A Writer Has To Live

Dustpan and brush (my drawing)
Dustpan and brush (my drawing)

A writer has to live.  A writer has to write.

Many writers have other careers, often working in demanding and responsible job roles and write in the evenings and weekends, but this didn’t work for me.  I couldn’t summon up the time or energy to when I was in full-time work (about two years ago).   I was a college lecturer, so my supposedly free time, at home, was taken up with lesson preparation and marking.   I know of others, who used to write, but now don’t, because they have been subsumed into their day jobs.

So what do you do?  It’s significant that many don’t start submitting and publishing until their middle years.  Some retire early and live off their pensions.  But, what if you’re too young to retire or your pension isn’t going to keep you in the manner to which you’ve become accustomed?

You can attempt to do your career-type job part-time.  I tried, Dear Reader, I tried.  To an extent, I’m still trying, but it’s difficult.  You’ve heard of mission-creep?  There’s also job-creep, where you’re so used to a job role taking over your whole life when working full-time that it still does, even when you’re part-time or sessional.  In my case, I was spending (supposedly) writing time preparing lessons, marking them, attending meetings that were only tangentially relevant to me and also staff development (which I didn’t need).  What a writer needs is a jobby job, where you turn up, do the work, then go home and write.  Here are a few suggestions:

Learning support assistant (or teaching assistant)

Learning Support Practitioner (my drawing)
Learning Support Practitioner (my drawing)

Apply to any local school or college.  You commit to as many or as few hours as you wish.  You sit with, and support, your students in class, then go home when they do.  There may be a few meetings and your line manager may try to get you to take a qualification, but most schools and colleges are desperate for LSPs, with or without pieces of paper. I haven’t worked in this role myself, but I’ve worked closely with many LSPs who write, paint, play music and just do family life.

Exam Invigilator

Exam Room
Exam Room (My drawing)

Apply to local schools, colleges and universities.  You turn up half an hour before the exam to set up the room, and you leave about five minutes after it finishes.  End of.  Again, you commit to as much or as little as you wish.  The only drawback is that it’s seasonal work (very busy in May and June),  but not as much as you think, as there are vocational and Functional Skills exams taking place almost all year.  You will be welcomed with open arms, as more and more qualifications involve exams, so more invigilators are required.  I’m doing this now, about three days a week – at the moment.

Election Staff (Poll Clerk/ Presiding Officer/ Counting Assistant)

Voting paper (my drawing)
Voting paper (my drawing)

One of the advantages of living in a democracy! Obviously, these sort of posts only become available at election time (about once, or twice a year in the UK), but the pay is excellent and a useful top up to other sources of income.  Poll clerks and Presiding Officers have a long day (fifteen hours), often sitting doing nothing for long periods, but counting assistants could be through in two or three hours (late at night) or be still counting after twelve hours (in the event of a recount).  I’m being a Poll Clerk again, at the General Election on 8 June.


Again it’s stipulated hours, working when you’re working and otherwise out the building. I haven’t done this for a long time.


Dustpan and brush (my drawing)
Dustpan and brush (my drawing)

I know of at least one successful writer whose day job is cleaning.

Most of us writers, being university educated, feel entitled to a professional role, which takes time and emotional energy.  Do you want to write or have a career?  Or… have you had your career and is it now time to write?

As I’m fed up looking for photos online, I’ve done my own drawings and scanned.  I’m no artist.  I hope they will do!


5 thoughts on “A Writer Has To Live

  1. Nice post Rosemary. If anything it convinces me to survive without resorting to small part time jobs – because I know that any interruption, any day of any week, is a setback to getting somewhere creatively. Though if the cost of living keeps on rising… I may reconsider. We ain’t in it for the money, are we?

    1. If we were in it for the money, we would’ve quit a long time ago. It’s interesting that certain writers, in the past, wrote because they were strapped for cash – Johanna Spyri, author of Heidi, for instance.

  2. Great drawings!

    I’m not university educated and that might be off help in some ways as I don’t feel I’m wasting that education by not having a proper job and ‘just’ writing.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Patsy. I know that, for some time, you combined writing with a ‘day job’. Can you tell us how that worked for you?

  3. The drawings are lovely! So much better than stock photos. I have come to the conclusion – like most other writers – that living off of your writing is near damn impossible. So I write when I can and keep on working part-time, or as part-time as my finances will allow it!

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