So you wanna quit your day job?

Effective March 2nd, I will be cutting down from forty to twenty hours at my day job to give me time to pursue my passions: editing, writing, yoga, and green tea. (Mostly editing.) I’ve never been so excited.

This transition has been in the works for a few months, and in November, a writer friend approached me with a question (some details changed):

Hi, Catherine! I have a question. I saw that you made the decision to pursue editing rather than banking. I am kind of in the position that you were in. I can’t decide between staying here in Texas to finish my internship from which I will graduate from a year from now, or go home, get a job, and pursue writing (novels and freelance). My question is this: How did you make such a hard decision? Thanks!

My (very) abbreviated version of my answer: Don’t rush into it.

That doesn’t mean don’t do it. But think carefully first. Here are five questions to ask yourself before you quit or drastically reduce your hours.

1. How will I buy rice and coffee?

Salon ran a piece last month about how writers are often uncomfortable talking about how they’re funded, and I think many writers don’t realize how important it is to include money in the conversation. If you weren’t born independently wealthy, haven’t won the lottery, and don’t have a spouse that makes enough money to pay the bills, you may have difficulty paying for rice, coffee, cover art, and editing if you quit your day job. Being a starving artist usually loses its luster once you get hungry.

2. How’s my emergency fund looking?

If your writing habit is supported by your spouse’s income, what will happen if your spouse is laid off? If you’re thinking about a drastic income reduction, make sure that you have at least six months of expenses set aside to get you through any unforeseen events so that a minor hiccup doesn’t become a crisis.

3. Will I miss interacting with people?

If you have a job that involves substantial time with people, whether coworkers or customers, the transition to staring at your computer screen in your home office or in a coffee shop full of strangers might be draining. Some people, especially those who fall on the more introverted side of the spectrum, will love it. Others will find it depressing. Carefully consider which group you’re in.

4. Am I willing to put in the effort?

Writing is hard work, and revising is even harder. If you quit your job or sideline your career to pursue your dream, you have to be able to give it everything you’ve got. Expect forty to sixty hour weeks, especially around launch time. Expect to experience meltdowns and write large checks, sometimes while you feel like a failure. You’ll have pinnacle moments, of course, but it won’t all be easy. But if writing is the thing you were born to do, it will all be worth it.

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