Monday, February 16, 2009

Don't Give Up the Day Job

By Sue Ann Jaffarian

In the past two weeks I’ve been asked by four separate people when I’m going to give up my day job as a paralegal and write full-time. Yes, it’s true, I have 4 books out, 2 others written and delivered to my publisher, and contracts for 9 others. To people not involved with publishing, it looks like I’ve “made it” and should be quitting my job as a paralegal any day now.

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha

I have come to the conclusion that people who are able to write novels full-time have: 1) a publisher giving them HUGE advances, 2) a significant other with a very well-paid job and understanding heart, 3) a trust fund, 4) sold a business or stock when the economy was booming, 5) an illegal and lucrative side business, 6) a sugar daddy or sugar momma paying their bills, or 7) won the lotto and not telling anyone.

Trust me when I say this, Sue Ann Jaffarian falls into none of the above categories.

But am I bitter? No, truthfully, I’m not. A bit envious, maybe. I’d love to be able to write full-time. Oh, but wait! I sort of write full-time now, don’t I? I mean, I am involved in writing and writing-related work at least 30 hours each week. In some places, 30 hours is considered full-time work. I just do it while juggling a full-time non-writing career.

But this blog isn’t about crying into my work-place coffee. It’s about singing the praises of the day job. So here it is, all the things my career as a paralegal brings to my other career – my career as an author:

Because of my day job,

I’m much more disciplined in how I spend my writing time;
I have health, life, and dental insurance;
I have a retirement plan with matching contributions;
I meet and interact with lovely people who have become like family;
I can expand my reader base;
I have easier access to legal, law enforcement, and other research materials;
I get up, shower, and get dressed in decent clothes five days out of seven;
I continue to learn new things;
I’m not an odd, strange, hermit of a woman who can’t remember what day, month, or year it is.

Well, okay, maybe that last item is fudging a bit.

And, like Odelia Grey, the character I've created, I really enjoy being a paralegal in a law firm. Really, I do.

(Note to InkSpot readers: After a short hiatus, I am back at Inkspot blogging on an irregular basis. You can catch me several times a week blogging at my personal blog at


Keith Raffel said...

Sue Ann, Are there openings at your firm? Wait. The commute would kill me.

Cricket McRae said...

Gosh, Sue Ann -- you make it sound so great now I want to be a paralegal!

Julia Buckley said...

Great post, Sue-Ann! I too have a day job, and I too have nowhere near the income it would take to work solely on writing. But someone at a writing conference once told me she thought the day job gave people MORE energy and incentive to accomplish things in the time they had left at the end of the day. I agree with that.

My life is very regimented, and I don't have much of what I would call "play time," but the consequence of this life is that when I do find myself with free time I have absolutely no idea what to do with it, and I start to crave my previous structure.

Terri Thayer said...

See that thing about getting showered and dressed five days a week? Right there is why I'm unsuitable for employment.

G.M. Malliet said...

Jeffery Deaver was a guest speaker at the recent Love is Murder. He talked about quitting his day job. I don't think money was a particular worry by that point, but he did worry about the isolation. Not having that water cooler to stand around, and people to swap stories with.

Finally he made the plunge. The first morning of his freedom, he woke up and realized he'd never felt so happy.

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Thanks, everyone, for dropping by. One day, I'd like to try giving up the day job and see how I'd do, but (money issues aside) I also worry about the isolation (like Deaver's concern) and about losing my discipline. On weekends when I don't have other things on my calendar, I find I tend to fritter away much of the day, as opposed to a work day when I get all my writing time in without a fuss. I seem to be one of those folks who need the structure to be productive.

Felicia Donovan said...

I think you're right about the "day job" forcing you to be much more disciplined about the writing job. I'm disciplined about both, but I don't know how inclined I'd be to get up and be at my desk every morning by 8AM if I didn't have a boss checking in.

In any case, in this economy, these days we're all grateful for our "day jobs."

Jessica Lourey said...

I'm with you, Terri.

Lynn Sholes said...

I feel your pain and your security both at the same time. It is just so hard to make a living writing. I still have the day job, too.
Lynn Sholes

Deborah Sharp said...

Leave it to Sue Ann to find the positive side of things. I think you're lucky to have that job in these iffy times .... and, of course, they're lucky to have YOU!