Is being a full-time author all it’s cracked up to be?

I love writing.

When I’m writing a new book, which is pretty much all of the time, I get obsessed with my characters. I take them to bed with me. I wake up with them too. It’s like having a wife but without the sex. On second thoughts, it’s like having a wife.

I’m so in love with writing but I hate the fact that I have to fit it in around other inconveniences like my day job, life admin and my children. OK, maybe the children aren’t that much of an inconvenience. Give them a bottle of cider and the Xbox and they’re happy.

My day job is such an inconvenience. Would you believe it, I have to be there all day. Whose idea was that?

Work pays the bills, but it doesn’t satisfy my writing addiction. It isn’t where I want to be.

I am seriously considering becoming a full-time author. Admittedly, this wouldn’t be a rational decision. My first book is doing well but it has only been on sale for a month. Never mind paying the mortgage, my income from my writing is barely enough to pay the milkman yet.

But my heart keeps beating faster than my head can shake. Why should I let practicalities like shelter and food stop me from pursuing my dream? They say you’ve got to be single-minded to be an author, right?

I would love to be able to write when I want to write, rather than when the kids are in bed or when the boss isn’t looking. (If my boss is reading this, then obviously the last aside was an example of my ‘creative writing’ skills).

But could I write all day? What would being a full-time author feel like? Would steam surge from my laptop keyboard as I knock out novel after novel? Or would I get bored with my own company, want to murder the daytime radio presenters for endlessly repeating themselves and be off down the pub by lunchtime?

There was only one way to find out.

Last week, I booked the week off work, cleared my diary and packed my boys off on a ski trip to Italy with their school mates. The dog and I had the house to ourselves. My aim was to significantly progress my second book, ‘Six Lies’.

This is how I got on.

Friday

Saw the boys off on their ski-ing trip, went to the pub after work to celebrate my week off and came home via the chip shop. Incapable of writing. Number of words written: 0.

Saturday

I can’t be creative with a hangover. Watched the rugby, checked latest sales figures for Six Months to Get a Life on Amazon and shunned Valentine’s Day in favour of Match of the Day. The FA Cup provided me with all the romance I needed. Number of words written: 0.

Sunday

Went for breakfast in Raynes Park with a friend. We arrived too late for breakfast so had lunch instead. Took the dog for a walk. Cooked a chilli. Checked book sales. Number of words written: 0.

Monday

Wrote during the morning, with short stops for putting the washing on, taking the dog out, eating everything I could find in the fridge and checking for new reviews of my book on Amazon. Got a couple of good lines in, including ‘your forehand is better than your foreplay’. Met another author via twitter. Ended up buying and reading her book. Thoroughly entertaining and highly distracting. A good day, finished off with a few pints in the Earl Beatty with the best man at my wedding. At least I’m still talking to him. Number of words written: 700.

Tuesday

Took the dog to have his balls cut off. His creative juices will never flow again. If it’s any consolation Albus, mine didn’t flow today either. Instead, I read the rest of ‘Being Sarah Chilton’. Very funny. Number of words written: 400, approximately 50 of which were spelt wrongly on account of my errant laptop’s habit of not registering random key impressions. Ggggrrrrrr.

Wednesday

Had to stop the dog licking his wounds all day. Eventually, gave him to my ex and went to meet friends in North London. Number of words written: 27.

Thursday

It is impossible to write with a hangover. Recovered, and went to meet another friend to give him a signed copy of Six Months to Get a Life for him to give away as a raffle prize in his work raffle. Number of words written: 0.

Friday

Started training for this summer’s British Heart Foundation charity London to Brighton walk. Trudged 15 miles through the Surrey countryside, followed by a few pints in the pub. Staggered home (dodgy hamstring / dodgy pint). Number of words written: 400, but they were all drunken emails that I should probably not have sent.

Saturday

The boys came home.

What have I learnt from my experiment? Being a full-time author is going to be good fun, but don’t expect my productivity to go up very much.

Update on Six Months to Get a Life

My debut contemporary fiction / romance novel is keeping me smiling. The reviews have continued to flood in. And as an added bonus, most of them are positive too.

13 thoughts on “Is being a full-time author all it’s cracked up to be?

  1. Wendy Clarke February 23, 2015 / 9:43 am

    Sometimes I honestly believe I would write more if I had a full time job – then I’d have to get on with it in what time was left. As it is, I do a bit of writing, walk dog, meet friends for coffee, do a bit more writing, go to choir rehearsal – oh, and waste time commenting on blog posts!

