Most writers work a “real” job that pays the bills while they continue to write and perfect their craft. It’s common. I do the same, and that’s just fine. I’ll continue to do so unless I’m able to support my family from writing or somehow get lucky with a wealthy relative (yeah right!)
But instead of punching the clock just to get a paycheck, I say use your situation to your benefit.
For the last fourteen years, I’ve worked in sales at a screen-printing/embroidery/promotional products company (need some t-shirts?) When I started, I had no real sales experience. I’d worked at a fast food restaurant for eight years before my current job and had a Master’s Degree in Medieval History. To be honest, I felt the same way towards sales people as you might; they were rude, pushy, obnoxious, and worthless scum of the Earth. I had to push past that and make sure I was none of those things to be successful and feel good about myself.
Over time, I embraced my job and what I am. It’s not an easy transition going from dreams of teaching to selling material things, but once I discovered I was offering solutions for problems, it made a difference in how I went about my work.
I’ve learned a couple things over my time selling which apply to writing.
The first thing I learned was patience. Every day I went to work expecting the big sale. I’d anticipate large orders so I’d hit my sales goals. That didn’t happen. I knew the sales were there, but my customers weren’t ready to pull the trigger. Often they would, but not on my timing. I learned that the sale would come when it was time. I moved on to the next project or customer while I continued to wait on my customers.
For writing, aren’t we all doing the same thing? We write, we submit, and we wait. And wait. And…wait some more. Acceptance does not come easy. I know one day I will break through, but in the meantime I have to move on to more projects and continue to fine tune my writing. If we as writers continue like this, we’ll have an abundance of material to draw from when we finally get that glorious email or letter of phone call that we are accepted.
Persistence is another trait I learned from sales. If I wanted to succeed, I had to keep at it. Every day, all day long. I’m not a pest to my customers, but I have to be available to them and stay proactivee to make sure their needs are met. That persistence has paid off over time as my sales increased and my customers keep coming back.
Writing follows the same pattern. I have to be relentless when it comes to putting words on paper or on a screen. I have to work hard at it and write a lot. Every day if I can, but if not, just keep at it. Eventually all that time spent writing will pay off. The quality of my work will improve and my dreams of succeeding will get closer with every word written.
No matter what your job is, try to find the qualities that help you succeed and use those for your writing. Once you tap into that behavior of success and accomplishment in your job and break apart what makes it work, it’s easy to translate that to your passion for writing.
So go ahead and steal from work, it’s ok.