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Taking the big leap from guaranteed paycheck to unreliable money (a.k.a. full time writer) is not a leap to take lightly. But now that I’m engaged to an incredibly supportive man, that question has come up, and it’s not me who’s raised it.

The realities of a full time writer

Last weekend while on vacation the issue of quiting my job was raised, yet again. “If you want to be a writer, then write. You’ll never finish a book if you are working full time.” But I disagree.

Look at most writers. How many of them work full time jobs in addition to writing? A fair number. Now look at how many are able to sustain on a full time writer’s salary. You will only find a handful, and my hands are rather small.

In addition to the financial implications, you also have to think about the insurance issue. Sure, if you are married or, depending on the company, living with someone, you can go on their insurance. But for a lot of people, this isn’t an option. And think about signing a lease or trying to get a mortgage? Since I have a steady paycheck, I can’t say this for sure, but I’m betting a full time writer will run into more obstacles when attempting to arrange their living situation than someone working a traditional job.

Then there is the stress. For me, my financial situation creates a lot of anxiety. When I’m anxious, it’s really hard to write. So would not knowing where my next paycheck is coming from really make it easier for me to finish a book if I quit my job?

The lonely factor I could deal with – I prefer working with no distractions, and I’m also good at managing my time. I can make myself work regardless of whether I’m in an office or working from home, but the working environment are additional factors that have to be considered.

Before considering this leap, you have to look at yourself and be realistic. Writing may be the world to you, but if you can’t stomach the insecurity of not knowing where your next paycheck is coming from or how to afford insurance, if you thrive on being around people while at work, quiting your traditional job for writing might make things more difficult.

My course of Action

With all of that being said, I am not going to quit my job and give up the security of full-time pay. And here’s why.

I don’t know if I can get something published. Having never sold a book, or even gotten one to a publishable place, it seems a bit irresponsible for me to quit on a whim. Sure, it’s my dream. And sure, it’s something I’ve been doing my whole life, but being able to focus on writing if I’m stressed about my finances would be a stretch.

Instead of quiting, I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing. I am able to find the time to work on my writing despite working a full-time job. I work long days so I get every other Friday off and I usually fit in a little bit of time even on the days I work. I also manage to find the time to make connections and read a ton. Even though my efforts may not always seem to be getting much results, I’m slowly working towards that final goal.

Who knows. Maybe when I get something signed I’ll rethink things. I may decide to scale back my hours or quit all together. But based off of what I’ve seen of the publishing world, based off of the royalty statements I used to send to authors when I worked in publishing, this is a decision I would not arrive at lightly. Because the reality is, writing is satisfying, but it rarely pays the bills.

The plan of action I’ve chosen won’t work for everyone. But it’s always useful when making these types of big decisions to see what other people decided and why.

Did you take the leap? Do you plan to in the near future? Or did you decide to keep doing what your doing? I’d love to hear how others deal with this.