The Writer & The Dream Job

Thursday, May 25, 2017 1:21 PM

Many writers have day jobs, it is the nature of the beast. The Stephen Kings’, Dean Koontz’s, and Nora Roberts’ among us are often few and far between. I hear from writer friends who complain that they would write more if they only had the time. There is always things that pull on them, especially the work that sustains their lifestyle.

But what if you had the dream job?

I have one that requires me to work two days a week, and I live on a luxury cruise ship, where there are few of the distractions of my regular life in New Jersey.  I don’t have to take out the trash, clean the litter box, or even make my bed. My food is gourmet and delicious, and I don’t have to cook it or even clean up afterwards.

The question is: How much writing would YOU get done if you were in this situation?

I have a daily goal of a minimum of 1,000 words. A laughable amount compared to Nora Roberts, who must have an output more like 10,000 words a day. However, puttering away with this low amount has allowed me in six months to complete a novel of 80,000 words, start a second one, and finish an elaborate short story that sold to a popular magazine. I also did rewrites on four novels for submission.

But, the truth is I was writing that many words BEFORE I got the dream job.

It is an illusion that it is your career that keeps you from writing. I’ve heard the excuses: I’ll write when I retire;I’ll write when  I’m on vacation; I’ll write when I take a sabbatical; I’ll write when the kids are grown; and on and on. The reason I have no trouble with my writing output, is that I have spent the last twenty years developing the habits that help it. I have been writing for all that time, and it is a good thing I was. Only now do I start to feel that my level of craft has risen to the point that there is an ease to my work.

I’ve always had good story ideas, but I did need to develop good habits of structure, dialogue, and appropriate word selection. How do you learn those? Through repetition and writing every day. The honest truth is that there are many would-be writers who will happily tell you their ideas in minute detail, but will never sit down and actually begin to write. And that is what it takes to be a writer. To face that notebook, that blank page, that computer program, every day. And to work at habits that allow you to improve as an artist.

The dream job might just come to you, as mine did. But it will not allow you to write more if you haven’t been writing in the first place.

Arjay Lewis

First uploaded November 2016