Welcome to my adventures and experiments in creativity. Where writing is like running: sometimes I know where I'm going, and sometimes I see where the mood takes me.

Friday, 21 June 2013

The Part-Time Creative

During the long winter that enveloped the UK until about the end of spring this year, any small beacon of light and warmth was welcomed with an open heart. In January, Fabian Kruse (of the Friendly Anarchist) contacted his mailing list and asked for thoughts on making time for creativity without compromising creative integrity.

In terms of a career change, he rightly pointed out that simply quitting a day job might not be as simple as it sounds. Particularly when lack of income is a highly likely possibility!

As Fabian saw it, there were four options. One involved lucking in to a big windfall, while another relied on compromise and frugal living. The other focussed on ‘strategic quitting’, but the most interesting for me was the first:

1. Stay in your job and somehow hack your energy to work on personal stuff during your free time. Hard to do, but possible.

Running On Empty?

Even in a humble office setting, there are days at work that are simply exhausting. Getting home and cooking tea is about as much as my brain can comprehend.

It’s also true that running, and trying to look after myself as best I can, has brought benefits like more energy and greater drive to do creative work for a couple of hours in the evening.

This is good because, for the most part, I like my day job and the people I work with. Working in the technical department of an insulation manufacturer might not hold much relevance to my creative endeavours, but it is part of me.

Indeed, if you’d ever seen the cartoon I drew on the office whiteboard every day for several months – and the simple, beautiful joy it often gave my colleagues – you’d have seen how creativity can bloom in unexpected places.

“You’re wasted in here,” people occasionally said. But I didn’t see that as a bad thing; more a vindication that I was right to keep pursuing my creative path simultaneously.

Comfort In Routine

However much I might one day wish to pursue something different, it will take a compelling set of circumstances for me to confidently leave behind the knowledge and experience I’ve built up in the construction industry.

Even though I lack the means to determine the exact direction of my day job, it doesn’t mean I’m actively seeking to abandon the corporate environment at the first opportunity. Doubtless, much of its appeal is in the regular salary, and a lot of the rest is down to comfort and familiarity.

But a big part of my soul is unwilling to let a decade of hard work and personal development go to waste.


Fabian’s e-mail helped me realise just how much I cared about making these distinct parts of my life work together (at least to the point that one day a creative career could take over as my main source of income).

It stirred the fires of defiance inside me: if the perception is that it can’t work, I want to show that it can. From that point forward, I decided it would forever be known simply as ‘Option 1’ – like some military codeword from the script of a cliché-ridden movie (“Sir, we have no choice. We need to enact Option One!”).

As a result, self-publishing my first ebook last week gave me enormous satisfaction.

Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc?

The book was certainly a while in coming. I wrote the bulk of it in a single week during December and have sat on it since (sometimes literally, as a test of the manuscript’s orthopaedic qualities). I’m not sure why I waited, but it felt like the work was missing a certain ‘something’.

Yes, I often thought about changes I wanted to make to the draft, but I also thought I needed some indefinable inspiration to complete it to the standard I wanted and expected.

In an effort to find that mythical inspiration, I instead worked on tweaking the balance between the competing commitments in my life. And it worked, in the sense that when I did start working on it again, I could do so consistently and to completion.

Ultimately though, that ‘something’ was me simply sitting down and getting back to work on it.

Needing Another Fix

Thanks to some assistance from others, as well as the tools provided by Amazon, the book is finally available for sale. I felt a huge sense of pride in seeing it go live, and now I know there are no barriers to getting more work listed in the Amazon store.

Thankfully, I have several (hopefully good) ideas for what that work could be!

What I’m Missing

A couple of days after publication I got an e-mail from Milo McLaughlin, who has continued to be a huge inspiration and source of help. Amongst other things, he said: “I hope the launch went well.” And it’s true that I did manage some sort of launch.

Friends and acquaintances showed a lot of goodwill, retweeting my Twitter announcement and sharing the link to the book on Amazon. But the truth remains that I don’t have an audience to speak of, so during the build-up I was only ever telling the same people about the book’s impending arrival. In other words, I certainly had no expectation of achieving massive sales!

Time Takes Time, You Know

I’ve only had an over-arching theme for this blog since Christmas and, as the recent post about pies(!) demonstrated, I haven’t fully explored its true potential. I’m working on it, but have to balance writing new posts with the pursuit of my larger projects, and all in the context of still wanting to do my day job.

What that doesn’t leave much time for is the business and marketing side of my writing.

But what is the use in continuing to produce work that doesn’t reach many eyes? Where is the right balance between writing and marketing? This Blogger platform works for me, but is it part of what is holding me back? Should it look more professional?

Should I be encouraging people to use the e-mail sign-up? Or is the problem more fundamental: do I have a mistaken view of the quality and usefulness of my work?

Six months is not a long time, and there are people who have worked on their creative identity full time for two, three, five years, or even more. I didn’t expect to be a renowned writer and blogger by now, but I thought I might have seen a few more results.

Take A Chance

Perhaps I need to experiment more, but I fear becoming irritating to the few people who do take notice of me. I don’t have the available time to consistently read and comment on more blogs and more websites – I would end up consuming all the time rather than creating! – but how do I otherwise attempt to forge meaningful connections with other people?

I want to get the other book ideas written and published. I want to have a catalogue of work available on Amazon, to give me the best chance of being taken seriously as the writer I aspire to be. I know I can continue doing that purely in my spare time.

‘Option 1’ can work in that sense. But if my ‘marketing’ is ineffective, do I need to consider turning part-time into full-time? What are my Options when it comes to getting my work read and noticed?


  1. Hey Paul, the last few days (weeks!) I’ve been thinking a lot about what you wrote. On the one hand, your post inspired me to finally continue the series (and even change the overall direction of my blog in a certain way... more on that soon on TFA).

    But on the other, there’s the marketing question, of course - which I can’t really respond to any better than you. I still believe that quality spreads - but relying on that is definitely neither the safest nor the quickest way. Opposed to becoming a full-time marketer, though, I would say that the slow path isn’t only preferable, it’s also the path that’s closest to my heart and personal ethics.

    In the end, I guess, it comes down to experimentation, play and managing expectations. Who knows what will happen? :)

    1. Thanks Fabian, I'm really glad the post has proved inspirational in a similar way that your original e-mail inspired me!

      The projects I want to work on at the moment are so varied that experimentation is definitely the way forward for now. As I build a (hopefully quality!) catalogue of work then I can perhaps devote a little more time to marketing, but that remains to be seen.

      When I think of the results of the last six months' work, I rather like the question, "Who knows what will happen?"!

    2. Exactly. And for me, personal blogging/publishing is getting more and more interesting the longer you do it. See today’s TFA post on that topic. :)