Shades Insurgency.

[/derail]

:hands Soccer Mom extra-soft butt wipes:

quicklime
05-30-2012, 11:08 PM
*hopes to be butt-soothing*


that sounds so wrong.....

Calla Lily
05-30-2012, 11:10 PM
[ports all butt-soothing posts to the FSoG thread]

*runs away*

Soccer Mom
05-30-2012, 11:14 PM
I am well-pleased by your offerings.

Unimportant
05-30-2012, 11:28 PM
Figure for every class you need at least ten hours a week prep time (That's the figure used in calculating FTEs).
I need to come work at your uni. At mine, for every hour of class -- which includes preparing the lecture, giving the lecture, meeting with students who didn't understand the lecture, writing the exam question, and marking the exam question -- we get 6 hours for FTE. For supervising a PhD student, we're alloted 2 hours per week.

Unimportant
05-30-2012, 11:36 PM
Do we think Michelangelo could have been a wool merchant and sculpted David on nights and weekends?
It's ridiculous to compare 21st century Western society to a period in history when artists had patrons. It's also impossible to determine whether the artists with patrons could or could not have created at least some great art if those patrons hadn't existed.

Richard Wagner wrote operas when he was rich, when he was poor, when he was exiled and wanted for treason, and when he was living in the lap of luxury thanks to young King Ludwig. What does that prove? Nothing, really. Other than the fact that if someone is so passionately driven to create art that it's an obsession, then they'll create art.

(There's also the discussion about what percentage of artists who believe themselves to be geniuses really are geniuses. And the discussion about whether a superb artist's art is enough to excuse him for being a revolting asshat of a person.)

Medievalist
05-30-2012, 11:47 PM
I need to come work at your uni. At mine, for every hour of class -- which includes preparing the lecture, giving the lecture, meeting with students who didn't understand the lecture, writing the exam question, and marking the exam question -- we get 6 hours for FTE. For supervising a PhD student, we're alloted 2 hours per week.

Yeah, I was thinking I should point out that that's the FTE allocation for a Research I university "where all our undergrads are product" [sic].

And then there's the joy of teaching a 300 member sophomore survey and supervising 5 T.A.s with delusions of grandeur.

And at a community college, you do more work, and usually, for less pay.

theorange
05-31-2012, 02:07 AM
I just want to thank everyone so far for their thoughts, opinions and anecdotes. Just because I don't respond doesn't mean I haven't read what you've written. I have, and I appreciate it, even if I don't necessarily agree.


I'm totally butthurt that the OP just ignored me.

Sorry Soccer Mom, there are just so many responses. But thank you for providing examples (and thanks to anyone else who did so in any capacity).


Jack London was pretty much a hobo, prospector and day laborer his whole life. William Carlos Williams was a pediatrician. Langston Hughes was a busboy while writing his poetry. He was able to stop that after he was discovered.Kurt Vonnegut managed an auto dealership. Assimov was a professor of biochemistry. Wallace Stevens was an insurance executive. Henry Miller was a personnel manager. Kafka was a legal secretary. Faulkner was a postmaster.

London seemed to be in the Yukon trying to join a gold rush before he published the Call of the Wild before he published his first really successful short story. I don't know how much free time that allowed. It could also be the case that certain kinds of adventuring professions (soldier, sailor, prospector) are very favorable for creating literature.

Vonnegut's auto dealership did extremely poorly and he spent a lot of his time when he was there just writing. Faulkner was an extremely poor postmaster and would spend a lot of his brief time (3 years) doing that job working on his writing.

Henry Miller was only briefly a personnel manager for 4 years and left almost a decade before he published Tropic of Cancer. Kafka left a previous job which was 8-6, as that was too many hours, for the legal secretary job, which must have been easier hours than that. And still he hated it. Often at these kinds of jobs there's lots of downtime and idling to write, too.

WCW and WS I'll give you -- they and TS Eliot seem to show that it seems to be more common among poets.
----

And you've got to publish academic work, or perish.

I think you're thinking of professors in research-oriented fields; I think MFA-type teachers are given a lot more time to write. Am I wrong? Also, tenured professors don't have to produce on the same schedule, and can take a lot more time out to write.

Of course, tenure-track humanities is no doubt a nightmare now, but when people were tenured in 50s and 60s, it was a hell of a lot easier. The kind of position that Nabokov or Roth had probably bears little resemblance to a tenure-track position today.

Medievalist
05-31-2012, 02:38 AM
I think you're thinking of professors in research-oriented fields; I think MFA-type teachers are given a lot more time to write. Am I wrong? Also, tenured professors don't have to produce on the same schedule, and can take a lot more time out to write.

You would be wrong. Tenured professors do have to produce if they want merit raises and grants and sabbaticals--and they have to mentor. By the time you get tenure, you're usually in your thirties or forties.

With other things in your life. Like a family, or a house.

(I say this as someone with a recent Ph.D. and fifteen years teaching in an English department).


Of course, tenure-track humanities is no doubt a nightmare now, but when people were tenured in 50s and 60s, it was a hell of a lot easier. The kind of position that Nabokov or Roth had probably bears little resemblance to a tenure-track position today.

It bears every relationship; tenure isn't changing itself, just the presence or absence, of tenure. I don't think it's actually harder now, though there are fewer slots and more competition, in some ways.

Honestly, BIC is the secret to success. It really is.

Stacia Kane
05-31-2012, 03:16 AM
It could also be the case that certain kinds of adventuring professions (soldier, sailor, prospector) are very favorable for creating literature.




The only thing "favorable for creating literature" is a talented person willing to sit down and do it.

That's it.

Everything else is insignificant.

suki
05-31-2012, 03:59 AM
Originally Posted by theorange http://absolutewrite.com/forums/images/buttons/viewpost.gif (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?p=7316464#post7316464)
I think you're thinking of professors in research-oriented fields; I think MFA-type teachers are given a lot more time to write. Am I wrong? Also, tenured professors don't have to produce on the same schedule, and can take a lot more time out to write.


You would be wrong. I know several -- if they are full-time, they have to find time for their own writing in between classes and critiquing their students' work/meeting with students/research for class, etc.

And if they are part-time, they have other sources of income -- other than their writing, unless they are well-established.

And good luck landing one of the jobs that comes close to supporting your writing until you have already been well-published, or have an MFA and stellar credentials (which would also take time away from the creation of greatness, by your theory, to obtain).

