Reader queries: “I want to make the switch from accountancy to writing – how difficult is it?”

The past few months have been busy ones – as well as taking a trip to Barcelona (beautiful city, by the way; I highly recommend a visit), I’ve been continuing to work on the editorial team of a weekly tax magazine (the recent UK Budget in March and the subsequent Finance Bill kept me very busy). I had my “Tax and Russia” article published, as part of a special report on tax in the BRIC countries. I’m also still writing a lot. I haven’t been so good at keeping up my daily habit of writing 500 words a day – that mini-resolution fell away in March, BUT I have still been writing almost every day (so at least several times a week) and writing about 800 words of creative writing a day, so all is not lost.

Recently, however, I received a reader query, which I will share below (as well as my answer) in the hope it’ll help those in a similar situation.

IMG_9871 (Casa Batlló in Barcelona, Spain. One of Gaudí’s architectural masterpieces.)

“Hi Santhie, I recently came across your article on careershifters.org, and found it so inspirational. I’m a newly qualified chartered accountant who hates her job and the profession. I too have always enjoyed writing and set up a blog last year to document my travels with my husband so I could at least continue my passion to some extent.

I was wondering how difficult you found it to make the switch from being an accountant to a writer, i.e. what stumbling blocks did you come across? I’d really appreciate any advice you could give me as to how I too can follow my own passion in life, as opposed to being stuck in a job I hate.” 

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Getting things done: How tiny, daily habits build up (or: what I learned from my January mini-resolution)

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So, we’re one month into the New Year (and if you observe Chinese New Year like I do, we’re also right at the beginning of another New Year), and this means it’s probably a good time to reflect on one’s New Year’s Resolutions so far. Or, in my case, mini-resolutions so far. And, of course, if we’ve learned anything from them. Continue reading

Why ‘read a lot’ is bad advice if you want to write

Books

“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” – Stephen King

One thing I didn’t explore in my previous post is probably the most common piece of advice given to aspiring writers: ‘If you want to write, you must read lots.’ I actually don’t think this is very helpful advice in its current form. Read what? Read lots of books? Read lots of plays and poems? Read lots of magazines and newspapers? Read lots of tinned food labels? Read the IKEA catalogue? And what do you do after you’ve ‘read lots’?

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‘I want to be a writer, but I can’t write – what can I do?’

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I met a friend of mine for coffee (well, tea actually) yesterday. My friend told me about a friend of hers that has decided to quit their job to become a writer, and my friend was very concerned. Not because this person had quit their job to write, and not because of the oft-repeated maxim that ‘there’s no money to be made in writing’ – but because this person, to put it bluntly, was… crap.

However my friend, being the nice girl that she is, didn’t want to hurt her friend’s feelings by telling them this. She was also worried that, not being a writer herself, she might have misjudged her friend’s ‘talent’. So she showed me two lengthy blog posts her friend had drafted to see what I thought, along with the corrections she’d helpfully put through when her friend had asked for feedback.

‘I’m not wrong about this, am I?’ my friend asked me. ‘My friend can’t write. I think they should stick to something they’re good at. I love my friend, but I don’t think they have any talent and I think they’re wasting their time. You write for a living – what do you think?’

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On doing work you love (or: how I quit my City job to become a full time writer and work by the beach while soaking up the sun)

We all know the script. Go to school, work hard, get good grades, get a job, work hard at the office Monday to Friday for several decades… and then you can retire and relax and do what you want. It’s so deeply ingrained in our culture and our minds that anyone who dares to make a living any other way faces a barrage of questions implying that somehow, their work is not ‘real work’ – their job is not a ‘real job’.

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The above photo is of my job – taken last summer as I was working on my laptop on a hotel terrace overlooking St Ives beach in Cornwall, UK. I work as a freelance writer, and as long as I have my laptop (well, MacBook), a good internet or Wi-Fi connection and my smartphone, then I can do my work. Even if I’m outdoors overlooking the beach and enjoying the sunshine. Does that mean my work is not ‘real work’?

The following are the things I’ve heard said to me about my work:  Continue reading