Friday, March 2, 2012

Is Copywriting an Ideal Day Job for Creative Writers?

I was at a party the other night. Drinks were flowing, music was pumping…and I was talking to someone about my job. Yeah, I do that sometimes. I love talking about my job, even at parties when everyone else there is working hard at forgetting their jobs. This is what happens when you quit doing stuff you hate and finally (finally!) make money doing something you love.

I came to copywriting as a creative person looking for a day job. All I wanted was steady, flexible employment that wouldn’t put any unreasonable demands on me about being at the same place at the same time every day (to me, any such demand was unreasonable). I was an aspiring actress and novelist. I wanted freedom to go to auditions whenever I wanted and work on my novels whenever the mood struck me. I didn’t want a boss breathing down my back. Oh, yeah—and I didn’t want to starve. I didn’t see any glamour in living in poverty.

It turned out copywriting was the perfect day job for me. But it isn’t for everybody. Some people find that it’s too hard to stay inspired about their novels, poetry, or other creative writing projects when they’ve been writing all day at work. Others find it too hard to deal with the lack of a steady, guaranteed paycheck or health insurance. If those things would bother you, then it’s probably not for you.

But for me, it was ideal. When I was working in a cubicle farm, I was rarely inspired to write creatively—I was too psychically drained from working in an environment that wasn’t right for me, forty hours a week or more. Now I’m inspired all the time—I’ve actually established a very dependable creative writing habit. The copywriting work doesn’t detract from that for me—the jobs I hated were much worse for my creative writing.

Flexibility helps me with that. I don’t have to be in a certain place every day, and I don’t have to act busy. Whenever I feel like it, I can switch from copywriting to creative writing throughout the day. Usually I do copy til about two or four—depending on the day—and then work for an hour or two on a novel.

Also, I’m good at writing. One of the reasons I was so unhappy in previous jobs was that I wasn’t being paid to do something I loved or had any particular talent in. Some of the things I was being paid to do—such as waiting tables or anything technical—the companies would have been better off paying me not to do. But even if copywriting isn’t exactly the Great American Novel, I’m good at it. I take pride in it. I enjoy it. And even if my creative endeavors never blossom into full-time work themselves, I now have the joy of knowing that I’ve built a life that can make me happy—both creatively and financially.

How do you balance your creative work and your day job?

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