on not giving up the day job

Most fiction writers will never make a living out of their writing. It’s a sad fact, but for most of us, a day job of some kind is a necessity. I suppose the dream, realistically, is to find a job which leaves you with enough time and energy to write. And that’s trickier than it sounds, especially if you commute.

So what is my day job? I have two, in fact. My full time, 9-5 job is as a Medical Laboratory Assistant. (At the time of blogging I’m about to start a new job as a Laboratory Technician, which is much the same job except I get to play with the machines, which could prove disastrous.) Working in pathology laboratories is fascinating stuff, especially if you’re morbidly fascinated with disease and the fallibility of the human body like I am. I’ve seen weird and wonderful stuff, from amputated toes to teratomas (a type of ovarian tumour which has been known to contain teeth, hair, bone and even eyes.) I’ve seen entire spleens and pinhead-sized melanomas. For a horror writer, this stuff is gold – there’s nothing more terrifying than the human body, and the multitude of ways in which it can fail.

My second job – taken on primarily because my first job isn’t especially well paid (well, it’s the NHS) is as a Healthcare Assistant. Which is basically a fancy way of saying ‘assistant nurse’. I work evenings and weekends in an outpatients clinic, where I run around after consultants, helping them with their paperwork, with patient examinations and sometimes, if I’m really lucky, with procedures – which means getting to poke patients with a variety of interesting implements. Like the lab work, this can be both terrifying and fascinating – and I work across disciplinaries, which means I’ve sat in on clinical specialties ranging from plastic surgery to urology.

To be honest, although making a living from writing would be incredible, I actually like having a day job. For one thing, it’s excellent fodder for writing. Hospitals are one of the best places to people watch. People are never more off-guard than when they’re in hospital, whether as patients or visitors. And obviously, having a source of income is always a good thing. But if someone were to offer me big bucks to stay at home and write full time, well…I don’t think I’d have too much difficulty with that decision.

Still. It’s about as likely as hen’s teeth, so I won’t give up the day job just yet.