If you want to quit your job, quit your job. But:


1. Be honest -- truly and deeply and painfully honest -- with yourself about the reasons and the risks involved; and,

2. Be honest -- truly and deeply and even more painfully honest -- with with those who will be supporting you financially and emotionally, about the reasons and the risks involved. You owe it to them to be honest.

And good luck.

~suki
gainfully employed and writing

zanzjan
05-31-2012, 05:35 AM
It could also be the case that certain kinds of adventuring professions (soldier, sailor, prospector) are very favorable for creating literature.

A particular chosen profession may be an asset to a particular writer, or a liability, but I don't see where it matters in any significant way *what* that profession is, except in a highly individualized context. You keep going back to "demanding" and "adventuring" and "professional" in a way that's starting to have the distinct overtones of a specific kind of classism and an unstated agenda, and you haven't picked up on any of the friendly clues left strewn like boulders around this thread that everyone is dropping to try to get you to think critically about the assumptions and biases you're bringing to the table here.

Look, what's favorable for creating literature is a persistent, creative, open-minded writer, who gets their butt in the chair for the amount of time they need to make progress on their work, who learns and grows, and who perseveres at their craft. Anything else you want to assign as a necessary criteria has to be assigned at the microcosm level of each individual writer.

Do you write? If so, maybe you can talk about how you feel your profession has benefited your writing (or not, as the case may be.) Or are you thinking you need a different profession to better support you creatively? I guess I just don't understand what you're trying to say/ask here.

Unimportant
05-31-2012, 05:44 AM
It could also be the case that certain kinds of adventuring professions (soldier, sailor, prospector) are very favorable for creating literature.
It could also be the case that professions such as soldier, sailor, prospector, which share many aspects including adventuring, risk, travel, physical activity, and a solo lifestyle absent any day-to-day family or childcaring duties, are favourable for men for creating literature that you, theorange, think is high quality.

NeuroFizz
05-31-2012, 09:23 AM
I think you're thinking of professors in research-oriented fields; I think MFA-type teachers are given a lot more time to write. Am I wrong? Also, tenured professors don't have to produce on the same schedule, and can take a lot more time out to write.
Once again in this thread, you have demonstrated that the difference between your theories and a bucket of sh!t is the bucket. Put plainly enough?

If you think tenure allows a professor to relax in terms of his/her academic productivity, you are so dead wrong I wonder where you got this information--from a Ouija Board? Or is it just how you think it is? If someone backs off on their academic productivity after tenure, they are labeled "dead wood" and they are assured of never getting a merit raise (most raises are merit-based these days), never being promoted from Associate Professor to Full Professor (with the associated pay jump), and they are assured of having both their teaching and services loads increased to the max to make up for their lack of productivity in their appropriate area of academic creativity. This means they will be swamped with teaching, advising, and other service duties, and essentially be considered a second-class citizen in their home department by some of their colleagues. Furthermore, many states have already instituted what is called "post-tenure review" of tenured faculty at their state institutions, which means tenure can be taken away from any professor who does not continue to produce in the three appropriate areas of the stantard university professorate: research/creative activity, teaching, and service. In fact, in order to be promoted to Full Professor, it is necessary to demonstrate an international reputation of productivity and service (or the equivalent) in one's area of expertise. If you look at the trajectory of academic productivity of those professors who successfully reach the Full Professor rank, it is greatest after tenure, and typically continues at that high level after the Full Professor rank is attained. This is coming to you from someone who has grow up in this system over the past three decades, so this isn't my opinion. It is fact that has been lived, seen, heard, acted upon, and evaluated. By me and others like me. See why I used the bucket analogy?

The workload of MFA-type professors has been addressed in a couple of posts earlier in this thread, by people with similar direct experience. So I guess you are refusing to believe the word of people who are academics. Several have spoken up in this thread to indicate that you are wrong, but you continue to spout inaccuracies about academic workloads and job requirements.

It is clear that no matter what facts, direct experiences, and real data are thrown your way, you will refuse to believe any of it that is inconvenient for your pet theories. This is not a good sign for someone who seeks to attain excellence in any creative activity. It does, however, indicate that you may have a very bright future in politics.

theorange
05-31-2012, 10:22 AM
It bears every relationship; tenure isn't changing itself, just the presence or absence, of tenure.

I don't think it does bear every relationship. I just ran a quick search on the Proquest dissertation database on Nabokov, Roth, and Franzen: the three American writer/professors mentioned on this thread. So just how many dissertations did each one advise? Zero.

You mention Shakespeare and Chaucer as examples of busy authors.

Chaucer did have a royal office, but largely wrote the Canterbury Tales after he was done with it, financially secure, and then he devoted his full time to writing.

Shakespeare of course had work--running a theater company--pretty intimately connected with writing plays.

Just as an experiment, I did a quick-and-dirty check of what the authors of the top 15 on the Modern Library's list of the top 100 English language novels were doing when they wrote their masterpieces:

Ulysses -- Joyce wrote this largely when he was referred to a patron, Harriet Shaw Weaver, by Ezra Pound

The Great Gatsby - Fitzgerald wrote this largely supported on proceeds from his first book, some freelance writing, and loans from his literary agent

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man - Joyce had already found his patron in Weaver

Lolita - Nabokov wrote this while in an academic position specifically created for him to have time to write

Brave New World - Huxley was a journalist, essayist and novelist at the time of its writing, nothing else

The Sound and the Fury - Faulkner bums around Europe for a few years writing before this book was published

Catch-22 -- Ah, here we go. Heller wrote this at nights over a decade while working as an advertising copywriter.

Darkness at Noon - Koestler had quit the German communist party and bounced between France and Britain working as a journalist and being imprisoned

Sons & Lovers - Lawrence was a full-time author in the 2 years preceding its publication

The Grapes of Wrath - Steinbeck got loans that allowed him to focus on writing in the years preceding its publication

Under the Volcano - Lowry was a full-time writer for much of the time he spent revising book, albeit living in squalor in squatter's shacks

The Way of All Flesh - Butler was a full-time writer during this period, albeit financially very shaky

1984 - Orwell was purely a journalist and novelist during the writing of this book

I, Claudius - Graves was a writer and ran his own small literary press

To the Lighthouse -- Woolf ran a literary press, otherwise wrote full-time

Going by this list, writing- and publishing-related jobs seem to work ok, but a relatively disproportionate number of these authors spent their full time writing. Not that that proves much, but it's interesting.

