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Anyone ever leave the corporate world...

Posted by lilathabit (My Page) on
Sat, Apr 8, 06 at 22:47

And not regret it?

My DH has just about had it where he works. He's been with this company for 9 years in various positions. The pay & benefits have been okay (not great), and is just about the only fulfilling part of the job to him.

What he really wants to do is write fiction.

Here's the catch - we've got 2 little ones, an 18 month old and 6 month old.

I want him to have his chance and try writing full time, but I am also scared to death of doing this.

I don't know if I think he is good. I don't read a lot of fiction, so I don't feel like I am in a position to judge his writing.

Have any of you ever taken a chance like this?

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Anyone ever leave the corporate world...

Yes, DH did - BUT, and this is a huge BUT - I had and still have a good, reliable job with a consistent paycheck that pays our mortgage, has great benefits, etc. DH left his job as a software manager for a computer company about 3 years ago to start his own business. He wanted to make photography his career, but we both agreed he wasn't good enough - yet - to make it. So, we purchased a franchise - and I'm not sure that was the right decision. But, here we are - he's had his business open for 1-1/2 years, and we're starting to see a profit. It's very different from high tech, but he's able to use his years as a manager to manage this business. Ultimately, I'd like to see him more involved in photography, using the franchise to support his photography business.

He has no regrets leaving the corporate world.

I should add that we don't have any children - I think it probably would've been different if we did.

RE: Anyone ever leave the corporate world...

There's leaving the corporate world --
and then there's jumping off the employment platform without a safety net.

Writing fiction sounds enormously fun, and no doubt CAN be lucrative. But does he have any concrete plan for earning any money? Do you have outside employment that can pay the bills? Has he ever sold anything he's written? There's a big different between an 'escape fantasy' and a change of career, and that difference starts with a solid plan.

I left the corporate world about 5 years ago to open my own home-based consulting business. I'm doing nearly the same type of work, and I had some clients before I made the move - I've never regretted my decision.

RE: Anyone ever leave the corporate world...

Hate to get really blunt, but...

A lot of people want to write. Most of the stuff that comes out is horrendous. That said, nothing's to say your DH can't write, but if he's never had his work seriously critiqued, then don't count on it being readable. 99% of the forums found on the internet dealing with writing are pure fluff: "I love it. It spoke to my heart..." gak! But, let's go from the premise that he's at least readable, if not publishable.

Marion Zimmer Bradley wrote with toddlers crawling on her lap. Octavia Butler wrote while working at a warehouse. Why isn't he writing his Great American Novel after work or on weekends? Even getting a few publications under his belt doesn't necessarily mean he'll make the monthly mortgage. Writers often have to have 9 or 10 novels going before there's money enough to quit working at the bookstore. Freelance work? Sure. It's out there. Why doesn't he do his networking work & get a few contracts going while he's still got a job?

If you've got a job and the benefits to cover the family for awhile, it might be no biggie, but the kids have needs. Two adults deciding to change their life, they can go take care of themselves. When you both decided to have kids... And yet, people do do that and can succesfully do that, but it's hopefully done with "eyes wide open" thoughtfulness, otherwise it can turn into chaos.

Here's the people I know who've left the corporate world. One, single woman, no kids, took the lifestyle change and has been very happy. She lives in a trailer she & her husband just bought on the side of a mountain. She works cleaning hotel rooms & connecting up networks in the small town in which she lives. She works with glass. One married guy, painter, wife decided the marriage wasn't working & is leaving him. He's scrambling & panicked now. He hasn't gotten the galleries he was supposed to or sold at the shows. His paycheck has just dried up. Guess he'd better get hopping. Sculptor - has his gigs. Earns anywhere from $30K - $60K a year after 20 years of working at it. Only works in ice, not bronze or stone b/c ice pays. He also loves ice. Brilliant portrait painter, lives in state funded housing b/c he doesn't sell. Another wonderful painter moved to Hawaii in the hopes of finding better venues for his style.

People who haven't left the corporate world - photographer, game / world developer, poet / painter.

Art is a business. You have to manage your "career" in art. There's training involved, so you better figure out how to get the training you need to work at the profession. Art depends upon craft. There's skills required for marketing and sales. There's research about outlets / venues for distribution. Networking. Art is not sitting in your ivory tower contemplating your belly button lint while you channel the muse through your fingertips. There's plenty of books out there about the business aspect of writing, painting, photography, whatever.