    • Ben Adams February 23, 2015 / 11:39 am

      Wendy, it’s always good to hear from you. Now choir rehearsal, there’s a thought.

  2. jenanita01 February 23, 2015 / 9:47 am

    We are both retired now, so technically full time authors. There is no such thing really. There can’t be, for something will always get in the way and need your attention. Personally, I write better first thing in the morning before the world wakes up, so I think that is the secret. You have to find ‘your’ time and make the most of it.

    • Ben Adams February 23, 2015 / 11:41 am

      I’m with you there. First thing in the morning is my optimum writing time too. And thanks for your continued support, comments and reblogging. Your review of ‘Six Months… still makes me smile!

  3. T.O. Weller February 23, 2015 / 8:03 pm

    Thanks for this Ben. I think a lot of writers struggle with the same problem. We will say we don’t have time but, when we have time we don’t use it as we “should”.
    The challenge, as I’m finding it since I’ve been free of the day job, is to treat writing like a job, because that’s what it is in the sense of scheduling things. It means, butt-in-chair every day, at the same time every day.
    Yes, life can interrupt. But it shouldn’t any more than it interrupts the “day job”.
    You enjoyed a long-deserved holiday … it wasn’t a fair measure of how things would be. 🙂

    • Ben Adams March 1, 2015 / 12:04 pm

      Tracey, sorry for taking so long to get back to you. I am with you. Being disciplined is the key. But does that take the fun out of it? Only time will tell I suppose.

  4. Moira Please (@MoiraPlease1) February 27, 2015 / 10:31 am

    Oh yes I recognise this. I’m retired (but very young obviously) and write every day. I can’t imagine how I ever put up with going to work. Yes there are times when my word output is not 5000 words a day or anything like that, but after a while you will become more disciplined. After all a single week off work is more like a holiday to start with. And why not? I thought your book was terrific, more like that and you will be flying. I would say go for it! And good luck!

    • Ben Adams March 1, 2015 / 12:07 pm

      Moira, I’m so glad you found the blog and enjoyed the book. When I told my kids I might be giving up my job, they asked if I was retiring!

  5. Stuart Lennon March 1, 2015 / 11:39 am

    Fun post Ben. I’m happy to report that Twitter and the Blog are working – I have found you, read some pasts and bought the book. As I am just starting out on writing a book, I am going to delve back through the blog.

  6. Ben Adams March 1, 2015 / 12:08 pm

    Stuart, welcome! I have just replied to you on twitter too. Feel free to shout if you have any questions. I probably won’t know the answers but we can stumble through it together!

  7. kritsayvonne March 2, 2015 / 9:44 pm

    Ha ha, loved this. So easy to get side tracked… I put my ironing board up at 8.30 a.m. today, nothing was going to get in my way. Oh, except for that new Facebook group I’ve joined, a Twitter feed that I still haven’t worked out how to master, a few emails, downloading photos from recent trip to Crete, research into the effects of gangrene, a walk in the sun, coffee in the new Costa – just to try it out, dinner, a look through blogs. Oh, ironing tomorrow, unless I wake up with a new chapter bursting out. X

  8. AlexandriaConstantinova April 20, 2015 / 6:51 pm

    To take a year off work and write my first novel full-time (20+ years ago), I borrowed my salary at the time, $18K @ 17 ⅞% interest, from the bank and wrote. After they approved the loan (with my house as collateral & a letter from University saying I’d have my job when I got back), I went home and threw up, cried for hours wondering what I’d just done, then spent the 1st month “thinking” about what I was going to write.

    My best friend politely suggested that I perhaps I might start thinking at my desk with a pen in my hand. She told me to consider it my new “day job.” I did. At first, I could only write a couple hours a day, but spent the remainder of the day reviewing research for the novel. By the end of that year, I was writing 12-14 hours a day and setting alarms to remind myself to eat something and get some sleep.

    It taught me that I could write full-time, though it was the hardest job I’d ever had.

    After paying off all my debts the last ten years I taught, and retiring from University after 30+ years, I now write full-time. And it’s still the hardest job I’ve ever had. I still can’t even pay the milkman with my book earnings, but I live on my meager retirement and am “living the dream.”

    Best of luck to you, my friend, Alexandria

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