Self-published author Sarah Dale, an occupational psychologist, provides an inspiring example of how to combine your love of writing with your day-job: she writes about her work.
For several years, I fitted fiction writing in when I could. I undertook a successful Nanowrimo, writing a (terrible) 50,000 word novel one November. I completed two Open University creative writing courses. One of these I did for free because I was tutoring for the OU at the time. I was always trying to maximise opportunities.
But I continued to feel guilty about snatching writing time out of the working week – and too tired to write once work and family were seen to.
So, what were my options? Save the writing for retirement? Or integrate it into the day job?
I am an occupational psychologist and coach. I listen to many people in mid-life, who tell me about the varied challenges of having a successful career as well as considerable responsibilities outside of work. I help them find ways to re-discover their motivation and well-being, and to focus their energies effectively.
A reflective coffee break later, I suddenly realised I could indulge my writing urges at the same time as producing something useful. I could bring together much of the research I was reading about with regard to well-being. I could write a book to support my clients. And thus, my first book, Keeping Your Spirits Up, came about.
Not only did this turn out to be helpful for existing clients, but it serves well to introduce people to my work. A kind of extended business card, I can give it to potential clients. Psychology is not as tangible as a business making furniture or knitted hats. A book helps to turn it into something people can grasp.
My second book, Bolder and Wiser, due out next month, combines the personal and professional even more closely. Based on conversations with twenty women aged 60+, Bolder and Wiser is my reaction to what they’ve told me matters and what doesn’t, as I approach my fiftieth birthday. Now with more than one book, I have shifted my perception. I now think of myself as a psychologist and author, rather than a psychologist who wrote a book. As all writers know, this is a significant (and hard won) shift.
Show, Don’t Tell
The age-old advice for writers to show rather than tell applies, I think. Take Dawn Reeves, an independent author, as an example. Her book, Hard Change, is a British town hall thriller. As a former local government director herself, she uses fiction to demonstrate her deep understanding of the challenges facing many cities. On the back of the book, she has developed workshops which she runs at key conferences. In turn, this has led to being invited to write for The Guardian.
I also hope that I demonstrate some aspects of my work, without spelling it out as if it was a text-book. I hope that my experience of listening, and understanding of psychological theory and research methods, quietly underpin my books.
Applying To Any Job
I don’t think it matters what the day job is. Books could range from Confessions of… to How to manuals to A quirky history of… or A regional guide to… – or, indeed, fiction. Good writing has always been a key way to communicate a business or organisational message. Independent publishing gives us the tools to do this in an easier and more professional way than ever before.
It’s a long game. You have to love writing. There isn’t instant return on the time investment. But I like to think it’s keeping my hand in for returning to the novel one day.