Writing Full Time: Living the Dream, or Not

Last week, I was interviewed by podcaster, mystery novelist, and artist, Joanna Vander Vlugt. Joanna’s podcast, JVCArtStudio From the Dressing Room. We discussed all sorts of things about writing and the writing life. Please check it out  at: https://anchor.fm/jcvartstudio/episodes/Mystery-Author–Debra-Purdy-Kong-e16s9ns

Now, I need to thank blogger Jacqui Murray for today’s post. We were discussing a topic on her blog, which gave me the idea for this one. Thank you Jacqui!

I know many writers dream of writing full time. It was mine, too. I was lucky to have that opportunity for three years when I left the world of retail and took time to decide what to do next. By the time I ventured into security work, I was more than ready to return to part-time work, and not just for the steady paycheck. You see, I never intended to write full time permanently.

The truth is, some of my best ideas for short stories, essays, novellas, and novels, came from real-life experiences. In the podcast, Joanna and I discussed Casey Holland mystery #4, The Deep End, because it was the book that most draws on my experience. When I was a criminology student, I volunteered at a youth detention center and kept notes for a paper I’d be writing for a course. Let me tell you, those notes came in handy when I started that book two decades later.

I’ve found plenty of inspiration and motivation by simply going out in the world. Whether through employment, fitness centers, volunteering, socializing, hobbies, writing events, or riding public transit, there are endless opportunities to pick up snippets of great dialogue, create a character, or define a setting.

During those three years, it turned out that I wasn’t that much more productive than I had been when working part-time jobs. I’d learn to become efficient with time management. If I only had forty-five minutes to write, then I got down to it. If I had a whole morning, I’d browse the net and answer emails before opening up the WIP. The point is, you don’t have to be a full-time writer to be a productive writer.

Even if you’re writing world-building fantasy and science fiction novels, your stories still need conflict, relationship, and dialogue, and ideas for your plots can certainly come from real life.

If you’ve already put decades into the workforce and have done plenty of volunteering, hopefully you have notebooks full of ideas, bits of dialogue and setting notes. Still, there’s nothing like a change of scenery to help you get a fresh perspective on your work, to see or touch or smell something new. And wouldn’t it be great if the best of those moments were woven into your manuscript?

If you find you’re at your best writing full time, then go for it, but take those breaks, try something new, a new exercise regime, a new recipe, a new place to visit in your own locale. You might be amazed at what’ll it do for your writing.

Author: debrapurdykong

I'm a British Columbia author who's been writing for over 30 years. My volunteer experiences, criminology diploma, and various jobs, inspired me to write mysteries set in BC’s Lower Mainland. Employment as a campus security patrol and communications officer provide the background for my my Casey Holland transit security novels. I'm also a part-time facilitator in Creative Writing Workshops through Port Moody's Recreation program. Feel free to contact me at dpurdykong@gmail.com

12 thoughts on “Writing Full Time: Living the Dream, or Not”

  1. Superb reflections, Debra and I think writers need and draw on inspiration from life around us all, wherever form that may be! Yes, managing time is an important and vital skill … it is far too easy to procrastinate! How lovely this post came about from a conversation with Jacqui and shows the gift of this wonderful community!

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    1. So glad you found the info helpful. Joanna is excellent. We’ve met a couple of times on Zoom before the podcast and I’ve listened to at least half a dozen of hers. I think it worked well because she’s someone I really connect with.

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  2. I totally believe and agree that new experiences allow for new creations – new thoughts, new topics, new approaches and meeting new people (characters). Diversity in life is a stimulus to many great pursuits. 🙂

    As you know, I write about my experiences as well, but in memoir/non-fiction. Even though I have plenty of material (notes, diaries, blog posts, emails) to last me a lifetime regarding writing new books, it is time for a new endeavor for exactly the reasons you mention in this post. A change of scenery and focus…

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  3. Sometimes this is why I think writers who are bestselling authors seem to lose their “punch” and more characters become writers as well…I think they get trapped by their own success, unable to “venture out” into the world and experience things like they did before they were famous…Maybe that’s why the Classic authors were so good for so long — they could still go places and be anonymous to experience life…

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