Now, if DH has a novel already written, has he started his 2nd? Is the first one circulating the publishers, or is it in the editing phase? Does he work with a circle of writers who can find misplaced commas, recognize a sentence splice, check his spelling? How many pages a day does he produce? Does he read and critique other writers' work?

How large is the family savings account? If he quits his job he won't be eligible for unemployment. How will food hit the kids' table?

I've got a fully functioning painting studio and I write. I also work "in the corporate world." I loathe commission work. I hate repeating my media or my themes. I stink at talking to gallery owners about my work, yet I'm very comfortable getting my work critiqued, slammed even, so I can improve my technique. Poetry still goes for 5cents a line. The Job puts food on the table. I stink at the business of art, but I love painting and writing. I've worked this for going on fifteen years.

If he doesn't have a business plan for this new career, then I'd suggest he's just tired of "the job." That doesn't garner much sympathy from me as I've had to wrestle the same wrestle, but without kids. Bringing children into the mix would change a lot for me. If he doesn't like where he's working at, get another job, but don't depend upon "art" until some foot work has been done.

"Leaving the corporate world" and trying to earn a living off your art are two separate things. There's plenty of ways to earn a living without working for a large company. The way I read your post was that he wanted to try to earn a living from his writing, not find another job in a non-profit, or a small / family-owned business.

I'm blunt because I've found that there's no other way to address this issue because people continually think of "art" as some kind of "food mysteriously appearing on the table" "beautiful", "more valuable" kind of lifestyle when it's work. Yes, you can earn a living off of your "art", but it takes tenacity, discipline, training and just plain hard work. The painter living in state-funded housing - wanted a "patron." uh... hello... You gotta get your stuff out there first.

good luck,
best wishes,
Go out & buy The Writer's Market for him


RE: Anyone ever leave the corporate world...

My husband and I both left the corporate world, with no regrets. However, our situation was quite different from yours. We had enough savings to live off of for a long time, and we have no children.

It sounds to me like your husband is very frustrated in his job and needs a major break from it. A complete career change might by the answer, but unless you've got a lot of money saved (or you have a job that can pay the bills), I don't think that writing will work. Like andrea said, trying to sell your art, whatever it is, can be very frustrating. It's not enough to just be good at creating the art, you have to be good at selling it, and that puts you right back into having to deal with people who have control over your destiny and income, much like the corporate world. I've seen this happen with both my brother and my husband. Both are really good at what they do, but are constantly frustrated having to deal with the marketing aspects of selling their work.

Another thing to consider is how this would affect your home life, not just your income. Writing is a solitary activity that often requires quiet. Will your husband be shouting at you all the time to keep the kids quiet? Will he be shut behind a closed door all the time, with you bringing him food but otherwise barely seeing him? And, realize too that he may expect you to offer moral support, judge his work, and possibly even say "this is great honey!" even if you don't mean it. (Believe me, I've been down that road. It's very hard to tell your husband that his work isn't marketable.) And if you don't read fiction, that will make it even more difficult to effectively critique his writing.

My advice is for him to transfer the skills and experience he's acquired over the past nine years to a different industry (in other words, get a new job that's more fulfilling), and write in his spare time. Then over the next few years, he can come up with a plan for leaving the corporate world.

RE: Anyone ever leave the corporate world...

Well, I think you've all voiced concerns of mine. For some reason it seems to be difficult for him to write on weekends and evenings. Part of it is that he wants to also be as involved with the kids as he can when he's not working. (For which I am grateful. I am lucky to have a husband who wants to be this invloved in our children's lives.)

He's burning out. Perhaps a change in work environment is what he needs. He works in a major textbook publishing company, but perhaps non-profit or a small business environment would be the way to go. The pay and benefits wouldn't be as good, but at least it would be earning something.

He was a creative writing major as an undergrad, and that was the last time he really wrote on a regular basis. He said his work was always critiqued favorably, but that was from what I think is the insular academic world, not from from a real agent's office who found his work in a slushpile.

I am not working, but if I worked and he didn't, it wouldn't mean he would be free to write. We both realize that he would then have to devote his time to the kids with little time left to write. So either way, he wouldn't be writing (at least regularly & full time).

Maybe we just need to be better organized so that he would find the time to write, even if it does mean after work or on weekends, or heck, even carve out some time before work.

