Pros and Cons of Writing Full Time
Writing full-time is a dream for many, but quitting the day job at the wrong time can be a lethal mistake. Not everyone has what it takes to write full-time, and in some cases, it isn’t even a good decision. It says nothing of the ability of your writing, and relying on writing for money transforms it from a passionate art into a competitive game of commercialism.
At the same time, it’s easy to feel like writing full time is your only option if you want to be taken seriously as an author, or that you’ve failed if you can’t support yourself on royalties alone. Self-publishing is already competitive, and the days of the Kindle gold rush are now long past. Successful self-published authors typically have to publish often and publish well to get a good reputation, and the dedication required is a full-time job in itself.
If you’re considering making the full move, here are some pros, cons and questions to get you thinking.
You’ll finally have time to get stuff done. The further you make it in publishing, the more stuff you need to do. Full-time authors frequently find themselves drafting one book, editing a second, and formatting and releasing a third all at the same time. That’s hard to keep up with if you have a day job and might be impossible. If writing is what you do full time, you have a chance to delegate your work and focus on quality.
You can commit to a more active and reliable publishing schedule. With a busy day job, your ability to write comes and goes. You can’t always commit to one book every couple months because you never know when something else will come up. Your writing time also has to compete with family time and personal time, and so it might have to take a back seat at the cost of potential publishing success. When writing is your job, you can set things up as rigidly as you want.
Bragging rights. It’s fun to be able to tell others that you’re a full-time author. It’s also fun to watch your writing empire grow when you have the time to treat it right and pursue it the way you want, and the accolades you’ll earn will make you feel like you made the right choice.
Having time doesn’t mean you’ll be able to use it. Many authors quit their day jobs only to find themselves writing the exact same amount over the course of a day as they would before. As it turns out, the pressure of having to write while working a day job helps your productivity so much that it almost cancels out the procrastination that comes with writing full time. If you want to write full-time, you need to have the drive to maintain it.
Limiting your income to writing is a new kind of stress. Writing sounds like the dream job, but if you value your stories for their literary merit and the unique flair they add to your readers’ bookshelves, you might be frustrated with the pressure to be a commercial success. When your merit is based on writing in common genres and nailing the right tropes, you could find yourself headed for burnout instead of writing glory.
Household and living situations come into play. Are you the breadwinner in your house? If you have dependents or if your income makes up for a lot of your living situation, you’ll have a hard time dropping it to write full time. In these situations, you’ll want to wait until you’re already earning well more than enough to support yourself, which could be nearly impossible to reach.
Questions to ask if you’re making the decision:
How much are you already earning? If you’re just getting started, there’s no rush to dive in full-time. Building a good backlist and winning readers onto your email list is an important priority early on but will probably cost more money than it could pay out. When your royalty payments start really kicking in, you’ll have a good chance to reconsider.
Do you have a fallback plan if it doesn’t work? Quitting your job to write full-time is a risk. Your books might not pull in as much as you’d hoped, something unexpected could get between you and your writing, or maybe you’ll suffer burnout. Having an alternative income stream is vital when you’re starting out.
Are you sure this is really what you want? Writing full-time sounds glamorous, but sometimes it isn’t. You’ll have to commit to keeping an active publishing lineup and work up the discipline to maintain reliably productive workdays. You might also realize that what you wanted wasn’t necessarily writing full-time at all.
Are you thinking of making the leap into writing full-time? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below. Alternately you can click the blue button to visit the Pen and Glory Facebook group for self-publishing fiction writers for more discussion.