Wild River Review art by Christopher McCauley

VOLUME 1 — NUMBER 1





Thank God for My Day Job

When I was younger, day jobs seemed to be the devil’s work, designed to steal my soul and crush my writing dreams. But no matter how hard I squirmed, the need for a paycheck wouldn’t go away and eventually I gave in. At first my day job got in the way of my dreams, but over the years I’ve adapted so well, these days I say, “Thank God for my day job.”

Despite my day job, my dreams are alive and well. In fact, they are what get me up in the morning. Literally. I do my most creative thinking first thing in the morning so I get up before the sun and write. That way, no matter what happens afterwards, I’ve put in my creative time, and I feel good.

I wonder if I would get up so early and work so hard if I didn’t have a job. I’ve met many aspiring writers who stay at home, and their free time has not generated success. In many cases lack of structure contributes to terrible unease, because they expect themselves to crank out their best work all day and then feel like failures when they don’t. My work schedule brings my writing into sharp focus every day.

Most of us notice our energy in the morning feels different from the afternoon, and different still in the evening. To get the most from your day match your activities to your daily rhythm. When creativity waxes, write. When it wanes, staring at a computer screen feels more like a prison than a pleasure. That’s a perfect time to go off and earn a paycheck.

USE YOUR TIME WISELY

Because I want to achieve my goals, I cherish every minute. Take for example my commuting time. Over the years I’ve had short commutes and long ones. If you can shorten the distance between work and home, you can reclaim several hours a week, and hundreds of hours a year. While I am in the car, I listen to books on tape. It makes the time fly, keeps my mind fresh, and gives me ideas.

The lunch break is another valuable block of time. I go to the gym and on the treadmill I reread my writing and scribble notes in the margin. The physical motion frees me to read from a different point of view than I wrote. If you don’t have a treadmill handy, go for a walk and speak into a recorder. We’re so used to seeing people talk into hands-free phones, talking to yourself will seem perfectly natural.

Even with a full-time job, there are many hours spent away from work. For starters, there are weekends. The Lord declared the Sabbath a day of rest. I find writing to be the most restful thing I can do. The same goes for holidays and vacations. I write every day, not because of “discipline” but because I enjoy it.

GRATITUDE FOR THE MANY BENEFITS OF A DAY JOB

Writers are multi-dimensional creatures. We want a variety of satisfactions. And our day job can fulfill some of these. I’ve heard mothers of small children say, “I go to work to talk to adults.” We writers can say the same thing. Staying home all day, I would get lonely. Going to work fulfills some of my need for human contact.

Some writers look at day jobs as a necessary evil. In my experience, any resentment can backfire, leaving you demoralized at the end of the day. Instead of squaring off against my job, I embrace it, finding ways to use my day job to satisfy my thirst for variety and challenge. I even appreciate aggravating moments. Crabby customers and coworkers at first seem to whittle me down. As soon as I regain my poise, I realize they force me to grow. Like a surfer, I stay up on the wave of energy instead of getting caught in the undertow. This positive energy spills over into my writing.

The ultimate prize is a day job that lets you write. Years ago, when I was trying to break into computer programming, I told the interviewer that I love to write. I was hired as the technical writer for the project. Over the years, my writing responsibilities have flourished. I get paid to put words on a page. By writing reports, letters, instructions, meeting notes, brochures, or anything else at work, you’ll soon be known as the person who writes, earning you additional opportunities to combine your passion for writing with your need for a paycheck.

I’ve heard people complain that writing at work takes away from their desire to write at home. I personally have not found that to be the case. In my experience, every time I craft a sentence, I draw from the well of creativity. Mysteriously, the more I draw from it, the more it contains. The daily practice of shuffling words around on a page connects my fingers with my writing neurons, making it easier to write for myself. And it enhances my self-image as a writer, an image that boosts my momentum for the long haul.

So don’t let your need for a paycheck get in your way. Come and join me on the bright side. Let your creative passion, like the wind, fill the spaces in your life, and enrich it with the magic of your unique expression. The world is waiting to hear you speak.


Jerry Waxler

Jerry Waxler

Bio: Jerry Waxler, M.S., is a workshop leader and therapist, specializing in the challenges faced by writers. He has established a reputation as a mentor and coach for writers who want to achieve their goals. His motivational and self-development workshops with titles such as Self-development for Writers, The Writing Habit, and Going Public form the basis for a 200 page workshop packet named Four Elements for Writers, How to Get Beyond ‘Yes-But,’ Conquer Self-Doubt and Inertia, and Achieve Your Writing Goals available from his website. Jerry’s columns appear regularly in the Doylestown Patriot and the Wild River Review.