Somewhere on my reader, someone reposted a blog with what I felt to be some of the most dangerous writing advice ever. It came down to one line: burn your ships. This writer proposed that to be successful, you should pull an Alexander the Great, cut out any back-up plans you have because they are distracting and go be that writer. She used the example of her quitting her sales job and moving in with her mother as an example of the ship she needed to burn. I have issues with this advice for two big reasons reasons:
1) Quitting your job to be a writer does not mean you are automatically a writer who gets published. It means you are a writer with no incoming money. If you do get published, it can take time for that money to come to you. If you are self-publishing, there is still a risk. Putting a decent book out there often means spending money, which is a limited resource now that you quit your day job. Don’t forget the fact that you have no promises on how much you will make as a self-published writer.
Two pieces of better advice: understand how the publishing industry works and seek to improve your writing skills. I found out how the publishing industry works from a book at the library when I was 15 and at that age realized I needed a day job as a back-up. As for improving my writing, I practiced, a lot. I found books on the writing process and I joined a professional organization designed to grow writers. These are things more likely to help you get published.
2) Many of us are not in a position to just quit our job. My mortgage and my paychecks have a symbiotic relationship. My toddler is not going to be impressed at the daring actions of Alexander the Great if he doesn’t have a roof over his head and food on the table. Many of the writers I read have spouses or children who expect someone to be providing for the family. Besides, not every parent is going to be thrilled at having their adult child move back in an essentially become a dependent all over again.
Better advice: see what you can do to free up more time. Maybe your family can afford for you to work part time. Maybe you can afford hire someone to do the house cleaning for you. Everyday expenses won’t magically go away but you just might have room to work within them. Besides, if you quit your job and three years later decide you need to get one again because Mom won’t let you live with her anymore, telling the interviewer you quit your last job spent 3 years unemployed to be a writer may not go over well.
Generally speaking. I think writers should ask themselves if they’re learning enough about their craft and if they’re making consistent time to write. Many authors I like transitioned from day jobs to full-time writing. But quitting your job isn’t going to automatically make you a published writer, it will automatically cut your ability to pay for your living expenses though.