----

I guess I just don't understand what you're trying to say/ask here.

Well, I wanted people's list of people who had created great art while working demanding jobs. Clearly, most people who have responded to this thread think it's possible and have listed people who they think are great and did it while working a lot, having families, and generally leading very busy lives.

I'm still just exploring the topic. I don't have a fully determined reason for wondering.

Terie
05-31-2012, 11:09 AM
... I don't know how much free time that allowed. It could also be the case that certain kinds of adventuring professions (soldier, sailor, prospector) are very favorable for creating literature.

You are clearly, despite everything everyone has said in this thread, suffering under the delusion that it's all about 'free time'. Do you have any idea how little free time soldiers and sailors have? Clearly not. And prospectors? Do you have any idea how little money most of them made in exchange for all the time they spent, yanno, prospecting?

Here's a thought to consider: Maybe it's not 'free time' that's the key factor here, but 'getting out into the deep sea of humanity and human experience'. Plus: native talent and drive. Also? Fear for one's life.




I don't have a fully determined reason for wondering.

This might be easier to believe if you weren't spending so much time and energy arguing with people who know a lot more about writing and working than you seem to.

dystophil
05-31-2012, 12:29 PM
To be honest, I don't understand the reasoning behind comparing the lives and professions of authors who lived and died hundreds of years ago to today's challenges and demands? Someone said it before, but that's a bit like comparing the proverbial apples to oranges here, meaning utterly irrelevant and pointless.



If you want to quit your job, quit your job. But:


1. Be honest -- truly and deeply and painfully honest -- with yourself about the reasons and the risks involved; and,

2. Be honest -- truly and deeply and even more painfully honest -- with with those who will be supporting you financially and emotionally, about the reasons and the risks involved. You owe it to them to be honest.

And good luck.

~suki
gainfully employed and writing

QFT. Again, and forgive me for being blunt here, I feel there's some wishful thinking going on here. Quitting a job or taking time off for writing doesn't just happen without either having saved up some serious money or having someone to support you. In my opinion it's a nice, shiny soap bubble to think that all it takes to succeed as a writer is "more time", when really what it takes is the writer "making time" in their life and while quitting your job may give you more time to dedicate to writing, it also gives you more time to procrastinate etc.

Also, implying that teaching professions actually leave more time than others is actually a misconception I personally find rather insulting as it implies that teachers and professors only "work" while in the classroom, when really any teaching profession probably comes closest to the creative process as you're working on it all the time. It's one of those jobs that you take home, that involves constant planning, preparation, brainstorming and emotional investment.

I'm a student teacher; last semester I not only went to university more than full time (I pull about 18 credits a semester), I also worked a full time over-night job while teaching and believe it or not, I wrote. And guess what, it probably was one of the hardest semesters for me, but man, did it broaden my perspective and add to my sense of discipline as far as writing is concerned. Because no matter how much time you have or think you have, it all comes down to getting your butt into your chair and your hands on your keyboard and some people have the whole day to do just that, but never get past that blinking cursor on the blank page.

That said, I draw my hat in front of all the writing parents, working or not, because that's a full-time job if I've ever seen one.

And to answer your question, just look around on AW, it's full of ridiculously talented, dedicated authors who crank out book after great book. Some of them may not work, while others have part-time, full-time or even more than one full-time job and they still write their books, they are still published. Again, the common factor is they write. That's all.

willietheshakes
05-31-2012, 02:48 PM
Bukowski really sums it up in "air and light and time and space".

Stacia Kane
05-31-2012, 03:20 PM
Sigh. I give up. I had a whole reply written but why bother?

Yes, the orange, you're right. Analyzing the careers of people who lived hundreds of years ago with an eye toward determining that those careers or lack thereof are solely responsible for their literary "greatness" is indeed fascinating. You should spend a lot more time on it; perhaps you could create a chart or graph, and share it with us?

Meanwhile, you should definitely quit whatever job you do, since that is clearly the key to creating great novels, and a writer with a demanding job will never be anything more than a hack churning out forgettable, superficial work that means nothing to anyone.

Please keep us informed as to the progress of whatever it is you may or may not be writing, since you've repeatedly ignored our attempts to show interest in such.

willietheshakes
05-31-2012, 03:28 PM
Sigh. I give up. I had a whole reply written but why bother?

Yes, the orange, you're right. Analyzing the careers of people who lived hundreds of years ago with an eye toward determining that those careers or lack thereof are solely responsible for their literary "greatness" is indeed fascinating. You should spend a lot more time on it; perhaps you could create a chart or graph, and share it with us?

Meanwhile, you should definitely quit whatever job you do, since that is clearly the key to creating great novels, and a writer with a demanding job will never be anything more than a hack churning out forgettable, superficial work that means nothing to anyone.

Please keep us informed as to the progress of whatever it is you may or may not be writing, since you've repeatedly ignored our attempts to show interest in such.

This.

It's 4:24 am - I'm going to go write now for a few hours. Then I'm going to go work my full day, come home, write a newspaper review, hang out with my girlfriend via Skype, pick up my son for dinner and a visit, maybe watch a movie with him, then head for bed. Because THAT is how my books get written. They may not be great art - who am I to judge? - but it's a pretty great life.

quicklime
05-31-2012, 04:34 PM
seriously, orange, this isn't "rebelling", it is choosing to ignore everything that runs counter to what you want to hear. Do what you want to do, but stop bullshitting us, and yourself, with it.

People who did nothing wrote great literature. So did people who were busy as fuck. "Occupation" and "free time" are not determinants, and probably not even influencers, of quality.

If you don't really want people (many of whom have actually written books, and more than a few who have also researched many "awesome authors of awesomeness") to tell you otherwise because your mind is made up, why bother asking? Because by now you're just coming across as a stubborn-assed snowflake, with no real intent of discussion, only a desire to justify a conclusion you already made, no matter the evidence. If that's the case, have at it, but why ask all of us to jerk you off, and then tell us we just don't understand masturbation because we aren't gonna stroke you?

Your premise is deeply flawed. People have shown you a shit-ton of examples.

Calla Lily
05-31-2012, 04:58 PM
Quicklime, you absolutely MUST post a Beverage Alert atop posts like that.

:roll: :ROFL:

seun
05-31-2012, 05:28 PM
This is what writers do: They WORK. Long hours. They work hard. They get up early, stay up late, write on their lunch hour, do whatever it takes to get the book written.


