by Lori Rader-Day
Now that I’ve launched my first novel, The Black Hour, I have one thing to say to aspiring novelists.
Don’t quit your day job.
Before you start howling, give me a chance.
The hard truth in publishing is that hardly anyone makes a living from writing. That’s the bad news. There’s plenty of good news, though, including that a
job and writing don’t have to be mutually exclusive endeavors. In fact, I think a day job can be a helpful complement to the writing life.
Want a job done? Give it to a busy person.
Look, there’s no question I’d like to have more time to write. But you’ve heard the adage about who gets the job done, right? If you want to write a book,
you have to add it to your to-do list and then get it to-done. People who accept that kind of challenge more often are better equipped to check things,
even writing books, off their list.
One word: Deadlines.
A long, languid day of writing sounds great right now, but have you ever tried it? Our squirrelly attention spans are probably only good for a few hours of
writing a day, which is why even when you have all day to write, you probably don’t. I write during my lunch hours. One hour. That plan doesn’t always
work, but when it does, the rest of my day is better.
Spend money to make money.
Time to be honest. One of the reasons I think day-jobbing and book-flinging work together is because I use one to pay for the other. Going to conferences,
putting out bookmarks and other marketing items, hiring a publicist—you don’t have to do all or even any of them. But you have to market yourself somehow,
and that requires investment. Your investment.
A different kind of support system.
There’s no question that being a full-time writer is the romantic dream. But when that dream hits a rocky spot—a lukewarm review, creative blockage, a
low-energy day where you start to question every decision you’ve ever made—having a paycheck is reassuring. You don’t have to write. You don’t have to— but you want to! And then you’re back in the game, your head on straight. Writing with a day job is stressful, but I suspect it’s less stressful
than, say, trying to pay the mortgage with a late royalty check.
Day jobs as inspiration?
The Black Hour would not exist without the day job I had while I wrote it. As much as spinning tales from up in your writer’s garret sounds
like an introvert’s dream…how inspiring is the inside of a writer’s garret? A day job forces you out into the world, either literally or figuratively, and
puts you into contact with life. All of it can turn into words on the page, as long as you’re paying attention.
As a writer, that’s your true job: paying attention. Can you do that while you work, pick up the kids, run to the store, all while your hair is on fire?
The speed at which your life is moving isn’t always under your control, but we all have the same 24 hours. Just this one day. Pay close attention, before
another one passes you by.
Lori Rader-Day is the author of the mystery The Black Hour (Seventh Street Books, 2014). Born and raised in central Indiana, she now lives in Chicago with her husband and dog. Her fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Good Housekeeping, Time Out Chicago , and others. Her next book, the mystery Little Pretty Things, will be published by Seventh Street Books in 2015. Visit her at www.LoriRaderDay.com
For sociology professor Amelia Emmet, violence was a research topic—until a student she’d never met shot her. He also shot himself. Now he’s dead and she’s stuck with a cane and one question she can’t let go: Why her? All she wants is for life to get back to normal. Better than normal, actually, since life was messy before she was shot. Then graduate student Nathaniel Barber offers to help her track down some answers. He’s got a crush and his own agenda—plans to make her his killer dissertation topic. Together and at cross-purposes, Amelia and Nathaniel stumble toward a truth that will explain the attack and take them both through the darkest hours of their lives.