Writers shared their experiences on being “Writers With Day Jobs”

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by Kayla Roberts

Many writers around the world make their living by doing jobs unrelated to writing and literature. UNLV’s Black Mountain Institute hosted a virtual event, “Writers With Day Jobs,” on Feb. 26, featuring two important writers to discuss this topic.

Known as the literary center of Las Vegas, Black Mountain Institute was established in 2006 by UNLV’s president at that time, Emerita Carol C. Harter, along with author and UNLV professor Richard Wiley, and Beverly Rogers.

Joshua Chévere Cohen, the marketing and communications manager of the institute, said, “Black Mountain Institute’s mission is to champion writers and storytellers through programs, fellowships and community engagement.”

With this mission in focus, BMI continues to bring writers together and provide them with significant resources by regularly organizing workshops, virtual events and similar activities. “Writers With Day Jobs” stood as one of BMI’s recent events, with participants from various places such as New York, San Diego, Los Angeles and even Istanbul joining in.

Krista Diamond moderated the event and described it in a written interview as follows, “This free virtual event featured two writers, Ruth Madievsky and Rachel Taff, who wrote and sold novels while working full time. In a moderated conversation, the two discussed balancing creative work with day jobs, unexpected strategies for drawing inspiration from work, and making the time to write when you don’t have the luxury of getting to write full-time.”

When asked why they chose this topic, she explained, “There are so many writers out there revising novels before clocking in for their shifts or writing poems on the bus home. These writers are the majority, and yet so much of the literary establishment focuses on the rare few with lucrative publishing deals or family money that allows them to devote every day to making art.”

One of the guests at the virtual event, Madievsky, has had her writings appear in various places such as The Atlantic, the Los Angeles Times and Harper’s Bazaar, and she has two published books. Madievsky mentioned that since childhood, her dream has been to write books “that make people feel the way my favorite books have made me feel,” but she decided to pursue a career in another field due to her love for science and various other reasons.

“Most of us writers will need full-time jobs to support ourselves outside of our creative work. The immigrant in me thinks it’s worth considering careers that may involve an up-front investment of time/money if they will ultimately provide you with financial stability and good work-life balance. If you’re going to have to work 40 hours a week anyway, it’s pretty great if that work can compensate you well and support your writing life,” she said.

Madievsky stated that she began her first novel, “All-Night Pharmacy,” almost 10 years ago while she was a pharmacy student and emphasized that working in a different field is not a downside as most people think, “My personal experience of working in the unrelated field of clinical pharmacy is that not having to rely on my writing to support me has been totally creatively freeing. I get to be selective about only pursuing writing work that I’m deeply passionate about. Just know that it doesn’t make you any less of a writer to work outside the professionz It’s good to have diverse interests, in my opinion.”

“It’s also very nice to shift gears between the scientific and the literary; I think it helps prevent burnout to not have all my eggs in one basket,” she added.

On the balance she established between her profession and writing career, she said, “Careers in healthcare where you can make a tangible impact on people’s lives and get to leave work at work can pair really nicely with a writing career.” She added that she doesn’t look at anything related to her morning job after 5 p.m. every day and dedicates time to her writing.

The other guest at the virtual event, Taff, has been working in the television industry for many years, contributing to several hit shows, and is preparing for the release of her debut novel, “Paper Cut,” in 2025. “I am a television executive and producer for an independent television studio, Dynamic Television, known for Ginny and Georgia, where I develop, sell and produce television shows. I spend my days working closely with writers, reading scripts and books, crafting pitches, talking about the market needs to agents and executives, attaching on screen talent and communicating creative feedback. The non-creative parts of my job have a lot to do with selling,” Taff said. 

Taff shared that due to the nature of her profession, she doesn’t have the opportunity to leave work at work, but she believes that her profession has had a significant impact on her writing career. “As someone who juggles writing with a day job in a different field, I think you get out of it what you put into it. There are some aspects to my job that absolutely inform my writing, subconsciously or consciously. I’m interacting with people regularly as opposed to being in a room alone all day. I’m hearing people’s stories. I’m out in the world exploring and learning.”

In the hour-long virtual event, both authors emphasized that working in a writing-related field isn’t a prerequisite for becoming a good writer. They stressed that everyone embarks on their own unique journey, underlining the importance of discipline.

In her written interview, Taff noted, “Nobody cares more about your work than you do! Self-imposed deadlines, accountability partners, and scheduled writing time have been crucial to my productivity.” She added, “Every writer has a different path and yours is unique.”The full recording of the “Writer’s With Day Jobs” has been posted on BMI’s YouTube channel. Additionally, the information about all the future events of the institute can be accessed at https://blackmountaininstitute.org/live-experiences/

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