Does anyone know anything about the book The Writer's Way? I've never read it, but someone recommended it to him saying it addressed some of this.

RE: Anyone ever leave the corporate world...

Tell him not to leave his day job! I worked in several different areas publishing for years. Even well established names have a hard time earning a living on any subject --fiction is hardest to get published or sell. If he must do it then nights and weekends and vacation time is the way to go. In that industry in these times it is very difficult to get a full time job with benefits your family needs with two small children.

He has my sympathies as it's never easy to stay in a job that you don't like though many of us did it for years because we needed the income and many still do.

RE: Anyone ever leave the corporate world...

The only writing he should be doing right now is his resume. He should be looking for another job. It may not be the job itself but the company that turns him off. Also, nine years is a long time - too long, imo - to be in one place because you almost really need to leave a job to get that good bump in pay and a different perspective. Are you in a big enough market that looking for a new job would not be a huge problem?

Another thought (and this is a tough one) is for him to go to school to get an MBA or additional education in his field to make him more competitive in getting a new and more satisfying job.

RE: Anyone ever leave the corporate world...

I think Andrea345 stated everything perfectly - it's rough out there in the creative world - no matter what your medium is.
I used to sell at craft and art shows..painted porcelain, painted t-shirts, etc. That was when my DH was still working (he's on a disability retirement now due to back injuries), and could bring home a steady paycheck and benefits. For me, I loved creating my pieces (at least at first)- hated the process of selling them. After a while, the demands of the shows took their tole, and I hated producing the pieces again and again...trying to build up stock for the next show...painting till 2am...painting commissioned orders...and I eventually burnt out on the whole thing. After adding up everything, I found that I was basically working like a dog for about $5 an hour, with no benefits. I decided that work in the corporate world would net a lot more $$$, and allow for more fufilling creative time at home after hours and on the weekends. I love art - in all it's forms, but I'm not strong enough (or young enough) to live life as a starving artist. I know lots of artists who only do their art, or have a part time job on the side (bussing tables, cleaning houses, etc.) and do their art the majority of the time. They live hand to mouth, without benefits, in trailers, or someone's's not a life that you or I would cotton to very well, and almost none of them have children.

Depending on what type of fiction your DH wants to write, why not try getting published with some short stories? There are magazines for Sci-Fi, Mystery, Horror, etc. that buy short stories - and if he could publish a few short stories it might go a long way towards making his job in the corporate world more tolerable to him. For me, I work to live, not live to work, and if I could I'd leave my high-stress corp. job tomorrow. As it is, I'm looking for a lower stress way to make my living..but I don't plan on leaving my company, as I need those benefits. I've got my creative time on the weekends to keep me in balance though, and being able to create on my off hours is a big help in balancing out my life. Right now, he probably feels like his 9 to 5 is stifiling and blocking his desire/ability to do what he really wants to do. A taste of success in the writing world would do a lot to make him feel better, and to realize that it doesn't have to be an all-or-nothing proposition.

RE: Another option..

Just had a quick thought lilathabit - is there a possiblity that your DH could move to what's known as a 9/80 schedule at work?

I work a 9/80, which basically means I work one hour extra each day (for a total of 9 hours), and have every other Friday (or Monday) off. I just had a three day weekend, which is wonderful. If he could switch to that schedule, he could have a day to himself every other weekend for writing without compromising salary, benefits, time with the family or anything. There's also the 4/10 schedule in which folks work 10 hour days and have every Friday (or Monday) off.

Lots of companies offer this now - it might be worth checking into?

RE: Anyone ever leave the corporate world...

John Grisham and I had the same professor in law school (different schools), so I met him with a small group of people back in 1991 (when The Firm was huge) when he came to my school to visit my/his professor. He said that he continued practicing law and wrote in the mornings for a few hours a day. I don't think he stopped practicing law full time until "The Firm" was made into a movie. Even after his first book, "A Time to Kill", was published, he continued working. The book eventually became a big seller, but not until much later, even though it was one of his best.

By the way, he is even better looking in person. And very charming.

Here is a link that might be useful: Read John Grisham Biography

RE: Anyone ever leave the corporate world...