This should be at the top of every page on AW. In red. And bolded. And flashing. And with buzzing noises. And whizzing. And it should come through the screen and punch people in the face.

lorna_w
05-31-2012, 05:44 PM
Having taught writing for ten years, I have to say, in my case, it screwed up my writing. YMMV. Since my day job was all about words, about thinking through what a student might have wanted to say and nudging them into saying it well without just rewriting the damned thing for them, going home to writing didn't appeal much; I wrote only poetry during the academic year for that ten years, and often my academic year was 12 months because I needed summer money to pay the bills. Ten years yielded two abandoned novel starts and maybe five decent stories--nothing like my production while having a bland office job. Also, for the first time since I was ten years old, I began sometimes spelling "their" as "there" after seeing it spelled wrong so often. I can't tell you how much that irked me. Illiteracy is apparently viral; I'm still shaking off those ill effects.

If I needed to work again, I'd stock shelves at the supermarket from midnight until 6 a.m. I bet you see some characters in the store at those hours. Keep a notebook in your pocket to jot ideas...seems like the perfect writer's job.

If a writer wants to write full-time a.s.a.p, there are two serious recommendations I'd make. 1) Kill your TV. It sucks your time, it advertises (both in ads and shows) things you'll be deluded into thinking you must buy, which requires you to work more to buy the crap, which requires you to work more to buy decent clothes to wear to work and a car to get there. 2) Live the simplest lifestyle you can. Efficiency apartment or tiny trailer in trailer park, only use the internet at the public library, don't smoke, don't have a cell phone, don't go out to eat or to concerts that cost money, don't use prostitutes, don't gamble, make sure all your dates are walks and free summer festivals and free day at the art museum. If you're committed to being a great artist working 40 hours a week at his art, this is no sacrifice at all.

willietheshakes
05-31-2012, 05:56 PM
Having taught writing for ten years, I have to say, in my case, it screwed up my writing. YMMV. Since my day job was all about words, about thinking through what a student might have wanted to say and nudging them into saying it well without just rewriting the damned thing for them, going home to writing didn't appeal much; I wrote only poetry during the academic year for that ten years, and often my academic year was 12 months because I needed summer money to pay the bills. Ten years yielded two abandoned novel starts and maybe five decent stories--nothing like my production while having a bland office job. Also, for the first time since I was ten years old, I began sometimes spelling "their" as "there" after seeing it spelled wrong so often. I can't tell you how much that irked me. Illiteracy is apparently viral; I'm still shaking off those ill effects.

If I needed to work again, I'd stock shelves at the supermarket from midnight until 6 a.m. I bet you see some characters in the store at those hours. Keep a notebook in your pocket to jot ideas...seems like the perfect writer's job.

If a writer wants to write full-time a.s.a.p, there are two serious recommendations I'd make. 1) Kill your TV. It sucks your time, it advertises (both in ads and shows) things you'll be deluded into thinking you must buy, which requires you to work more to buy the crap, which requires you to work more to buy decent clothes to wear to work and a car to get there. 2) Live the simplest lifestyle you can. Efficiency apartment or tiny trailer in trailer park, only use the internet at the public library, don't smoke, don't have a cell phone, don't go out to eat or to concerts that cost money, don't use prostitutes, don't gamble, make sure all your dates are walks and free summer festivals and free day at the art museum. If you're committed to being a great artist working 40 hours a week at his art, this is no sacrifice at all.

I was right there with you until you suggested giving up prostitutes.

Terie
05-31-2012, 06:00 PM
I was right there with you until you suggested giving up prostitutes.

Ahem. Again with the Beverage Alerts, guys! :D

Soccer Mom
05-31-2012, 06:08 PM
Hm. Before I could afford to quit my job, I'd have to give up my kids too. Anyone want a slightly used pair of teenagers? They can run the lawn mower and have been known to take out the trash if one nags enough.

I'm hearing a lot of "yeah buts" from the OP. I'm familiar with that phrase from my kids. "Yeah but" is what they say when I answer a question in a way they don't like. Thing is, there are never going to be "enough" examples to satisfy you. You will disregard and poke holes in any information given because you don't like the answer.

The one thing all the writers everywhere have in common is that they make time for their art. They make sacrifices and juggle and rearrange what they can because they are driven to create, to write.

What you need to do is driven by who you are and what your life is. Joking aside, I can't quit my job, not unless I make a hell of a lot more money writing than I do now. I have people who depend on me. I have a day job and a farm to run and kids to raise. I still managed to write two novels and five novellas last year. If you want something bad enough, you'll get it done.

rainsmom
05-31-2012, 06:47 PM
Just as an experiment, I did a quick-and-dirty check of what the authors of the top 15 on the Modern Library's list of the top 100 English language novels were doing when they wrote their masterpieces:
At what point in their career did they write their masterpieces? Before this point, did they write other work? Work that was, perhaps, not a masterpiece? Work that paid the bills? Work that didn't pay the bills but taught them craft? Work that landed them sponsors?

Very, very, very few writers create masterpieces out of the gate. Of those that even sell out of the gate, very few make a living wage from their writing. (That depends, of course, on what constitutes a living wage for you.) Frankly, most never will.

If you want to live on a shoestring and do nothing but create "art," have at it. There are people who've left the US and moved to less expensive countries to be able to do that very thing. There are also people who are fortunate enough to have spouses (or parents) who are willing to support them, even if only for a short time period. If you have that, go for it.

Just remember that having all that time to write doesn't mean you have anything to write about. It also doesn't mean you have the skill to craft a salable novel (much less a masterpiece). Even if you can write a salable novel, it doesn't mean it will sell, and if it sells, it doesn't mean it will make any money. Even if that book is ultimately a best-seller, the money (including the advance) will come to you in drims and drams over YEARS.

It doesn't matter what "should be." What matters is you and your situation. Can you afford to take time off to write? If not, then get a job. If you think you can't create "art" while working, then either live on the streets or get a well-paying job that allows you to work, then take time off, then work again, then take more time off. (I have SEVERAL friends who live like that, taking months off to travel around the world before returning to work to save some more cash.)

Determine the life you want and then figure out how to get it. Just remember: Art doesn't tend to pay a lot -- and NO ONE owes you a living. Not your parents, not your spouse. There are no patrons anymore, and I assure you, your literary agent ain't gonna loan you a DIME.

