It’s an unavoidable fact of life. Most writers tolerate a ‘Day Job’ to keep the writing dream alive until such time as the work becomes popular enough to carry the day.
But even history’s most successful writer had to keep a ‘Day Job’ going, it’s now been revealed. A new study by researchers from Aberystwyth University in Wales claims that William Shakespeare was a ruthless businessman who avoided taxes and lent money to the vulnerable at usurious rates that would have made even Shylock blush, while writing plays about their plight to entertain them.
His activities made him extremely wealthy, but not before being hauled before the courts and repeatedly prosecuted for illegally hoarding food in time of famine, and threatened with jail for failing to pay his taxes, the study went on to say.
Over a 15-year period he purchased and stored grain, malt and barley for resale at inflated prices to his neighbours and local tradesmen. Shakespeare pursued those who could not (or would not) pay him in full for these staples and used the profits to further his own money-lending activities…”
Dr Jayne Archer
Did Shakespeare’s ‘Day Job’ Fund His Writing?
Despite the potentially show-stopping legal turmoil that surrounded him, Shakespeare still managed to write at least 37 plays. So it’s probably safe to assume that his obscenely profitable deals played a role in making this extraordinary output possible.
The study notes: “By combining both illegal and legal activities, minus a few fines for illegal hoarding and tax evasion, Shakespeare was able to retire in 1613 as the largest property owner in his home town, Stratford-upon-Avon…”
But there’s another reason more central to his writing success than any ‘Day Job’.
Shakespeare Didn’t Work Alone, He Had Writer Support
Coming up: Nine helpful tips on how to find the writer support you need
Being a starving artist working alone in a garret might seem to be a romantic ideal, but is completely unrealistic for most people – artists not only need to be paid, but also need interaction, stimulation and feedback.
And so it was with Shakespeare. He worked his entire professional life at London’s Globe Theatre with the ‘The Lord Chamberlain’s Men’, a troupe who shared in the profits from his writing.
But more crucially, he enjoyed the stimulation of working cheek by jowl with highly skilled actors and co-writers who constantly contributed to his scripts so they became vibrant, living documents.
When he suffered poor reviews, he had the support of constructive feedback, occasional gratifying applause, with dramatic adjustment and testing of his work as actors contributed lines, tweaking and enhancing the scripts before, during and after performances.
The fact is that he never ‘wrote alone’ for extended periods, but had constant input and personal support from a large group of extremely competent theater professionals.
And so it is with your books.
You need support and feedback on the journey, otherwise ‘the novel’ can start to take on the lonely appearance of a Mount Everest to be climbed. Fortunately, having a few small successes can quickly add up to a generally sustainable feeling of confidence, so when you feel you’re running dry, stop and take time to dip into one of these support builders.
They are largely to do with interacting constructively with others in the writing industry.
Nine Tips For Finding Support, So You’re Not Alone On Your Writing Journey
1. Support other authors
I don’t propose you form a consortium with other authors to hoard grain in times of famine. But it does pay to help and encourage others, even if it feels like cozying up to the competition. They will generally return the favor because reciprocation is a natural human reaction. Do simple things to start this process, such as Tweet the books of other writers whom you admire, and talk about their work on Facebook as well.
This is the beginning of your writing support community.
2. Meet another author for coffee
A problem shared is a problem halved. Sharing the writing issues you face with another writer is a highly effective solution, because nothing beats the karma of a tactile, real world meet up. Sparkling discussion also helps to colonise your mind, so that it keeps quietly working on the writing process while you sleep. It also creates a subsconscious commitment to keep going.
3. Write short stories
In between bouts of work on your latest novel, take a break, dash out a short story, and submit it to Wattpad.com - the world’s largest community for discovering and sharing stories. And it’s free. You’ll get a great sense of completion that is highly motivating, which will spill over into your main writing work.
Once published at Wattpad your story will also attract constructive feedback and new friendships, as outlined in this one minute video for writers.
Wattpad is also recommended by none other than Margaret Atwood.
“Wattpad opens the doors and enlarges the view in places where the doors are closed and the view is restricted. And somewhere out there in Wattpadland, a new generation is testing its wings…” Margaret Atwood
4. Write for literary contests
The ‘day job’ will help to pay the fees that contest organisers charge sometimes. Even if you don’t win anything, it helps to hone your skills, plus there’s the buzz generated simply by taking action and entering. Positive feedback about your entry (which you’ll almost certainly receive) will also help to lift your spirits.
5. Share useful information and answer questions
On social media, answer questions from other writers, and share useful information via Tweets using the #Wordcount, #AmWriting and #Writetip hashtags on Twitter. (Those hashtags will be grouped together, bringing you closer to those with similar issues.)
In November you can also take part in #NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), and become fully involved in that vibrant community, as they all attempt to crash out a novel in a single month.
6. Employ a friendly editor / coach
The moment the roughest of rough first drafts is completed, put it in the hands of a competent editor, then put your tin helmet on.
Listen to what they say intelligently, because a good editor will lift your work and act as a type of coach. Submit, and self-doubt will start to be swept aside, along with any sign of writer’s block.
7. Build relationships that you can leverage later
Other people you can swap ideas and information with in the same way are book bloggers, reviewers, editors, media people, even publishers and agents if you’re seeking a traditional path.
8. Plan A Pilgrimage To Shakespeare’s Birthplace: Stratford On Avon
Two years ago I fulfilled a life-long dream and attended a live performance at the Swan Theatre in Stratford on Avon, with the world’s finest Shakespearian actors on stage.
After the magic dust had settled, I travelled down to London and enjoyed a similar but more noisy Christmas performance at Shakespeare’s famous Globe Theatre.
The Globe Theatre. London. England.
Photograph I took of the audience filing in to enjoy the Christmas revels.
(No photographs of the play itself were allowed.)
In reality, you don’t actually have to head for Shakespeare country. The point I’m making is to set a dream goal of a physical nature to help motivate the writing process. Something you promise to reward yourself with when done.
It could even something as simple as a trip to a nearby town to give an aged relative a signed first copy of your new book.
9. Not so much a ‘support’ tip, but some shining optimism for you:
“Write with a fire in your heart.”
Quoting my editor Jane Johnson:
“First and foremost write the book you want to write, not the one you – or others – think will sell. You’re going to be working on this project for a LONG time, believe me, so you’d better love it. Write with a fire in your heart and you’ll create something special, something readers will want to read.
There may be all sorts of received wisdom out there about ‘what agents are looking for’ or ‘what publishers want’ or ‘what’s selling’ but who wants a second-rate copy of someone else’s idea? Write something unique to you and it will stand out from the crowd.”
The bottom line
Remember that many ‘little successes’ soon add up, building your confidence and enabling you to keep going. So take time out to achieve small wins by interacting with others.
Short stories, coffee, contests and sharing.
This is an emotional subject for writers. Do you have a ‘day job’ but would love to write full time? Have any tips for other writers that might help? Please do leave a comment.
Article written by Jonathan Gunson
Author / CEO Bestseller Labs
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