A Writer's Life 2: What Do You Do All Day?

Christopher Fowler
Writer Why not be a writer? Because writing is not plumbing, you idiots! You can't be taught it unless there's already a natural propensity for it. I always had a day job, but two years ago I was finally in a position to switch to full-time writing from home. The changeover was easier than I'd been expecting, but there were still a few surprises in store. A deal had to be struck between salary and satisfaction. More and more of us are concerned about the work/life balance these days. My job was reliable money, and even after thirty books my writing remuneration was too irregular to take into account. Could I still do it? Well, I made the jump with some adjustments and haven't regretted it so far. Friends started saying 'But you're too young to retire.' I had to keep explaining that writing is not a retirement hobby like water colours, but my 'real job', ie. the one that fuels happiness. If I stayed in too much I found I became overly reliant on the internet. Also, my partner has a day job and wants to stay home and chill at weekends, just when I need to escape the confines of the house. The answer was to take trips out during the working week. I set aside a regular time to mooch around the streets looking for ideas. On rainy days it can mean ending up in museums full of elderly tourists while all my friends are at work. Sometimes it feels like watching the world from above and laughing at people in regular employment. Other days it's like being dead. If you're going to be in it all day long, a home office really needs a window. There's something idea-killing about looking up from your screen to a wall. I decided to move from a dark Victorian terrace, and found a place with plenty of light. No chance of getting SAD, but on sunny days I can't see my computer screen. There's a danger of turning into a homemaker instead of working. I seem to have become my building's concierge simply because I'm doorbell-answerable. It was important to establish in the minds of others that my home space needed to be thought of as my office, with similar hours. I hired a trainer to come in and stop me from turning into a vegetable. He also provided stretching exercises I could do by myself. Planning work at least two or three days ahead helped a lot. I take non-essential calls between one and two p.m. It's when office workers make their calls, and is easier for everyone. Home-writing allows for the kind of freeform thinking I could rarely manage when I was squeezing the work in between office hours. It has let me to embark on projects I would not otherwise have had the time to think through. But I talk to the postman way too much. Writers without a secondary paying job are called Homeworkers, not Shut-Ins. More to follow.


Helen Martin (not verified) Tue, 17/11/2009 - 02:29

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

What is the balance between research and writing? If you live in London and write about it, some research can be done by going out and looking at it, but there's a lot of confirmation (was that 1826 or '30?) that can be done on the internet or in atlases, histories and such. It is very easy to become so wrapped up in the research that the original question gets lost. And which comes first, or is it a bit of both? You get an idea, research the obvious bits, then write until a question comes up or what?

Steve (not verified) Tue, 17/11/2009 - 04:26

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

"Oh yes wait a minute Mr. Postman, Way-yay-yay-yate Mr. Postman" comes immediately to mind.
The Beatles, not the Marvelettes.
Also, I thought you weren't using the post anymore.....?
Suppose that wouldn't necessarily stop you from chatting though....