The Day Job

The Day Job

Jon Sprunk cookWell, my friends, after four years of making my living as a full-time novelist, fate was seen fit to place an obstacle in my way. Yes, yes. I have returned to the world of the Day Job.

It was both an easy and a difficult decision to go back to work. Easy because… well, bills need to be paid and my family doesn’t fancy living in a box under the highway. Difficult because of a lot of reasons.

The first was my pride. It wasn’t easy to admit to myself that I could no longer support myself with writing. I fought that realization for months before finally surrendering to the inevitable. Also, I’ve been out of the workplace for years, and my last job (corrections) isn’t something I wanted to take up again, so I had a serious lack of marketable skills.

Kids, a B.A. in English doesn’t exactly prepare you for many lucrative professions. You’ve been warned.

So I decided to tap into another of my lesser passions. No, not drinking. Or watching football. Or running a D&D campaign. (Although those would all be awesome jobs.) No, I’ve entered the world of professional cooking. Nothing ultra-glam like hosting my own Food Network show. I’m just a line cook, but it’s a nice place and the job doesn’t involve breaking up fights every other day, so that’s something positive.

Not long after starting this new job, I started to remember some of the things I’d missed about working outside of home. For one, it was nice having conversations with other adults. Look, I love my family, but being a stay-at-home dad had shrunk my world down to the perspective of a precocious six-year-old.

I’d forgotten what it was like to be around other adults (besides my wonderful wife) on a regular basis. I even missed the petty crap you have to deal with when you work for someone else. A little. Okay, I didn’t really miss it, but it beats the alternative.

And there are lessons for a writer everywhere at a day job. The internal politics, the personal sniping, the competition, the process of learning a new skill set, the feeling of accomplishment.

And don’t get me started on the interpersonal relationships. As a writer, I can’t help myself from listening to everyone’s conversations, just absorbing their humanity in all its shades. For me, everything that people do — the good, the bad, and the ugly—is grist for the mill. No, my work mates don’t have to worry about me putting them in my stories, but personality traits and mannerisms can sometimes filter through.

So, while I’m not thrilled about the situation that requires me to take up a day job, I’m very grateful for the opportunity to work again. I’m trying to make the most of it, even as I watch my available hours for writing dwindle. Hopefully, this is only a bump in the road and not a permanent situation. But I’m slowly re-acclimating. Yesterday I started writing the third book in my Black Earth fantasy series. I’ll find the time to finish it, because a writer writes. Right?

Jon Sprunk is the author of the fantasy epic Blood and Iron as well as the Shadow Saga trilogy (Shadow’s Son, Shadow’s Lure, and Shadow’s Master). For more on his life and writing, check out and his Facebook page:

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Jackson Kuhl

Jon, I think the most liberating thing I ever did for my writing was to divorce it from money making and just scrawl whatever came into my head. Hopefully it will be the same for you. I wish you the best of luck.

Scott Taylor

Jon, I face this prospect every day and it is woeful to contemplate. I’m happy, however, that you put it out there, that you show the reality of what being a writer really is, and that only 10% of published writers make enough money not to hold a primary income out of their chosen vocation. I’m twelve years out of the workforce, and going back in would be certainly as difficult transition, and yes, BA’s suck for work, especially English & in my case History 🙂

James McGlothlin

Even as a non-fiction writer, I appreciate your honesty.

If it makes you feel any better, have two masters and a ph.d. in any humanities degree is no more lucrative than a ba.

Ty Johnston

Been out of the general work force for six years this month, and so far I’ve not had to return. However, yeah, I do occasionally miss the daily interactions with others, and on a few occasions I’ve actually applied for a job I thought sounded interesting (usually with a university press, a beer magazine, or some such). Writing can be a lonesome gig sometimes.


Good luck with the new job. I hope you find it rewarding in ways you don’t expect. I’ve thought a lot in the last year about what it would be like to be a full time writer (nowhere near that point) and I’m not sure I would want to leave my job. I’m in academia, and I can see the positive impact my work has on students. I’m not sure I could just give that up, at least not at this time in my life. Anyway, I hope the cooking profession works out for you for however long you’re in it.


During periods between day jobs, I found it nearly impossible to write. Not bringing in money to help support the family was too much of a hurdle. With a job it’s not perfect for writing, but much better, if that makes sense.

Good luck!

Sarah Avery

The day job is a problem, but as problems go, it’s a good problem to have.

The sainted Raymond Carver looked back in his later years on the times when he had taken day jobs to support his family with pride. Though most folks with day jobs, and folks who need day jobs but haven’t been able to get one, might look askance at a writer for calling the day job a sacrifice, it is one. Your fellow writers get it.

Yes, you will finish the third book. And it will be awesome. Possibly also delicious.

Jeff Stehman

Good choice. The thing about restaurant work, it’s easy to get a job, and if you show up on time, do your job, and don’t bring drama or steal product, straight to the head of the class.

Restaurant kitchens are a gold mine for writers, and given how many of your coworkers are probably felons, you should feel right at home from your days in corrections. 🙂

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