Being a writer and working on the side

In the column “Ask the Paris Review” today, someone asked for advice on what job a writer should have (to keep food on the table). This is a problem I’ve been struggling with for years. How does one keep the balance between being creative and being able to pay the bills? Every job I’ve had has been too demanding for me to be able to do anything but eat and sleep when I got home. The dilemma – for me at last – is that I feel like I have a good diploma, so I’m not able to to work as, say, a waitress (been there, done that) or in telemarketing etc. It may sound snobbish, but just cannot do it. If I’m going to be working for eight hours a day, I at least need to be challenged a little bit. Well, that was until I moved to France.

Of course, perfect people have a job in publishing or in a magazine while they also write novels. Once I went to a book party for a guy who had just released his first novel. He was a doctor! AND he was a father (to an infant child). I mean, how does he do it? When does he find time to write?

It’s complicated to find “qualified” work when you don’t live in your own country. Living in Paris, my French would have to be perfect for me to get a job in publishing (even though I have a Master of comparative literature). Well, guess what. Written French is worse than Chineese, so I still have a long way to go. I have been trying to get a job in a book shop, but in this economy no one is hiring. I also have this plan to work in a library, but then I’ll have to take another Master, and who can afford that?

While my pocket book is becoming thinner and thinner, I’m getting more and more desperate. Then,  out of the blue somone calls me, and I may be able to start working next week. The job itself doesn’t sound very intersting, but it’s very good money. The need to pay the bills obligates me to swallow my pride for some time, and just take whatever job I can get my hands on. The problem is that I’ll be in an office every day between nine and five. It will also take me an hour to get to work from where I live. But I’m thinking, what the hell. When I don’t work, I worry so much about money that I’m to stressed out to be creative anyway.

I don’t know how I’ll do this, but I was thinking of getting up early to write an hour before work, and then go to bed early again. I think, whatever happens, one just have to find a way to work around the day job. If writing is important, one will always find time for it. Right?

Here is the link for the Paris Review post:


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