When young people ask me what they should do to become a writer, one of the things I say is, Make sure you find a day job you like. Their eyes invariably glaze over, as mine did when I received the same advice at the same age. They no doubt have the idea that publishing a book will mean that all of their problems – artistic and otherwise – will magically disappear. That’s what I thought too. But for most writers, including some of our most celebrated Australian authors, day jobs are necessary. You need to choose one that doesn’t draw on the same pool of energy you need for writing, that’s all: it was because of this I gave up teaching – at the end of the week, nothing was left over.
For the past three years, my day job has been at the Legislative Assembly of Western Australia with the wonderfully archaic title of Sergeant-at-Arms. I only mention this now as I am leaving it to return to public-sector-land. It has been a wonderful job – I’ve been the only civilian in the state with the power of arrest, apparently – and I’ve particularly enjoyed wielding my big gold stick (aka the mace) to announce the Speaker at the commencement of each sitting. The hours on sitting weeks have been less lovely, and there’s been a lot of pressure associated with the job from time to time, but on the whole, it has been an experience I’ve been grateful to have. The bond between my colleagues, forged through the extremities of parliamentary work, is remarkable. I will miss Parliament, and them.
So, if you can find a day job you like, you’re lucky. To have a day job you love is something to be treasured – even as you leave it.