Recently, someone confessed to me that they thought I was a full time writer. Ha.
I’ll admit that when I was a baby writer I actually did think it would be possible to be a full time writer – maybe not easily, but it was POSSIBLE, as in, like, just keep getting better and working on your craft and put yourself out there and eventually it’ll happen.
Obviously I’m still working on figuring this out and realizing there’s a whole part of networking and, you know, SPEAKING OUT LOUD WHAT YOU WANT that I just never learned that is wrapped up in writing careers. That has to do just a TAD with some gender politics, the school system, and the lies of the American Dream, but that’s another blog.
But recently being a writer in almost any medium seems to get harder and harder. The WGA is in the middle of a Writers’ Strike that has put a spotlight on the gigification of one of the few well-paid writing jobs out there. And the event is turning multi-union so let’s hope that what’s happening now will make writing a viable career for those in the future, but there’s no doubt the entertainment industry is shifting.
And AI threatens to fuck over not only creative writers but adjacent jobs like copywriting. In a TRULY bad faith launch during a fucking WRITERS’ STRIKE, Sudowrite launched an AI story engine that is supposed to help write a full book and it’s just a goddamn mess, especially with the ways they maybe used authors’ work for the AI learning without the writers’ knowledge. Clarkesworld magazine had to cut off their submissions earlier this year because of an influx of AI created stories that were clogging up the system. Ted Chiang wrote an article in the New Yorker about how AI functions in many ways to just make the rich richer and disenfranchise the poor, especially when it is used to try to replace workers in response to unionization (in just another example of how AI can be an amazing tool for certain things, but there are fuckers out there who want to just RUIN everything). The fiction world has been slowly crumbling as book advances are shrinking and the underpaid and over-worked editors have been leaving the publishing industry in droves since the pandemic.
Theatres across the country are also shrinking their seasons due to high costs and the slow recovery from the deep shut down days of the pandemic. We lost so many new play development organizations in the last few years, like the Lark, that it feels like…where do we even go?
I think my big dream had always been that I could make half of my income on writing – so like 20 hours of writing-related things a week and 20 hours doing something else, if we’re thinking in terms of a 40-hour work week, which, let’s be real, I have NEVER experienced since I moved to LA as a 22-year-old and worked a full time office job and waitressed on the weekends. That’s basically been my life (60+ hour weeks) except for maybe that one 9-month period where I was severely under-employed right out of grad school – because, surprise, an MFA makes people less interested in you, it seems. But don’t worry. Those other 20 hours were filled with lots of DREAD.
So I always knew I’d need to be doing something else paired with writing – whether that’s me not believing in my abilities or just knowing that my brain would get bored and would want to be building something else. You can decide.
Honestly, I’m always worried that “writing” has become my entire personality. Except for people who have seen my ghost tattoo and so then they can add “ghost stuff” to the list of my two personality traits.
But yo, we still gotta make rent. So whateva! It’s all COOOLLL, dude.
Currently, I work part time as the publicist at the Department of Theatre & New Dance at Cal Poly Pomona, part time as the Development Manager at Invertigo Dance Theatre, and part time as the Associate Artistic Director at Rogue Artists Ensemble. In addition, I write grants on a freelance basis right now for ELLA (Empowering Leadership in Latina Athletes) and have worked with many other nonprofits as opportunities come up. I’ve done a little teaching and often grade for the dance department at USC. I also pick up gigs doing writing projects or directing projects, but this is less often than I’d like.
I think it’s important to be transparent about how writers actually survive in the world. Being a full time writer is achievable, absolutely, but much of it depends on knowing folks and getting lucky, and luck is hard to come by. I feel lucky that so much of my day job work is in the performing arts world or helping nonprofits in general – especially non-profits where I make art (Rogue), and non-profits that have taught me how art and social justice can be gorgeously intertwined (Invertigo Dance Theatre).
Though I often find myself daydreaming about making a living doing something totally divorced from writing and nonprofits (because it’s hard, yo) – like, I don’t know, working at a plant and garden supply store and just taking care of the plants.
Yes, that was a real option I was considering recently. Seemed nice.
It seems that part of our job as writers is to make it seem like we don’t HAVE a DAY JOB. But this is capitalism and, I’m sorry, the money has to come from somewhere. And if people are full time writers but still aren’t getting a living wage (*cough* Writers’ Strike *cough*) then we have to get over the notion of feeling “lucky” to just be in the room and have to “put up” with an unsustainable life.
So what is YOUR day job?
If you’re like me and are always wondering what that day job should be that will perfectly balance your non-writing interests while also supporting your writing habit, I’ve put together a little quiz for you! It’s embedded below.
But really – what is your day job? (I need ideas). Ha.