Medievalist
05-31-2012, 06:47 PM
I don't think it does bear every relationship. I just ran a quick search on the Proquest dissertation database on Nabokov, Roth, and Franzen: the three American writer/professors mentioned on this thread. So just how many dissertations did each one advise? Zero.

I'm not really sure that ProQuest goes back far enough; I can't find the dissertations of people I know who wrote them in the sixties, seventies and eighties.

Nor did I claim that those three authors were dissertation directors.

But I am exceedingly conversant with academe.

I know rather a lot about the lives of upper echelon faculty, and academic publishing.


You mention Shakespeare and Chaucer as examples of busy authors.

Chaucer did have a royal office, but largely wrote the Canterbury Tales after he was done with it, financially secure, and then he devoted his full time to writing.

After he saved money and invested. After a career, which included functioning as a diplomat, and probably, a spy. Also?

We don't actually know when he wrote CT; he wrote different parts of it a different points, and died before finishing it. Nor was it the work he was famous for in his lifetime.

It was the last thing he wrote; not his first.

And he never made a living from his writing. Not ever. He wrote begging letters to the King asking for the promised royal patronage.

In fact, Chaucer retired and began to concentrate on writing, as far as we can tell, after doing the medieval equivalent of what I describe in this very thread (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=7315302&postcount=91).


Shakespeare of course had work—running a theater company—pretty intimately connected with writing plays.

Just as an experiment, I did a quick-and-dirty check of what the authors of the top 15 on the Modern Library's list of the top 100 English language novels were doing when they wrote their masterpieces

Dude.

Does it strike you as a teensy bit arrogant to be comparing yourself to Nabokov and Joyce ?

Do you realize that you are lecturing people—including me—who earn a living by writing?

We know what we're talking about.

We know how to make it work.

Working at writing and working at work is what works.


Going by this list, writing- and publishing-related jobs seem to work ok, but a relatively disproportionate number of these authors spent their full time writing. Not that that proves much, but it's interesting.

I'm still just exploring the topic. I don't have a fully determined reason for wondering.

So you're just jerking our collective chains?

Why not just find a spouse to support you while you contemplate your novel ? After all, an artist like you is entitled to that.

How else will you product great masterpieces? You shouldn't have to be bothered by mundane worries that will interfere with the creative process. It's just too much to ask.

theorange
05-31-2012, 06:50 PM
Sigh. I give up. I had a whole reply written but why bother?

I'm hearing a lot of "yeah buts" from the OP.

seriously, orange, this isn't "rebelling", it is choosing to ignore everything that runs counter to what you want to hear.

I get it, I get it. I understand what you guys are saying. Just find time to write. Just write. Root out other distractions, and write. Lots of other people have done it. Don't make excuses about jobs. Write, write long, write hard, etc.

I understand, I don't necessarily disagree, and I may well end up simply following that advice.

I'm keeping the discussion open because a) I think it's interesting, and that is reason enough and b) I think about my literary idols (say, Proust and Faulkner), and I still wonder how they did what they did. They had plenty of time and dedicated writing careers. Even for modern books that I consider world-class (say, Robert Caro's biographies) -- they again seem to have full-time writers behind them. I still wonder what it is that allows people who produce (what I consider to be) phenomenal beauty to produce it, what distinguishes their efforts. So I tried to piece together how what I consider (and others may disagree) to be great authors squared their writing away with work obligations, and I wanted to hear other people's opinions on the topic.

I know people have asked about my own writing. I haven't answered because it's on multiple parallel tracks; my goals are fluctuating in my own mind. I'm writing some fiction, some nonfiction, and I'm still trying to find where my heart is.


If a writer wants to write full-time a.s.a.p, there are two serious recommendations I'd make.

Thanks for the practical recommendations. I'd agree on cutting out the TV, and I plan to do that right after this next episode of Veep.

Bubastes
05-31-2012, 06:56 PM
I get it, I get it. I understand what you guys are saying. Just find time to write. Just write. Root out other distractions, and write. Lots of other people have done it. Don't make excuses about jobs. Write, write long, write hard, etc.

I understand, I don't necessarily disagree, and I may well end up simply following that advice.


You MAY follow that advice? What the heck is the alternative? You have to eat somehow, and making excuses is a sure way not to get any writing done.

Calla Lily
05-31-2012, 07:19 PM
I still wonder what it is that allows people who produce (what I consider to be) phenomenal beauty to produce it, what distinguishes their efforts.

From my experience and from what I've seen over my life (and I'm not a young Lily):

1. Hard work.
2. Learning the craft.
3. Writing. Editing. Rewriting.
4. See #3.
5. See #1.
6. See #3.

I'm not being snarky about this. This formula applies to every writer regardless of every other thing in their life--money, no money, job, no job, family, no family, leisure time, no leisure time. Everything. The way to write a book that will sell is to write every day, day after day. Period.

It's like learning to play a musical instrument or a sport--the ones who become professionals are the ones who choose to do two things: Practice every day and don't give up.

Mr Flibble
05-31-2012, 07:26 PM
I still wonder what it is that allows people who produce (what I consider to be) phenomenal beauty to produce it, what distinguishes their efforts.



1. Hard work.
2. Learning the craft.
3. Writing. Editing. Rewriting.
4. See #3.
5. See #1.
6. See #3.



This

You know why? Cos anyone can be a person of leisure and not have a full time job. PLenty of people can teach (and that needs hard work too!). Plenty of people can do lots of things, but choose not to.

Not everyone can write a bloody good book. Hard work, perspiration and a modicum of talent are what distinguishes your idols from those who did not write books.

What distinguishes them is they worked hard at writing, and it paid off.

That's it.

quicklime
05-31-2012, 07:26 PM
b) I think about my literary idols (say, Proust and Faulkner), and I still wonder how they did what they did.



they wrote. they just fucking wrote. As someone else pointed out, even the folks who sat on their asses, at a time when this was even an option, they were "doing nothing but writing" because they were established novelists.....

So, do you really think it was all that free time that made them great, or, maybe, you know, talent, coupled with that track record of already having written multiple books in the first place?

