You’ve no doubt heard the advice that a writer shouldn’t
quit his day job—not only in the context of a perhaps-not-so-promising
manuscript, but also because few writers today can support themselves solely on
profits from their writing. But in our April issue, Jacob M. Appel, a doctor
and prolific short-story writer, argues that a day job can actually provide you
with rich material for your writing. And while many writers, particularly those
with advanced writing degrees, find jobs teaching writing, Appel assures us
that “the literary public can tolerate only so many tales of professors sinking
under the weight of their own angst.” Instead, he says, “readers, who yearn to
learn something new, admire writers who can take them places on the page where
they cannot go in their own corporeal lives.”
Even what may seem at first blush to be a mundane job
unlikely to inspire literary magic may hold promise if you take a closer look.
Cubicle dwellers, see Joshua Ferris’ Then We Came to the End, which takes place
in a Chicago advertising firm and begins:
We were fractious and overpaid. Our mornings lacked promise.
At least those of us who smoked had something to look forward to at
ten-fifteen. Most of us liked most everyone, a few of us hated specific
individuals, one or two people loved everyone and everything. Those who loved
everyone were unanimously reviled. We loved free bagels in the morning. They
happened all too infrequently. Our benefits were astonishing in
comprehensiveness and quality of care. Sometimes we questioned whether they
were worth it. We thought moving to India might be better, or going back to
nursing school. Doing something with the handicapped or working with our hands.
No one ever acted on these impulses, despite their daily, sometimes hourly
contractions. Instead we met in conference rooms to discuss the issues of the
Read “Why I don’t want to quit my day job” and tell us what
C. Lange, associate editor
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