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quit job to write

Have you ever quit a job and just walked out without giving notice? I have not. I’ve always given some form of notice while envying others who have thrown in the cliche apron on a whim.

Three years ago today I walked into my then boss’ office and gave him my notice so that I could start writing full-time. Except it wasn’t as simple as that. Although my day started at 8:30AM and he had been at the office before me, under the wink and belly laugh of the universe the owner of the company had multiple calls and was on the phone until almost 10:30AM. I spent the entire time waiting for the natural closing of the one-sided conversation I heard from his office, but as soon as he hung up the phone, it rang again.

Several times I took my resignation letter out of the envelope and read it over, and quite a few times I put it back in my purse and forgot that being a writer was possible. Then I looked at the calendar and thought back to everything I had accomplished in my self-imposed one year of moonlighting as a freelance writer: I had gotten a handful of clients without trying, published a dozen articles, and was given a scholarship toward the cost of a writers conference. I had already ordered my own health insurance policy to become active on the first of the following month. Most importantly, I had met every financial goal I had made for myself and that meant it was time for me to give my notice. (Learn more about looking back on your accomplishments and taking calculated risks.)

The full-time writers I know have shaped their careers in different ways. Some fell into it after getting laid off, others scraped by, some relied on spouses (or spousal support), and others were discovered and mined for their golden talents. I did not know anyone personally who had politely resigned from their job and made it as a writer on their own. Was resigning the next step? Was it really the right time? There didn’t seem to be any logical alternative. Here is my resignation letter (with employer names removed for privacy):

May 21, 2010

Dear Boss Man:

This letter may serve as my resignation from Real & Estate, Inc. effective on Friday, June 25, 2010. It has been a difficult decision for me to make, however I need to devote my time to growing my writing business. My decision to pursue this new direction holds no relation to my experiences here; however the time has come for me to move forward. I will be unavailable from Wednesday, June 9th through Wednesday, June 15th and I understand that this is an unpaid vacation.

I appreciate everything that you have done for me while we’ve worked together and I hope to help you in the search and training of a replacement and making this transition as seamless as possible.

Please let me know how I can help us have a smooth transition.

Best,
Tara Lynne

(Side note: Notice my unpaid week off? That was so that I could go to Bonnaroo and write this book. I had just returned from a week in Paris before giving them this letter and that had been the last of my paid vacation time.)

If you are considering leaving your job to be a full-time writer—whether that is to write novels, blogs, magazine articles, manuals, or poetry—I don’t see how it would be possible unless you quit your other job, right? Sometimes the simple decisions are just too simple! The complicated part is making it fit your life. The five most important things you need to do before sliding that resignation letter across your boss’ desk are:

  1. Have 2-3 years’ worth of savings—and expect it to be gone well before expected.
  2. Make sure you have health insurance.
  3. Eliminate all unnecessary expenses. If you buy organic now, stop. If you like to take spontaneous day trips, stop. If you like to buy a new pair of strappy sandals, stop. (Plus, less is more!) The money you save on groceries and gas/transportation is not a major sacrifice if you really want to make your writing journey work. It’s a temporary discomfort. Once you get the writing ball rolling you can buy free range, certified organic, shade-grown Kobe beef, take long trips, and buy a bunch of unnecessary sandals.
  4. Set goals, deadlines, and write!
  5. Re-read Step 1.

PS – The registration information for the Write Naked Workshop next month is here – register ASAP if you plan to attend!