Friday, July 1, 2011

Jacobs on Artistic Freedom and the Day Job

John Hornor Jacobs (Southern Gods) talks about why he never wants to quit his day job to become a full-time author. Excerpts:
I own a 2800 square foot home. I live in Arkansas and that means it’s hot and we run the air-conditioning 6 months out of the year. I have two children who go to private Montessori school. I have two cars, a Honda and a Toyota -- luckily, I’ve paid them both off, but still there’s gas and insurance and I don’t know if you’ve seen gas prices lately but WOW. My wife works very hard at being a mom and keeping our house, but she doesn’t have a day job (thanks, honey, for all you do). ...

And yeah, I’ve got appetites. We’re a nuclear family with all that implies. ...

For me to become a full time writer is like saying, “Hey! I plan on being a lottery winner when I grow up!” It’s a nice pipe-dream but it isn’t for me.

You might ask why. Let me tell you.

I like being able to write books on my schedule, the way I want to write them. I LOVE the artistic freedom of having a day job. It’s liberating. You don’t have to churn out 5000 words a day to make your contractual obligations, you don’t have to put out two novels a year. A day job frees you from compromising your artistic vision in order to put out a product.
Read the whole thing. When the term "artistic freedom" turns up in descriptions of the writing life, my mind immediately jumps to hipster types scribbling stream-of-consciousness narratives in the second person that will appeal to approximately 43 people. But Jacobs takes an entirely different tack on the topic. Unless you happen to become a Big Name, writing for a living quickly becomes a treadmill existence, popping out pulp piece after pulp piece in a rapid succession. Want freedom from that grind? Punching the clock provides it.

(Picture: CC 2011 by Steve Snodgrass; Hat Tip: @StaciaDecker)

4 comments:

Chestertonian Rambler said...

He makes a good point. The ideal position for an author, I think, is one that provides a steady paycheck and yet doesn't drain you to the point where you don't have energy to produce. It's a delicate balance, but a nice one.

There are, admittedly, some jobs that makes one long to churn out pulp novel after pulp novel on a strict schedule.

Loren Eaton said...

I've had those jobs, too, CR. Oh, yes, I have ...

Unknown said...

One doesn't have to be a stream-of-consciousness hipster to appeal to approximately 43 people in the world... :-P

Loren Eaton said...

I suspect you appeal to far more than 43 people ...