It’s meant as an insult, right? That you’re not good enough at writing/art/insert your creative pursuit here so you’ll never make enough money from it. But last year, at a writer’s convention, one highly successful author said exactly that: if you’ve got a day job that lets you write, then keep it.

She’s a writer who’s published more than 30 books, has a huge fan base…and still has a full-time job working in a university. Sounds crazy, right? No, not really. Although many of us dream of writing full-time, the truth is there are benefits to having a steady income. Here are my top 3:

1. Financial stress is a creativity killer

It’s really difficult to do your best work when bills are piling up and you’re wondering how to feed your family. I know – I’ve been there, obsessing over writing job applications, checking phone and email, preparing for interviews. It all takes a lot of time,  effort and stress, and generally your creativity goes out the window.

2. Having a day job gets you out in the world

It’s news to no-one that writing is a solitary pursuit but writing is about life. No matter what genre you write in, every experience you have can be fodder for your creative work, and that includes what goes on at your paid job. Think of it as another tool in your writer’s armoury: another place where you can observe others: the way they dress, talk and interact.

3. Limiting your choices is a good thing

As a writer, or any creative, there are so many great conventions, conferences, seminars, course, retreats and networking events happening all the time. It is impossible to go to all of them. No matter who you are, where you live or what you do, choices must be made. That’s the reality of life. But having a steady job not only gives you income to attend some of these great events, it also forces you to manage your time so you choose more wisely. And there is freedom in that.

I’m lucky to have a permanent part-time job that pays reasonably well. I work 25 hours a week at my day job, and spend around 15 hours a week writing. Okay, so maybe I’d prefer it if the balance leaned a little more towards the writing side but on the whole it works well. Would I give it up if I got a 6-figure advance for one of my novels tomorrow? Honestly, no I wouldn’t. I might cut back my hours a little but I know my day job is something I can rely on. And that is a great feeling.

Image: Asparagus Cannery, Bathurst, New South Wales, Australia (no date)
Courtesy of State Records New South Wales
Digital ID: 12932-a012-a012X2443000172