Because I am betting heavily on the latter, especially since a hell of a lot of good and great lit DID come from folks with jobs. Pointing to the folks who wrote enough "really good" stuff to finally pay their way in writing and saying "well shit, look at all the free time they had" while ignoring that they were writing professionally, and had been for some time, and that that might be why their work was so good, is a pretty self-serving argument....you ignore both all the authors who disprove your idea AND the notion of experience or other factors weighing heavily in the equation in favor of that one tidbit you're so desperate to cling on.

it is a faulty argument. it just is. the folks who had jobs disprove it, the others are poor examples in the first place because they were well into their career by the time you pick their "classics". So you're not only comparing apples to oranges, you're pulling half the apples and saying "well, these guys don't count, because I have some other apples over here, who are more intersting to me."

Soccer Mom
05-31-2012, 07:31 PM
*snip*

I'm keeping the discussion open because a) I think it's interesting, and that is reason enough and b) I think about my literary idols (say, Proust and Faulkner), and I still wonder how they did what they did. They had plenty of time and dedicated writing careers. *snip*



Okay, since you want to look at Faulkner as an idol, I suggest you do more research if you're truly interested. Your understanding of his life is flawed. You mentioned that he "bummed around Europe for a few years before the Sound and the Fury was published."

Um...he enlisted in the RAF in WWI. Not exactly bumming around Europe. Then he went back to Mississippi and college. He left college without graduating to write and moved into a tiny cottage. His first novel was rejected. He kept writing. He work different jobs, got fired, and wrote a prodigious amount to make ends meet. Seriously, the wrote a ton of short stories.

He wrote As I Lay Dying while working a nightshift job at an electrical plant. While he was writing novels, he also began writing screenplays for money. Don't imagine him spending his entire day glued to his desk. He was very social, known to have lots of affairs and a serious drinking problem. He liked trying new things and took flying lessons, rode horses, and died in his sixties. Living hard has its disadvantages.

So is this a blueprint for author success? If that's the life you choose, then go for it.

Proust had a very different path. He was born to wealthy parents and was extremely sickly, really an invalid. He was pampered his whole life and was reputed to be brilliant, snobbish, frivilous, and utterly lacking in discipline which hampered his ability to write. He inherited a great deal of money from his parents, but suffered greatly from his poor health. His writing output is considerably less than workaholic Faulkner. He only lived to 51.

Totally different approaches. I guess the point I'm trying to make is that you want to find commonality when really the only thing these authors had in common was finding a way to make things work for them.

Bubastes
05-31-2012, 07:33 PM
You know that "10,000 hours of practice" meme? There's a lot of truth to that -- to get really good at something, you have to put in the time. Note that there is no asterisk saying you have to put in those hours in 8+ hour stretches. Every bit of focused practice, even if it's 15 minutes at a time, goes into that 10,000 hour bucket.

Yes, this is repeating what everyone else said: learn the craft, write a lot, revise a lot, repeat, and don't stop learning. It's that simple (but not easy).

willietheshakes
05-31-2012, 07:33 PM
Okay, since you want to look at Faulkner as an idol, I suggest you do more research if you're truly interested. Your understanding of his life is flawed. You mentioned that he "bummed around Europe for a few years before the Sound and the Fury was published."

Um...he enlisted in the RAF in WWI. Not exactly bumming around Europe. Then he went back to Mississippi and college. He left college without graduating to write and moved into a tiny cottage. His first novel was rejected. He kept writing. He work different jobs, got fired, and wrote a prodigious amount to make ends meet. Seriously, the wrote a ton of short stories.

He wrote As I Lay Dying while working a nightshift job at an electrical plant. While he was writing novels, he also began writing screenplays for money. Don't imagine him spending his entire day glued to his desk. He was very social, known to have lots of affairs and a serious drinking problem. He liked trying new things and took flying lessons, rode horses, and died in his sixties. Living hard has its disadvantages.

So is this a blueprint for author success? If that's the life you choose, then go for it.

Proust had a very different path. He was born to wealthy parents and was extremely sickly, really an invalid. He was pampered his whole life and was reputed to be brilliant, snobbish, frivilous, and utterly lacking in discipline which hampered his ability to write. He inherited a great deal of money from his parents, but suffered greatly from his poor health. His writing output is considerably less than workaholic Faulkner. He only lived to 51.

Totally different approaches. I guess the point I'm trying to make is that you want to find commonality when really the only thing these authors had in common was finding a way to make things work for them.

Forget about it, Mom. It's theorangetown.

fireluxlou
05-31-2012, 07:35 PM
I get it, I get it. I understand what you guys are saying. Just find time to write. Just write. Root out other distractions, and write. Lots of other people have done it. Don't make excuses about jobs. Write, write long, write hard, etc.

I understand, I don't necessarily disagree, and I may well end up simply following that advice.

I'm keeping the discussion open because a) I think it's interesting, and that is reason enough and b) I think about my literary idols (say, Proust and Faulkner), and I still wonder how they did what they did. They had plenty of time and dedicated writing careers. Even for modern books that I consider world-class (say, Robert Caro's biographies) -- they again seem to have full-time writers behind them. I still wonder what it is that allows people who produce (what I consider to be) phenomenal beauty to produce it, what distinguishes their efforts. So I tried to piece together how what I consider (and others may disagree) to be great authors squared their writing away with work obligations, and I wanted to hear other people's opinions on the topic.

I know people have asked about my own writing. I haven't answered because it's on multiple parallel tracks; my goals are fluctuating in my own mind. I'm writing some fiction, some nonfiction, and I'm still trying to find where my heart is.



Thanks for the practical recommendations. I'd agree on cutting out the TV, and I plan to do that right after this next episode of Veep.

Well if you really want to be jobless and think this will somehow improve & produce stunning masterpieces of literary prose full time, I wish you luck in this ... endevour? I'm guessing you have no dependants (wife, partner, husband, children, parents, siblings?), no debts, council tax? no bills? no laptop to run? no financial obligations such as rent or mortgages, property, telephones, internet connections etc?

I don't know what country you live in but if you leave your job voluntarily you're exempt from applying for jobseekers in UK for awhile (I think it's a a year?). But then when you apply for jobseekers, they make you search and apply for jobs and put you on workers schemes after 6 months. So may totally defeat your purpose of losing everything to write EPIC PROSE.

Stacia Kane
05-31-2012, 07:52 PM
I get it, I get it. I understand what you guys are saying. Just find time to write. Just write. Root out other distractions, and write. Lots of other people have done it. Don't make excuses about jobs. Write, write long, write hard, etc.

I understand, I don't necessarily disagree, and I may well end up simply following that advice.


