I have a talented, experienced writer-friend who looks like she is in a dead-end job, but she is having a difficult time moving on. Layoffs have been occurring every quarter, the company stock price is trending down, and no one has gotten a raise or a bonus in years. Is she crazy? With her situation in mind, I’d like to talk about five very good reasons why a writer (or any employee) might stay in a job, in good times or bad. You should be aware of these very good reasons why you might be hesitating to leave an obviously bad situation.
Europeans laugh at how little vacation Americans get – and how little they actually take even when they have it. One good reason that a writer may stay in a job, even when a company is doing badly, is that they hate to give up the three or four weeks of annual vacation they have accumulated. Part of this could simply be fatigue, but for a serious writer, it could mean giving up a solid block of time to work on a novel, go to a writers’ conference, or concentrate on editing.
Although Obamacare and the Freelancers Union are working to improve the availability of affordable health insurance for writers and others, insurance can be a major issue. A friend of mine, whom I helped move to a more secure job, told me frankly that he could not take a chance on staying in his current job because the company he was working for was teetering on the edge of bankruptcy and he simply could not afford to be without insurance with a stay-at-home wife and two small children (and a mortgage).
What qualities does a good manager for writers have?
- Fairness that allows for mutual trust (managers always have to keep secrets – like who is about to be laid off – so you can never trust them completely)
- Ability to read and write reasonably well
- Respect for writers, even if the manager never reads Hilary Mantel or Steven Millhauser
- Appreciates loyalty and hard work and welcomes new ideas
- Fights for what’s best for writers, even if they lose most of the time
- Sense of balance and humor
When you get a manager with these qualities, you don’t want to move elsewhere. A good manager is hard to find.
Few perks are more tempting for a writer than working at home. Even if you have great colleagues, the office is often full of noise, bad air that is usually too hot or too cold, poor lighting conditions, and constant interruptions. One great manager I worked for who started as a writer got his writers laptop computers so they could work in conference rooms that were not in use and have peace and quiet. My happiest memories in that job were the hours spent hiding out in empty conference rooms when I needed peace and quiet and getting work done efficiently. The time limit helped too.
If you are not working at home, the length and type of commute is a major consideration. When I worked in an office, I usually tried to come in at 7 am and leave at 4 pm or come in at 10 and leave at 7, and I still got caught in endless traffic jams. If you have a “good commute,” either on public transportation (where you can read or write) or with the ability to stay off major highways, you will be loath to give it up. Commuting is a sheer torture and grates your nerves raw – and that’s in good weather.