I Left My Full-Time Job Because I Wanted to Stop Being a “Writer”
You’re a writer on the side.
You write at night; you write when the kids are asleep, when the dog’s had his walk, when the house and all its residents are safely tucked in.
You write in the mornings before the kids are awake, after your coffee, while the sun hoists itself over the horizon and creates condensation against the cold kitchen window.
You do this because you have a job, a J-O-B with a 401K, and you’ve come to believe that able-bodied, able-minded people contribute their 40 hours, and that’s all there is to it. Anything else can certainly be justified, so long as it exists “on the side.”
I guess this post isn’t so funny; all my other posts for this blog have been funny.
I guess this post isn’t so informative; bear with me. I’m only just figuring it out myself. All I know is I woke up one morning, and I really hated that “on the side” business. Writer… on the side. MFA candidate… on the side. AKA when I had time; AKA when no one was looking; AKA in the shadows.
I’ve heard you’ll just know when the right time is to make the switch. Mostly, I’ve heard about book deals and editor’s notes and a growing fan base that needs to be satiated. If that’s the right time, then I’m in trouble. I can count my fiction publications on one hand; I don’t know if I’ve ever met a book editor, and my biggest fan is my mother.
For me, though, there were other reasons, real reasons it made sense to leave full-time employment behind. Unhappiness, for one. Which counts for more than we give it credit for, especially when we’re young. Which I am, relatively speaking. I’m young; I have a partner that I love, and he has a stable job that he loves—reasons number two and three. Though I’m young, my full-time employment has given me valuable skills that other companies need on a freelance basis; that makes four reasons. Lastly, number five, I’m out of other options. I took GrubStreet classes; I went to a top-ranked MFA program. My writing has improved by leaps and bounds, yet I’m still not where I want to be. The only thing left to give? My time. Not my leftover, table scraps time, either; I’m talking about that main-course-at-the-Capitol-Grille time, such a hearty, juicy hunk of time that when people ask what I do, I don’t have a choice as to how to respond; I’m no longer a "writer" but a writer.
My friends say, “You’re so brave.”
My friends say, “I wish I had your confidence.”
But I feel neither brave nor confident. Before making the leap, I ran the numbers over and over, probably fifty times, asking myself, “How much do I need to pay my bills? How much am I willing to go without? How bad do I really want this?”
The answer to that last question was apparently, “very badly,” because I’m here; I’m one month into freelancing, feeling less like a vulnerable baby bird, but only slightly so. The things I’ve given up, I’ve found I don’t miss, and the things I’ve gained are more than I hoped for. I’m not a famous writer; I’m not on the verge of becoming one. I’m not even what you would call “well-known in certain circles,” but I found a way to structure my life around my writing and not the other way around.
Now the question becomes, what do I want to be “on the side”?
Liz Breen is a freelance writer and producer who has worked for productions such as CONAN, WordGirl and Phantom Gourmet. She is also an MFA candidate at Vermont College of Fine Arts and a writing instructor at Cambridge Center for Adult Education; her writing has been featured in Columbia's Catch & Release, Postcard Shorts and Cleaver Magazine. In her free time, Liz enjoys looking at dogs available for adoption. You can find her on the web at lizbreen.com or on Twitter @beinglizbreen.See other articles by Liz Breen