With all due respect, if you don't follow that advice, you'll never get anything written. I'm honestly not sure how anyone would write a book or story or anything else without following the "tune out distractions, don't make excuses, and just write" advice.




I'm keeping the discussion open because a) I think it's interesting, and that is reason enough

Fair enough. I, however, find that what little interest I had in the topic is pretty much gone, and I suspect I'm not the only one. So you may find yourself discussing this topic alone.




and b) I think about my literary idols (say, Proust and Faulkner), and I still wonder how they did what they did. They had plenty of time and dedicated writing careers. Even for modern books that I consider world-class (say, Robert Caro's biographies) -- they again seem to have full-time writers behind them. I still wonder what it is that allows people who produce (what I consider to be) phenomenal beauty to produce it, what distinguishes their efforts. So I tried to piece together how what I consider (and others may disagree) to be great authors squared their writing away with work obligations, and I wanted to hear other people's opinions on the topic.



But again, what distinguishes them and their efforts has nothing at all to do with whatever other job they may have done. Nothing. Zero. Zilch. Nada. Not a thing.

What distinguishes them is an astonishing talent, astonishing things to say, and the drive and desire to say them. That's all. What they did other than writing is a straw man. And frankly, worrying so much about their "other" jobs indicates a deep lack of knowledge and/or understanding about how and why art is created to begin with, what it entails, and what it requires.

Art is not something you can create through paint-by-numbers. It is not something you can create by copying the lives or methods of others. There is no secret formula. There is no magic key. Analyzing the lives of other writers in hopes of doing what they did leads only to a lot of wasted time and even less understanding of how and why art is created.




I know people have asked about my own writing. I haven't answered because it's on multiple parallel tracks; my goals are fluctuating in my own mind. I'm writing some fiction, some nonfiction, and I'm still trying to find where my heart is.


And again, if you don't know what you want to say or how you want to say it, having more time in which to not know won't help you. In fact it may hinder you. Trust your subconscious. Focus on your life and your other work, and see what happens. Read a LOT more. Read a lot of different books. Read fiction and non-fiction. Read current releases, not just classics or "great literature." Put your own ideas out of your mind and focus elsewhere. I bet you'll find something comes to you.

Giving yourself more time to navel-gaze will not automatically make you see what you want to do or say. Nor will it automatically make what you want to do or say "great" or important or even good or worthwhile. It certainly won't make it publishable. It will simply give you more time to stare at a blank screen. That won't be as helpful as you seem to think it will be, and your demanding job is not to blame for your perceived lack of decisiveness and productivity. The only thing that will put an end to that is you making the time to work and then actually using it to work, even if it's only ten minutes a day--and in fact it will probably be easier to get words on the page at first if you work in short low-pressure bursts, although of course everyone is different.

Everyone is different because art is personal, and spending your time worrying about what other jobs great writers held completely denies that, and instead reduces their accomplishments to a "Yeah, but."


I wish you luck, and hope you find whatever it is you're looking for.

suki
05-31-2012, 09:27 PM
Theorange - simple question.

How many pages of writing whatever it is in you to write could you have accomplished in the time you have spent researching all the irrelevant crap you have researched for your responses in this thread, and then writing those responses?

You're wasting time. Go write. Be brilliant (I'm not being sarcastic at all - I hope you write the hell out of whatever it is in you to write).

You are all that is holding you back from writing whatever it is in you to write. So...

Go.

Write.

Today.

Something meaningful, instead of this. :)

~suki

Old Hack
05-31-2012, 09:32 PM
The counterpoint to the OP's question is, of course, how many full-time writers, with no other work to do, produce work which isn't going to end up considered a classic?

I know lots of writers who don't have day-jobs or too many household duties who make their living writing what I suspect the OP might consider less-than-stellar prose.

They do very well at it, of course, and reach hundreds of thousands of readers: but classic status? Nope.

seun
05-31-2012, 10:12 PM
One suspects a collective pudding is being pulled.

icerose
05-31-2012, 10:23 PM
I get it, I get it. I understand what you guys are saying. Just find time to write. Just write. Root out other distractions, and write. Lots of other people have done it. Don't make excuses about jobs. Write, write long, write hard, etc.

I understand, I don't necessarily disagree, and I may well end up simply following that advice.

I'm keeping the discussion open because a) I think it's interesting, and that is reason enough and b) I think about my literary idols (say, Proust and Faulkner), and I still wonder how they did what they did. They had plenty of time and dedicated writing careers. Even for modern books that I consider world-class (say, Robert Caro's biographies) -- they again seem to have full-time writers behind them. I still wonder what it is that allows people who produce (what I consider to be) phenomenal beauty to produce it, what distinguishes their efforts. So I tried to piece together how what I consider (and others may disagree) to be great authors squared their writing away with work obligations, and I wanted to hear other people's opinions on the topic.

I know people have asked about my own writing. I haven't answered because it's on multiple parallel tracks; my goals are fluctuating in my own mind. I'm writing some fiction, some nonfiction, and I'm still trying to find where my heart is.



Thanks for the practical recommendations. I'd agree on cutting out the TV, and I plan to do that right after this next episode of Veep.

That is the answer to your question. This is exactly what they did.

And it doesn't sound like you're even remotely ready to dedicate yourself to writing and nothing else. You haven't even found what you want to write about.

Living is expensive. When you have a couple million in the bank in a solid account of 4% or more, you can then write to your hearts content with no other distractions. Until then if you want to eat you have to do what every other writer before you has had to do (save those who came from money families or married a rich spouse who is more than happy to let them write away and do nothing else) and that is to make the time to write, sacrifice, work hard, and get those words on those pages.

It's not an option to consider, it's the only way to be a writer. Even those with tons of money had to choose writing over other things.

veinglory
05-31-2012, 10:34 PM
You could

1) Rob a bank, win lotto or marry a sugar Mama
2) Work and write
3) Work and not write

That simple really. And you may note that a lot of the very similar pragmatic answers you are getting came from people who did or are doing #2.

The world and your community decide if the writing is a masterpiece, that is not your choice. Your choice is whether or not you write.

FWIW I wrote more and better when i was a busy researcher than any other time in my life, including when I was on vacation. My brain works better when it works harder.

