So as a playwright with a day job, what's been the best day job for your vocation?
First of all, I should say, anyone who tells you money can’t buy happiness doesn’t know what the hell they’re talking about. Money can buy you a very, VERY substantial percentage of happiness.
I mention this because when I first lived in London I was straight out of college and I spent a year temping. It was horrendous. I had months when I wasn’t sure I would make rent – and I had to spend two weeks working in a call centre, cold-calling people to ask them to participate in surveys. Which is, beyond any doubt, the WORST job I have ever had. I never, never want to have to do that again.
I then spent two years in a job that was a combination of tour guide and front of house. And because London is so expensive, I had a second tour guiding job, which I kept up for a long time. As a result I spent about four years working six day weeks.
Those jobs were physically exhausting, but, over time, extremely boring – and that is not a good combination for getting writing done. It sounds pretentious, but working a job that is completely unstimulating for my brain has a negative effect on my writing ability.
The flip side is, I spent six years working in a press office – an extremely busy press office (to the point where I know ALL of you will have seen some of the news stories I was involved in). I genuinely enjoyed that job (even if it did ruin The Thick of It for me, as being far too close to my own experience), and working out how to present a story in a good light to hostile press is a genuinely interesting challenge. But there was a substantial out of hours component, and over time that really began to wear on me.
So overall, my current role, while it’s not the most interesting job in and of itself, is probably the best. It pays well enough that I’m not constantly stressed about rent and bills, and emergencies like a last minute flight back to Ireland don’t break the bank, and it’s also sufficiently interesting that I’m not getting frustrated and annoyed out of sheer boredom.
But trying to be a professional writer on top of having a day job (or two day jobs) is NOT an easy business. You need to REALLY want it.