After graduation from college, I got an entry level job at a radio station, programmed with call-in talk shows. I carried out the trash, conducted regular “Frosty-runs” to Wendy’s for the news director, painted the sales office, screened callers for the shows during off-hours, took transmitter readings, got coffee for the hosts, and anything else the boss wanted. Once in a while, they let me push a button on the control panel.
While there is a fascinating mix of opinions expressed by callers, my favorite talk show caller-type will always be,
“Yes, thank you for taking my call. I have a question for the guest today. I think you are wrong.”
Was there a question in there somewhere?
A couple themed call-in shows featured experts answering questions about personal finance and another on medical issues.
After about an hour, I was certain I could fill in for the financial or medical experts, even as a 21-year-old recent college grad with no background in finance or medicine.
Almost all of the answers to questions were, “Ask your financial advisor,” or “Ask your doctor.” Once in a while they tossed in, “It depends on your situation.”
I discovered early on, the least valuable advice is the same advice given to everyone.
For instance, the best advice and worst advice for an aspiring author is:
“Quit your day job and write full time.”
More than likely, if you start out on a writing career, you will need to do a little bit of everything, accounting for all 24 hours in a day and 168 hours in a week with some sort of productive activity.
You need to write a few hours, work 7-8 hours, sleep 6-7 hours, connect with others for an hour here and there, clean up, take care of yourself, commute to work, handle relationship or family responsibilities, etc.
If you could convert all the hours devoted to employment to writing and reading, think how much fun life would be?
It rarely works the way you’d like. Professional writing is never convenient, even for successful writers.
You spend years writing for no money, then if you become reasonably successful, earning $20,000 a year from writing, you cannot support your life or a family on this amount alone, especially in the U.S. in the 21st Century. At best, you might be able to pay for a mortgage or rent on a living space.
Actually, the writing life fits into one of these models:
–You work at a job providing a paycheck and benefits, then write when you can, and the two roles combined allow you to live reasonably.
–You write full-time, earning some money, but you have another source of income (not from your personal employment) supplementing it.
–You write full-time, earning some money, live an extremely meager life, living day- to-day.
–You write full-time and are successful, but you find yourself working more than full-time managing your marketing platform, doing speaking engagements, product sales and public ministry management. The pressure is on to perform. Hardly the quiet, solitary, literary life you imagined.
Other models would be exceptions to the majority of situations. They might include:
–Author writes a book, sells a million copies and stops writing. (The “One-hit-wonder author.”)
–Famous person “writes” a book with help of a ghost-writer and book sells well. (The “Fifteen minutes of fame author.”)
Mostly, the world of the professional author is one of long-hours, hard work and relentless demands for their time from little* things like family, community, church and life in general.
If you want to pursue professional writing, put on your full armor and take a deep breath, it’s neither simple or convenient.
Some aspiring authors have an idea the writing life is like some unreal world, but is just the opposite, it is very real and demanding.
After all, Mayberry, North Carolina doesn’t exist, the mosquitoes on Walden Pond are terrible and a dead racoon is stuck in the fireplace flue of your lovely getaway writing cabin.
So, should you quit your day job and write?