Giving up the Day Job to Write

woman reading illustrating post on giving up the day job to write full timeRecently I found myself drawn into a discussion on social media about whether or not writers should give up the ‘day jobs’ to concentrate on their art.

It’s a great idea – at first glance. The ability to rise up in the morning when ever you wish and then sit down at your desk writing, and only writing, is very appealing, but the idea must be considered very carefully.


No matter how frugally we live the ability to pay the bills is crucial. Some people have a romantic idea of the starving artist in a garret.

However, even garrets cost money, so until you are making money you must have some kind of income unless you have someone to support you, or have an inheritance, or trust fund. If not then you need a job.


Whether you need full-time or part-time work depends on your personal needs. You need to work out exactly how much you need to live on.

Think about all the money you spend. Not just rent and utilities, but food, clothes, social life, computer software – include everything you can think off in your finance sheet before you come to any decision.

Try making a note of everything you spend over two months to give you a clearer picture of your own personal financial needs.


I know from experience that this can work. Earlier in my career I worked in admin and worked on my scripts and stories in the evenings.

Years later I combined creative writing and script writing teaching work and also some radio and television work with my ‘own’ writing.

Combining the income from different sources worked for me. I kept my bills paid, my head above water and even managed the odd holiday and meal out.


However, when Ireland was hit by recession a lot of the work I had disappeared. I also had a serious accident which has left me with some continuing health issues.

At the time of writing I am recovering from surgery with my leg in plaster. No matter how carefully you plan some things are out of our control.

You do need to think about what might happen; if only to motivate you to keep a little in reserve.


With the loss of my teaching jobs and when the radio show I worked for ended I became a full-time writer with a part-time income from my book and story sales – this was, as it is for most writers – very unreliable.

So I thought hard about what else to do. When I saw an advert for a website development course for small businesses course I decided that might be a way to supplement my writing with writing.


I really wanted to get as independent as I could so that the bad management of the country’s finance could never hit me so hard again.

I did this by starting websites like this one, which in its own way replaced my ‘real’ teaching jobs with ‘virtual teaching’ by providing writing information, creative writing exercises and support to beginners and other writers.


I started my www.gracelikestogarden.com website purely to record my own gardening activities as I tried to tame my wilderness garden here in Galway.

I was surprised to discover that a lot of people liked the site and it has opened up a world of gardening to me. I now communicate with other gardeners all over the world. This also provides a small income from adverts.


One of my writing projects has been the creation of  had a fictional village called Ballyyahoo.

I placed Ballyyahoo on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way where I happen to live and began to write and develop a series of stories set there. The series needed a virtual home so I developed another site called www.ballyyahoo.com

This site became a home for additional stories, characters, information about nature, animals and the area of Ballyyahoo.

This proved so successful that I have now begun the process of linking the Ballyyahoo stories to the site so that in addition to the books, children can enjoy a host of free stories and supplementary materials.

I really have great fun with this site. I had written for children’s radio in the past and I badly missed the fun and freedom of imagination I enjoyed during that time.

Ballyyahoo continues to grow and the more I write about Ballyyahoo the more ideas I have.


I hope in future to engage an artist to illustrate the stories more fully. I keep the stories short and the prices low so cannot afford to employ a regular artist at this time but I am working towards this stage and hopefully it won’t be too long before I can.

This has been a lot of work on my own and I can’t say it was easy. I had to start from scratch, learning new skills, developing the sites, and eventually gaining the significant traffic I now have.

Personally, it also took me time for me to really relax and get in to the swing of the different style that writing for the Internet demanded.

It has been hard work but I can honestly say, apart from one or two technical mishaps, I have loved every second of it.


Old drawing of a man-reading to illustrate an article about giving up the day job to writeWriting is my life and it has taken years to develop my writing skills.  I’m not finished yet. I will spend the rest of my life writing and developing my work further.

There is no end to learning and there is always something more to learn about writing. The writing muscles need to be used over and over again, over long periods of time, if you are ever to become a good writer.

As for the websites, well this too has taken time, years in fact. I am now in a position where the adverts and affiliate stuff give me a modest income which also helps defray the site expenses and this looks set to improve.


My book Practical Creative Writing Exercisesis another venture which is helping me keep afloat. I had never intended to do this but when other writers started telling me how much the information and exercises on this site helped and inspired them I began to think about the book.

My years of teaching writing made me realise that helping others to develop and use their imagination is my strong point. Luckily for me this is also something I really enjoy.

I am heartened to say that not only has the feedback from writers about the exercises in the book been great but the book is helping me keep the wolf from the door and if you are writer you will already know that means a lot.


So, having said all this it might seem easier for someone of wealth to ditch their jobs and devote their time to writing, but it is not always the case.

I have seen some writers come by money and therefore gain loads more time to write and then utterly fail to produce the work.

 It seems that too much time and money had a demotivating effect on them and they wasted it.


The problem of having to earn enough money to pay the next bill can be a great motivator and this really helps a writer focus in on the work in hand.

So, if you are considering giving up a job give it lots of thought and be brutally honest.

You need to be honest about everything, not just about your future ability to pay the bills. Also think hard and consider your own ability to focus enough to work without having a ‘boss’ to motivate you.


A writer should not let future hopes cloud reality. The biggest and most honest question you need to ask yourself is this – if you are not making money from your writing right now, how do you know you will make money after you quit your job?

Think about it and in the meant time I wish you the very best of luck with your writing


P.S. Click here to read my personal experience of writing for the market.






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