Writer with a “Day Job”

29 Aug

Let’s face it, unless you have a book on the New York Times Best Seller‘s list, a healthy trust fund or a hardworking spouse that doesn’t mind supporting you until you are a household name then you probably need to work a “day job“.

My life so far has seen me try many occupations. I have worked in a mail room, cooked pizzas for a fast food delivery place, done door-to-door political canvassing, been a tutor at a junior college, bar bouncer and worked my way from the kid who dipped fish out of the aquarium tanks with a net to assistant manager of a big-box retail store.

Most recently, I did a short stint as an outdoor construction laborer. I tore down and installed seamless rain-guttering. I must not have been too good at it as I stopped getting called for jobs. Just yesterday, I was hired by a Christian-owned hobby supply store as a backroom stock man (stock “boy” is too pejorative I guess). It is hard physical work but the gig is temporary and seasonal as they only hired me to get through their busy holiday season. I am looking at picking up work as a substitute teacher and of course I am trying to pick up even more freelance writing work.

Freelance writing is sort of a hustle and you have to constantly be looking for and following up leads on new work. When the new work just isn’t there then you need the dreaded “day job”.  I’m a writer but to pay the bills I will do just about anything.

Nothing is sexier than saying, “Hey, I’m a writer”…right?

My needs are few. Food in the fridge and comfortable place to sit are really the only priorities. Give me an internet connection and a lap top to write on and I am happy. Still with these few needs, the bills need paid.

What did famous writers do to pay the bills? An article in Flavorwire revealed the Strange Day Jobs of Authors Before They Were Famous.  Writers struggling to get their first works published are often told “Don’t Quit Your Day Job” but just what kinds of crazy jobs do you imagine those writers had. I will make a column of famous writers and a column of possible employment and try to match them up. When you are done guessing then click on the article in Flavorwire to check your answers.

J.D. Salinger                                                        Singer

George Saunders                                               Floor Model at Bloomingdale’s

Franz Kafka                                                         School Janitor

Tom McCarthy                                                    Exterminator

John Steinbeck                                                   Managed a Saab Dealership

John D’Agata                                                       Garbageman (for one day!)

William Faulkner                                              Guinea Pig for CIA Psych Experiments

T.S. Eliot                                                                Busboy

Robert Frost                                                         Doctor with a Full-time Practice                                                      

Jack London                                                         Selling Dental Products By Phone

 Ken Kesey                                                              “Oyster Pirate” and Hobo

Langston Hughes                                                 Changing Light Bulb Filaments

William Carlos Williams                                  Lloyd’s Bank of London

Nicholas Sparks                                                    University Postmaster

Wells Tower                                                            Condom Shop (NOT sex shop)

Kurt Vonnegut                                                        Guided Tours of a Fish Hatchery

Siri Hustvedt                                                           Nude Model

Steven King                                                              Workmen’s Accident Insurance

William S. Burroughs .                                        Worked in a Slaughterhouse

James Joyce                                                             Worked on a Swedish Luxury Liner

Remember that the “day jobs” and authors are mixed up but see how many you can guess before you check the answers.

What “day jobs” do you work? What is the craziest “day job” that you have had to work? What is the “day job” for a writer? Is working a “day job” a help or a hindrance to a career as a professional writer? What do you think? Leave your answers in the comments.

9 Responses to “Writer with a “Day Job””

  1. jiltaroo August 30, 2012 at 4:25 AM #

    My craziest day job was a topless waitress …and I didn’t even write then!

    • seanomurphy August 30, 2012 at 12:09 PM #

      That’s an interesting “day job”.Have you wrote about that experience yet/ I was a bouncer in a bar of “questionable virtue”. Actually, I was a bouncer in a few bars over the years. It was a great place to observe characters.

      • jiltaroo August 30, 2012 at 7:22 PM #

        I haven’t quite got to that bit yet!

  2. admingwyn September 5, 2012 at 8:39 PM #

    Great post–thanks for mentioning my post, as well 🙂 I think you’ve described some interesting day jobs to be sure. My day job is in PR, and I worked in a bookstore through uni, so not many crazy/wacky day job experiences to share, but I think working a day job is something I used to think of as a hindrance in terms of not having enough time, which is something I’m still struggling with, but I’m starting to try to see it as a help and looking at it from a different angle.

    • seanomurphy September 5, 2012 at 9:14 PM #

      What was your university education? I considered a career in Public Relations (but decided being a bartender was more fun when I was university age). I did relate with the public.


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