Many writers dream of quitting their day job to work full-time as an author. Author Tracy Barrett is one of the rare writers who managed to take this momentous step.
Barrett (pictured, via) taught Italian at Vanderbilt University for 28 years, but decided to leave her day job and write full time in 2012. At the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) Summer Conference in Los Angeles last weekend, she shared lessons for writers considering the same step.
“Leaving your job is like having a baby, you can’t wait for the perfect time,” she explained. “The time is never perfect.” She had tried to balance her busy writing life with teaching, but discovered “I only had a certain amount of creative juice, it burned up the spark.”
However, before you quit your day job, Barrett urged writers to consider ALL the resources you will lose in addition to salary if you leave your day job. They include: medical insurance, paid vacation, paid sick days, paid parental leave, paid personal days and pension plans.
Writers should also consider the dramatic change in lifestyle that comes with leaving your day job. Beyond financial considerations, this lifestyle change has both social and psychological effects.
“Writing is very solitary,” Barrett reminded the audience. If you do decide to leave your day job, she offered some important tips about keeping focused and sane…
Tips for Writers Working from Home
1. Find a good critique group
2. Meet with other writers occasionally
3. Fight the urge to become a recluse
4. Stay organized! (She shared tips about this topic on her blog)
5. Set a writing schedule (“I got absolutely rigid about writing I wrote a minimum two hours in morning, with two hours in afternoon of writing or revision. Phone calls, facebook, marketing, etc.–all of that had to be tackled at other times of the day.”)
6. Make sure to take breaks. “After a month, I had to take one writing-free day every week. The creative well fills up on that day. Once I was in the habit of it, I could relax a bit.”
Jason Boog is the former editor of GalleyCat. Simon & Schuster’s Touchstone imprint just published his first book, Born Reading: Bringing Up Bookworms in a Digital Age.