Yesterday was my final day at my blogging gig with Queensland Health, and I am not yet contracted for my GenreCon gig or have the details of my PhD scholarship set in place. I am, technically, unemployed and bereft of income until the two latter things get sorted in the coming week. Even after those are resolved, I will be a student who has a day-a-week contract gig.
I do not know what my days look like now that I do not have to work around a day-job.
Lots of people dream of quitting their job to write or read, but that often fails to take into account there is something comfortable about work that you don’t realise when it’s there. Even if you hate your job, there are decisions that do not need to be made: where will you be on a given day? What will you do? Who are you going to see?
Your obligations as an employee provide an anchor to the rest of your activities, something that can be planned around. It provides context to otherwise arbitrary designations: Saturday ceases to be a day and becomes the first day of the weekend; Monday becomes the start of the working week. You know what success is, because you do your job well or you do not.
All of this affects the way you plan your life, consciously or unconsciously. Work gives you an anchor you can build routines and processes around: write a thousand words before work starts; edit on the weekend, when you’ve got a little free time; plan your write club for your days off.
All through the most recent week, people have been asking me what I’m going to do when I finish work. Write, I’d tell them. Read. That’s as detailed as I got, because the answer is far less exciting.
The first task of being without a day-job is figuring out what your days look like now, and how you’re going to fill them in a meaningful, effective way. What is the first thing, that will lead to the second thing? How will you devote the necessary time to all the things that need doing to keep you moving forward.
It’s harder than it sounds, if you’re not used to it. Ten years ago – the last time I existed in a day-job free state – I wasn’t particularly good at it.
I’d like to think I’ve gotten better in recent years. Now it’s time to find out.