The Downsides of Writing Full-Time

It’s not always the job you dreamed of. Maybe that’s OK.

I’ve come across many writers who have day jobs that aren’t related to writing, who write on the side, and want to transition into full-time-writer mode.

I’ve also “met” plenty of writers who have tried writing full-time professionally and aren’t sure that’s what they want to keep doing the rest of their lives.

There are plenty of obvious benefits to a full-time writer role — a (hopefully) steady paycheck being one of them. But there are also downsides — and for some writers, those are deal-breakers. Here are some of the turnoffs that might help you decide if going or staying full-time is right for you.

The pressure to produce more, and more, and more

Every writer’s situation is a little bit different depending on who you write for, what you write about, and the like. I work for a media company, which means I’m paid to produce as much content as possible each week so their sites can generate more revenue through ads. It’s not a problem — that’s how the business works, which is really hard for a lot of people to accept. But whatever.

This is fine as long as the quality of your work doesn’t suffer. But it also means that whatever you write might not go through a thorough editing process, or the pressure to produce gets to you (it happens) and it’s not always fun. Work isn’t always fun. Sometimes, it can feel like you’re more machine than creative human.

Having less time to write your own stuff

It’s a common and fairly obvious problem, but it’s definitely something to consider if you’re trying to decide between writing full-time and keeping it more on a side project only basis. There is just not enough time in the day to write everything you want to write, on top of everything you have to write. You need to decide if you’re OK with this. And if you are, you have to figure out how to make it all work.

Feeling guilty for scheduling more personal downtime

This isn’t something anyone should ever feel guilty for, of course. But in general, our brains couldn’t care less. It’s something you have to do, when you’re writing for eight hours a day or more. As much as we’d all love to be able to wake up at the crack of dawn and write until bedtime, you can’t. People aren’t wired to do that. Our brains sort of run on batteries — going nonstop isn’t sustainable even in the short-term.

When I first quit freelancing — after over 6 months of writing for my day job and spending four hours or more every evening doing more work — I couldn’t even watch Netflix at 5 p.m. It felt wrong, like I should have been doing something else. Sure, there will be days you’ll be able to put in extra hours to write on your own time. But a lot of the time, you won’t. You have to learn to live with the guilt, if you can’t train yourself to stop feeling guilty.

Giving up control

Whether you work for a company or write books you’re required to submit to an agent or publisher, you don’t have as much control over your work or your time as you did when you first started out. This can be a good thing, but some people really struggle to adjust. Adapting to an eight-to-four workday structure after freelancing on my own time for over a year took me a good chunk of time. You do get used to it, it’s just not easy.

The choice is, of course, up to you. Whatever you decide, do what’s best for you both personally and professionally. You got this. Good luck, fellow writer.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

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7 thoughts on “The Downsides of Writing Full-Time

  1. I felt guilty for a while about not being productive 24/7…but sometimes you just need breathe and blank out for a moment.

  2. I have always wrote for fun..I have gotten side jobs to write, but never full time…I always thought it would be fun to write full time, but I can understand how it would be difficult if it was my job…

    1. There are benefits and drawbacks to any writing path you choose. I’m very lucky to have a fulfilling full-time writing job that I enjoy, most days. When you get down to it, a job is still a job – there are always going to be points of frustration, doubt, or boredom no matter what you’re writing or who you’re writing for. It’s all part of the deal.

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