A Writers’ Other Jobs piece from Adam Ford

One of the things to consider when looking around for a job that’s going to pay your bills to make up for the fact that your writing doesn’t is that the time spent doing that not-your-writing job is time that you could have spent actually working on your own writing.

To ease this frustration I usually go for jobs that are related to writing. It’s supposed to be what I’m good at, so it’s easier for me to get writing-related jobs than other kinds of jobs. All of my day jobs to date – bar my teenage stint at Kentucky Fried Chicken (back when they didn’t like to admit what the “F” stood for) and that summer when I was a security guard at the MCG Cricket Museum – have been either editorial or authorial jobs of one kind or another. My current job as content editor for a government youth website fits that writing-and-editing bill nicely.

The idea is that, even if I’m spending the majority of each week writing or editing things for other people, the continual exposure to writing means it’s time not entirely ill spent.

Spending 37.6 hours of each week not writing my own stuff doesn’t leave much time for my own stuff, though. Factor in things like being a father of two kids under 10, commuting 8 hours each week, and a funny little thing I like to call getting enough sleep, there’s only just enough time to sit around the house feeling exhausted and maybe, in a fit of guilt or self-improvement, find a handful of hours in which to push forward on the novel I’ve been working on on-and-off since about 2001.

More than a lack of time for writing, my real problem is that I have a self-sabotaging tendency to spend my scarce spare time taking on other writing gigs over and above said novel. This year I’ve signed myself up as a regular guest blogger for Going Down Swinging, a poetry reviewer for Bookslut, and a reviewer for the Australian Comics Journal, accepted a commission for a short story from Desktop and another for a guest post for Writers’ Bloc. I also run my own personal blog, which I try to update weekly, and am writing a twitter novel that I try to update every weekday.

Some of this stuff has been paid writing, some of it unpaid. It’s all been fun, and it’s supposedly helped me to hone my craft, get my name out there and bring in a little more cash. None of it has been my novel.

As someone prone to procrastination and spreading myself thin, I find it hard not to privilege these writing assignments, with their firm and established deadlines, (occasional) financial remuneration and sense of closure once completed, over the long-term commitment, unclear completion date and gratis nature of writing the first draft of a novel.

Until recently the way I had been thinking about taking on these gigs was that they amounted to taking on a second job, but what I’d overlooked was that I already have a second job: I’m a content editor for a government youth website.

In light of this realisation I’ve stepped down from Bookslut and ACJ and have worked out how to make my Going Down Swinging blogs as low-impact as possible. I’m also planning to put my own blog into low-content mode and scale back the update frequency of the twitter novel.

Finally, I hereby affirm that, after I turn in this guest post to Writers Bloc, I will not take on any additional writing assignments at all so that I can focus on my first job: finishing this novel.

Adam Ford is the author of three poetry collections, one novel, a short story collection and a bunch of comics and zines. He lives in Chewton, in Central Victoria, with his wife, their 2 kids, a cat and five chickens. His website is www.theotheradamford.wordpress.com.

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