NOW is Your Time to Write!

A candid, no-nonsense appraisal of the daily grind of the writer’s life, QUIT YOUR DAY JOB lays out a sound, strategic plan for building your career as a full-time writer. Author Jim Denney has been a full-time, self-employed writer since 1989.

“What are the best things and the worst things in your life, and when are you going to get around to whispering or shouting them?”
—Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing

The following is an excerpt from my book on writing for a living, Quit Your Day Job: How to Sleep Late, Do What You Enjoy, and Make a Ton of Money as a Writer (Linden Publishing, 2003, and a Writer’s Digest Book Club Selection). The book is available in paperback and as an ebook at Amazon.com and in paperback at BarnesAndNoble.com.

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One thing I’ve noticed as a writer is that, when people find out what I do for a living, they often say, “I always wanted to be a writer,” or, “I bet I could write a book if I put my mind to it.” The people who tell you such things might be pizza delivery guys or doctors or astronauts, yet they all admire writers, they all have a secret wish that they could write. They all think they could do what you do if they had the time or the opportunity or if their lives were different somehow.

But you know what? I’ve never met a writer anywhere who wanted to be anything other than a writer. Take any person who says, “I am a writer,” and I don’t care how penniless he is, how long it has been since his last paycheck, how much he struggles with self-doubt, writer’s block, and unreasonable deadlines—he does not, even for a moment, consider changing jobs. Why? Because writing is not a job. It’s a mission. It’s a calling. It’s more essential to your soul than a career. It is not just your profession—it’s your identity.

A computer programmer can go to seminary and become a preacher. A school teacher can tender her resignation and become an exotic dancer. But can a writer give up writing and become something else? Unheard of! Writing is not what you do, it’s who you are! If you are a writer, there is nothing else to be.

If you know in your bones what I’m talking about, if you know that you have to be a writer, then you must write. You only get one life, and the life you’ve been given is made up of a finite number of heartbeats. Between your first heartbeat and your last is a brief span of time in which you are permitted to write your books and speak your piece. When your time is up, they will put you in a box and throw you in a hole to make room for the next writer waiting in line.

Now is your time, my friend. If you’re going to write your books, you’d better get at it.

“But,” you ask, “what about my age? Am I too young to be a full-time writer? Am I too old?” Whatever age you are, right now is the time to go for it. If you are young—say, in your twenties—you have the advantage of having fewer debts and responsibilities to tie you down and restrict your options. If you are in your forties or beyond, then you have a whole different set of advantages, including a wealth of experience and accumulated wisdom.

Science-fiction writer David Brin is the author of such books as Earth, Kiln People, and The Postman (which was made into a motion picture starring Kevin Costner). Brin earned a Ph.D. in Space Physics at UC San Diego and held positions with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena and NASA’s Specialized Center of Research and Training (NSCORT-Exobiology) before he turned to writing science-fiction. He gained an enormous amount of life experience before turning to full-time writing.

“Writing is a worthy calling,” Brin told me, “but it was not my first choice as a profession. I wanted to be a scientist, foremost, and I became one through hard work. I also had this hobby—writing—that provided a lot of satisfaction. I always figured that I’d write a few stories a year, and a novel every few years, while mainly working to become the best scientist and teacher I could be. But it turned out that I’m much better at making up vivid stories than I ever was at discovering new truths as a scientist. At least, that’s what people say—and they sure pay me better to write novels than they ever did to do science!”

So there’s no such thing as being too old to turn to writing as a career? “Of course not,” Brin says. “The best writers I know did something else for many years first. They lived life and did useful things and interesting things, before presuming to preach and write about the human experience.”

The net-net: Whether you’re young or old, don’t let age hold you back. If you are young and unencumbered, you have little to lose by giving it a shot. And if you are older and more experienced, you have a lot to offer the world as a full-time writer. Either way, now is your time. What are you waiting for?

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3 Comments

  1. Thanks for this … older beginning writer here … they tell me I have natural talent … and a voice … who knew?

    Reply
  2. Thanks for your note, Holly! Wishing you joy and great success on your writing journey. I just started this new blog site a few days ago, and hope to have a lot of writing insights to share along the way. Hope to hear from you again. All the best! Jim D.

    Reply
  1. I Have A Voice … Who Knew? « Happy Holly Project

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