So, last week I hung up my NHS badge and took the plunge into the murky waters of being a full-time writer. It was a difficult decision and not one made lightly. I didn’t jump ship because I’d made my millions (I haven’t) or because I fancied staying in bed all day (I would, but the dog believes that a) I should get up and walk her at first light, and b) the bed after 7am is legally her land).
So why did I do it? Why leave a job that paid regularly (except that one time when they didn’t) for the unstable life of a writer? Well, firstly it was the job itself. What was once a job that kept me busy for the full eight hours and often saw me walking up to ten miles a day had become one that barely kept me busy for a couple of hours and barely leaving my desk. My mind would wander to all the things I could be doing at home, all the words that could’ve been written, and wondered what I was doing there and why the NHS were paying me to sit there with these thoughts. I’m aware that many (if not most) people dislike their job and find it dull, and I’m aware I’m extremely fortunate to be in a position (if only temporarily) to quit the day job, but this was a job that I could do in my sleep. I barely had to use my brain. There was no creativity. I got no satisfaction from it and didn’t feel as though I was helping anyone or providing much of a service – surely things jobs in the NHS should do. So I stopped. I made a decision, counted the pennies in my piggy bank and wrote a letter of resignation (the most creative thing I’d ever done at that PC).
And then I started to panic. What if I never sold another book? What if I suddenly forgot how to write? What if, what if, what if? To be honest those things might happen. My next appearance might be in the first supermarket that’s hiring. But being even more honest is the fact that the NHS is no longer a secure option either. I’ve seen firsthand the process of privatisation, the endless consultations (and not the medical kind), the promises made by private companies later broken into a thousand pieces. It’s certain that the departments I worked in over the last ten years will soon no longer exist, at least not in any way resembling their current incarnation. The job I held would certainly not exist for much longer. Sometimes I think getting out when I did was perhaps a good decision before the whole of the NHS implodes. And this makes me sad. Not because I really wanted to stay but because my friends, my colleagues want to. Because many of them went into the NHS thinking it was going to take care of them until retirement. Because, I suppose, we all assumed that the NHS would take care of us for the rest of our lives. But our Government doesn’t feel that way.
So I’ve chosen to walk away and try my luck as a full time writer. Any writers reading this, or in fact anyone who’s read the reports about how little writers earn, might think I’m mad. But at least this way I know I’m only selling my work and not my soul. At least this way I know who the bad guys are and can make sure the good guys win. And if I have to live on cold tins of beans? Well at least I’ll be getting plenty of fibre and might not have to visit the doctor so much once the NHS is gone.