Isabella Amaris
05-31-2012, 11:14 PM
From my experience and from what I've seen over my life (and I'm not a young Lily):

1. Hard work.
2. Learning the craft.
3. Writing. Editing. Rewriting.
4. See #3.
5. See #1.
6. See #3.

I'm not being snarky about this. This formula applies to every writer regardless of every other thing in their life--money, no money, job, no job, family, no family, leisure time, no leisure time. Everything. The way to write a book that will sell is to write every day, day after day. Period.

It's like learning to play a musical instrument or a sport--the ones who become professionals are the ones who choose to do two things: Practice every day and don't give up.

Ha QFT.

Ken
06-01-2012, 12:41 AM
... John Gardner dedicated a whole chapter to good jobs for writers, in his On Becoming a Novelist. Or was it in The Art of Fiction? Forget which. Has been awhile. His top recommendation was working in a fire watch tower in a forest, giving you a lot of time to write. He even got into hooking up with a sugar daddy or sugar mama or living off the earnings of a spouse. "That has a tendency to lower ones esteem and make writing difficult." Worth checking out. He's a good writer in his own right.

In my view, the sort of job one has can effect ones writing. That goes for other factors in ones life as well. Having one sort of job or another isn't going to make you any better of a writer. But having one that's suitable in some way or other to you as an individual will allow you to write with less of an effort and possibly allow you more time as well.

Both those constraints can be overcome. Many here do exactly that. But let's face it. That takes a lot of effort and many simply aren't up to that. They are to blame of course in the end. But circumstances still are what they are and if they were different then they'd most likely get more done. That goes for the greats as well.

Just because they are great novelists doesn't mean they are great humans. They have faults like everybody else like laziness, lack of drive, etc. Put them in a situation where they are taxed a lot and they may not write or do far less than otherwise. Their loss of course and ours as well.

So ultimately, writers have to be aware of their circumstances and, if possible, structure their everyday lives in a way that more or less accommodates their writing. Their lives don't have to revolve around writing by any means. But they should definitely keep that goal in sight and be guided accordingly when deciding on certain courses like careers, etc.

Just my two cents. Much more knowledgeable and experienced peeps have already chimed in on the subject.

Unimportant
06-01-2012, 01:13 AM
Well, I wanted people's list of people who had created great art while working demanding jobs.
Centuries ago, people who were capable of creating great art had patrons who supported them financially.

Half a century ago, a writer could earn a very good living by writing fiction. Dorothy Parker earned more per week from screenwriting than than the average person earned in a year.
Genre authors writing pulp SF short stories were earning 3 cents per word -- $150 for a 5000 word story. Sell a couple of short stories and you could buy a one carat diamond ring and dinner for four at a good restaurant.

Today, genre authors writing pulp SF short stories are earning....3 cents per word. Sell a couple of short stories and you can buy dinner for four at a good restaurant.

Unless you have a time machine, it's impossible to compare books written a century ago and now considered classics with books written a decade ago that may or may not be considered classics a century hence, and analyse the authors' respective day jobs or lack of.

veinglory
06-01-2012, 01:28 AM
Based on interviews I hear on the radio that list would be most debut authors and many regular mid-listers.I rarely hear author stories that don't involve working or actively raising kids as the status quo when they began writing.

zanzjan
06-01-2012, 04:04 AM
(Chaucer / Shakespeare / Joyce / Fitzgerald / Nabokov / Huxley / Faulkner / Heller / Koestler / Lawrence / Steinbeck / Lowry / Butler / Orwell / Graves / Woolf)

Going by this list, writing- and publishing-related jobs seem to work ok, but a relatively disproportionate number of these authors spent their full time writing. Not that that proves much, but it's interesting.


bananas -- fruit: yellow, oblong, curved, yummy
baguettes -- baked good: brown, oblong, yummy
cucumbers -- vine-based vegetable: green, oblong, yummy
hot dogs -- meat product: red to pink, oblong, yummy
eclair -- pastry, dk. brown, lt. brown & white, oblong, very yummy
carrots -- root vegetable: orange, oblong, pointy, good for your eyesight, yummy!

Going by this list, a disproportionately large number of yummy foods are penis-shaped. The fact that I have self-selected this list to prove my point is irrelevant, especially if I post it again later as reinforcement. Not that it proves much, but it totally and absolutely proves my point. (Also just as clearly, donuts are outliers and should be ignored.)

lorna_w
06-01-2012, 04:35 AM
Seriously, people, you have to stop. I'm laughing too hard. If we could put just 25% of the cleverness we put into posting on this thread into our real work...man, we'd all be bestsellers.

I dunno, it's hard to pick, I like the phallic foods, I like a lot of 'em, but maybe the post of the day is:


Forget about it, Mom. It's theorangetown.

I'm going to be lying in bed tonight saying that and still laughing.

buz
06-01-2012, 06:27 AM
I still wonder what it is that allows people who produce (what I consider to be) phenomenal beauty to produce it, what distinguishes their efforts.Doing it a lot, mostly. (And writing, too.)

hurrhurrhurr

No, but seriously. How does anyone get where they are? Whether it's phenomenal or not, good or bad, genius or idiocy? It's sort of an incoherent mixture of desire and drive and chance and work and genetics and environment and who the hell knows what. How did I end up getting punched by a monkey?

Psychology. Genetics. Family upbringing. Desire. Drive. Working crappy jobs to get the money. Chance. Idiotic personality traits that lead to problems. Dealing. Not dealing. Imagination. Outside circumstances. Environment. Culture. Education. Ennui. It took a lot of work, and a lot of twists and turns, and several hits of pure chance, to get myself in a position in which a monkey could, conceivably, punch me.

And then it did.

Writing is exactly like that. EXACTLY.

(...I'm absolutely sure this metaphor is valid but I have no idea how; possibly it is too artistic)

People are distinguished from others by a lot of things. All the things I listed. And more. A writer is "a person" first. Then, "who writes." The differences between writers lie in the "person" part. The common element is the writing part. And it's both that simple and that damn complicated.

PS. I know people are getting a little frustrated in here but this is somehow an awesome thread. :D (I have learned things, anyway.)

Soccer Mom
06-01-2012, 06:38 AM
A writer is "a person" first. Then, "who writes." The differences between writers lie in the "person" part. The common element is the writing part. And it's both that simple and that damn complicated.



I think that pretty well sums up the conversation. I say it's time to kitteh this thread and put it to sleep. Say goodnight, Kitteh.

http://icanhascheezburger.files.wordpress.com/2012/05/funny-cat-pictures-lolcats-can-we-be-done.jpg

Goodnight, Kitteh.