When a Dream is No Longer Just a Dream

By Brett Battles

The Dream.

The Dream is to write and only write. Not to have to do something else to pay for the roof over your head. Not to have to answer to some boss who’s constantly checking to see if you’re in on time or if you took a long lunch. Not to have to pull yourself out of bed every weekday morning, join the rush hour traffic to get to your cubical so you can work 8 or 9 or 10 hours a day then go home to sleep so you can do it all again the next day.

That’s the dream. That’s my dream anyway. A dream I’ve had since I was in sixth grade. Seriously. I think it would be fair to say it’s the dream of most writers, though, admittedly, not all. I know a few who love their day jobs, and have no intention of every leaving them.

Me…I can’t wait to get out.

But there are a lot of considerations that need to be made before someone takes the leap. Sure, maybe you have a contract that gives you enough cash that you can live and write full time. It might not be live-in-grandeur style money, but enough to pay the rent and buy your food. But the question then is…for how long? You see, that money you just got might be the most you’ll receive at one time for the rest of your career. (I sure as hell hope not and don’t wish that on anyone, but it needs to be said.) If it is, would it be better to sock it in the bank and continue working the two jobs…your day job and your author job? How can you know?

And then there are the added expenses. There’s those pesky estimated tax payments you need to make that cut into the lump sum you thought you got. There’s the fact that now you have to pay for your own insurance. And all those freebies you got at the office? The paper clips? The pens? The free copies? All gone.

Yes. There’s a lot to think about when you make “the” decision. It’s a decision I had to make this summer. And for me, it took all of perhaps one nano second to make up my mind.

Five and a half weeks ago, I told my bosses that I was retiring from television.

That’s right. I’ve chosen the life of fulltime novelist. Yet because I have a great job and work with people I don’t just consider my colleagues, but also my friends, I gave a seven week notice. That’s right…I was VERY generous. The good thing is that that notice will be up a week from tomorrow. So the next time I blog here, I will no longer have the 9 to 6 desk job I’ve been at for the last 6 years…hell, perhaps they were at different places, but the last 19 really.

I intend to take my new fulltime job very seriously. I’ve already started planning out my schedule and my goals. You see, I have a responsibility to make sure that this leap I’m taking isn’t only for a limited amount of time, but rather forever. I think the possibly of going back to a corporate job should be more than enough to keep me focused.

But I can’t lie. I am so excited about the new freedom I’ll now have to do things whenever I want to do them. I’m thrilled at the idea of being able to spend more than an hour or two a day at most writing, and now stop only when I feel done for the day. I cannot wait to be able to focus totally on the story I’m working on, to not be forced out of my train of thought because I have to go to work.

Taking this step is a huge risk. I know. But it’s time.

So this is my last post before I retire from television. It’s been a wonderful career. It has taken me places, exposed me to new things, and introduced me to people who have become friends I’ll have for the rest of my life. It has given me the safety net I needed to foster and grow my writing abilities, and to keep me afloat until I was ready to jump. Though I doubt any of the people I work with now will be reading this…I just want to say thank you.

Oh, and another bonus that comes with my new found freedom…an ability to be more active here at Murderati. My colleagues have been more than patient with my less than stellar involvement, and I plan to make up for that now. Well, not now…in a week and a half.

When I’m free.

When I’m a fulltime writer.


Song for the day (Let’s make that for the next week or two): BEAUTIFUL DAY by U2

And for those who missed my good friend Rob’s post from yesterday, scroll down and check it out. It’s excellent.

19 thoughts on “When a Dream is No Longer Just a Dream

  1. cj lyons

    Yeah, Brett!!!! Doing the happy dance for you!

    I took a huge leap of faith when I quit my practice to write–my partners literally thought I was nuts!

    But daring to believe in my dreams and my ability to make them happen is one of the most empowering things I’ve ever done.

    No matter how frustrated things get, I look up from the keyboard and just have to smile, because I’m living my dream….and how many people actually get to say that about their lives???

    You’re gonna love it! Enjoy your celebration of newfound freedom!


  2. ArkansasCyndi

    Good for you, Brett! Good luck. I confess…I don’t miss the dreaded day job at all. Now, I’m not sure when I had time to go to work.

    I’m sure this leap of faith will be the best thing you’ve ever done for yourself, your family, and your writing.

  3. Jake Nantz

    Wow! Congratulations, Mr. Battles. I can’t imagine what that would be like. Even in the summertime, I have so much to do to prepare for the next school year, I haven’t had a real vacation in forever. To be able to write whenever you want? Wow. Good for you!

    I’ll drink a toast for ya when I’m not surrounded by high schoolers, okay?

  4. Naomi

    Just one piece of advice: let the machine pick up the phone! (Unless it’s your agent or editor, of course. And kids.)

    Having a exercise routine helps as well.

    Welcome to the liberated, Brett!!!

  5. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Brett

    Congrats on making the big leap!

    I’m one of those weird people who loves my day job, and feels that the photography work I do both complements and imforms my writing.

    And it gets me out of the house.

    But, I’d love to know – a year from now – if it’s taken you more time to write the next book, or less?

    Sometimes you can have too much freedom, y’know ;-]

  6. Brett Battles

    Wilfred…a celebratory drink may indeed be called for!

    CJ, Cyndi, Dana, and Pari…Thanks!

    Naomi, good advice, thanks.

    And Zoë…I’ll let you know. It’s what scares me most, not making good use of my time.

  7. JT Ellison

    I have no doubt that you’ll be perfectly fine. You’ve got the discipline of ten men already. Congratulations on making such an important leap. I’m thrilled for you. It’s a lot of fun to be full-time.

  8. Becky Hutchison

    What a great leap to take, but you’re going to love it! I’ve been “self-employed” for about one year, and it’s been wonderful.

    Good luck and have fun with your new-found freedom!

    (Oh, and don’t be afraid to take a few days to really relax. I was a slug for about a week after I quit my job, but it reenergized me and helped me focus on my new writing career.)

  9. Allison Brennan

    Congratulations, Brett. I couldn’t be happier for you . . . and I know exactly the thought-processes you went through. I did all the same when I quit my day job. It’s scary. Especially when you have five kids and are the major bread winner. (Fortunately, my husband has the medical benefits, so that was a major plus.)

    I’d read somewhere the advice not to quit until you’re making 150% of your annual salary. There were some reasons–added expenses of insurance and self-employment taxes, with savings of commuting and business expenses., etc. But everyone is different–if I had been single without a family to support, I would have quit sooner. I know exactly what it’s like to write a couple hours every night after working all day and also raising a family . . . when you have people counting on you for their food and shelter, you can’t make rash decisions.

    BUT, I also need to warn you about some pitfalls. You’ll have tons of free time. It’s so much easier to procrastinate. When I was working full-time, my writing time was sacred–I only had two hours at night and I had to use every minute. Now, I think I have all the time in the world . . . but I still find I’m behind the closer my deadline gets. My writing time isn’t sacred because there’s always more time . . . if that makes sense.

    So that’s my advice: set aside your writing time and make it sacred.

  10. Zoë Sharp


    Your comment: “BUT, I also need to warn you about some pitfalls. You’ll have tons of free time. It’s so much easier to procrastinate. When I was working full-time, my writing time was sacred–I only had two hours at night and I had to use every minute. Now, I think I have all the time in the world . . . but I still find I’m behind the closer my deadline gets. My writing time isn’t sacred because there’s always more time . . . if that makes sense.”

    Absolutely nailed it! Writing in the cracks of the day job is what sometimes gives it focus.

    And don’t take the DARK KNIGHT comment to heart – it won’t stop me going to see the movie ;-]


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