I began my career many moons ago after living in Australia for a year. While in Oz, I took odd jobs to fund my trip as I made my way around the country, every time I was running short on money or on the brink of begging my parents to pump cash into my account. Server, bartender, cleaner, shuttle bus driver – you name it.
Since then, I’ve had a satisfying professional career and I’ve met some incredible people along the way, many of them lifelong friends. And one mantra I’ve always maintained, no matter what, is to never quit your day job.
This, of course, applies particularly to people who are pursuing something creative or high risk that potentially won’t earn a viable income. I’ve always preached, especially to my creative friends, the importance of remaining gainfully employed while in pursuit of your dreams.
For some, they get lucky early on, and figure out how to blur the lines between day job and dream job. For the rest of us, it’s a delicate dance between committing fully to what feeds your belly while still carving out time for what feeds your soul.
I thought I had this down. While being relatively satisfied in my day jobs, I’ve always made time – dedicated time – to my creative pursuits. For a while it was freelance journalism and about five or six years ago, before moving to Los Angeles, it became screenwriting.
In LA, I’ve worked out a sort of writing schedule or ritual. Every Wednesday and Saturday night, for about two hours, I settle in to my favorite table in my favorite bar in Venice (the oldest bar in Los Angeles) where my favorite bartender has a cold glass of California chardonnay waiting for me. Like. Clockwork.
Last year, I decided to turn one of my scripts into a short film, something I produced, directed and self-funded while maintaining the most demanding job of my career to date. And I discovered how much I loved the experience of collaborating with a diverse group of creatives and the journey of bringing a story from page to screen. Meanwhile, as I was shooting said film, I turned 40. I’m not sure if this is related because I hate the idea of having some cliché midlife crisis, but I decided to quit my day job to develop more projects for film and TV. I guess this was my Ferrari moment?
I’m a writer first and foremost, no doubt about it. I’m happiest sat in the darkest corner of the darkest bar observing and writing. Much like the dark little London pub I’m sitting in right now as I write this. But there is something thrilling about the challenge of directing, working with actors and translating a script into a moving picture.
So here I am, nearly two months in to a self-imposed professional hiatus, having followed none of my own advice and quit my job. My goal is to complete as many projects as possible by the end of summer to pitch, develop or sell. And given I live in the real world and not the fictitious scenarios of my characters, I’ll need to land another day job soon. And that’s okay, cuz a girl’s gotta eat. But I’m grateful I was in a position to give myself the space and time to pursue these creative urges. Even more grateful to have a loving partner who understands and supports me.
I still stand by the mantra of not quitting your day job, but if you can take a little break to give your dreams your full attention, give it a shot. You never know what interesting opportunities may bubble up.
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