DH and I have both left large corporations for small companies - after 10 and 15 years at our respective employers. We're just not large corporate types - rather deal with the "meat" of the business rather than the politics and bureaucracy. We're much happier - maybe a new company environment would help in your DH's situation. As others have said, unless you have a lot of money I wouldn't want to bail out on the paycheck entirely. We inadvertently had to do that as the result of downsizing and it's not fun - though it was DH's opportunity to investigate having his own business - an idea he finally abandoned after going without a paycheck for nearly two years.

RE: Anyone ever leave the corporate world...

Wow, you are all articulating what I think he should be doing.

I asked him about getting an MBA. He said the only master's degree he would ever bother getting is an MFA in Writing.

We're on the outer skirts of the NYC Tri state area, so looking for something new shouldn't be as difficult as other areas, especially in publishing.

A 9/80 schedule or variation wouldn't work. As it is, he is putting in extra hours without any days off in exchange. It's just expected. He was asked to postpone vacation days he requested during the holidays in Decemeber. It's just a constant grind with no end in sight.

I will definitely show him the John Grisham biography.

Maybe he can entertain this when I get back to work, but it will be awhile yet.

RE: Anyone ever leave the corporate world...

Well, today at, they list top rated jobs, and college professor is second highest.

I'm shocked by the ranking. I never knew a college professor who made any decent money, so I am not sure how valid this survey is.

If this is possibly legitimate, maybe hubby should go back to school and get that MFA in Writing and teach? We might have enough savings to live frugally while he (hopefully) quickly gets that degree. We'd have to figure out the health insurance situation.

Maybe this too is crazy talk. Aaaargh!

RE: Anyone ever leave the corporate world...

Lila, Does your DH write now? Is he writing whenever he gets a chance? In the creative fields, I find that people who are "artists" can't resist doing their work. Yes, they have jobs but then when they get home, or on weekends, they devote a lot of their time to their creative endeavors. Is you DH like that? If not, then perhaps he is going through an employment crisis and anything looks better than continuing what he is doing. If he doesn't have the fire in his soul to write now whenever he has a spare moment, I don't see that he is going to get that fire even with a writing degree.

Also, being a college professor teaching writing is not the same as being a writer.

None of this is crazy talk. I think your DH needs some career counseling. Has he thought of going to an executive employment agency to talk about other possibilities in his field? It might be helpful.

RE: Anyone ever leave the corporate world...

I'd just like to add to my previous post that before my husband and I left the corporate world, we thoroughly analyzed our financial situation to make sure that doing so was feasible. And boy do I mean analyze! We went through all our bills, bank statements, credit card statements, and checkbooks (we had 3 accounts at the time--his, mine, and ours) for the past three years. DH made spreadsheets and charts of where every dime was being spent (from haircuts to Christmas gifts), and then projected our future expenses as best he could.

Even though our situation is/was different from yours, I'd like to suggest that you do the same. Find out how much college professors really make at the colleges where your husband might teach, how much getting a MFA would cost (and the real world value of the degree), other expenses you may have during the time he'd be in school (more kids? medical expenses? home remodeling? caring for a sick parent?), and every other little thing you can think of.

You and your husband will make this decision more easily if you're armed with facts and try to keep emotions out of it. I'm not saying it's "crazy talk" because it's not. You just don't have enough information to move forward. Is your husband as hesitant as you are? Your last post has a lot of hedges in it: "maybe he should go back to school?"; "we might have enough savings"; "he hopefully gets that degree".

Don't let one study sway your thinking! And don't let these posts do that either. I believe that anything is possible if you want it badly enough.


RE: Anyone ever leave the corporate world...

I'm very curious which college professors those are who make a lot of money. To do that, you'd need a PhD in addition to a Masters for any real hope of employment, and even then, it could take several years of post-doc positions before it happens. My brother is an English professor, and now dept. head, and has had three books published to high critical acclaim and even some commercial success. He's considered one of the world's foremost experts on his particular area of expertise. But he still makes peanut$. He was voted professor of the year several times at his campus, once state-wide, and the administration loves him. But he still makes peanut$. The hours he works are inhuman, but he loves his job. And did I mention, he makes peanut$...

RE: Anyone ever leave the corporate world...

sweeby, I can't understnad it either. I didn't have time to analyze the website, but here it is if you want to take a look:

They claim the average salary of a college professor is $81,500. That doesn't sound right.

We do indeed need to look at our finances, costs, healthcare options, etc.

While he is not writing the great American novel, he does maintain a blog (though he's been doing it for years before people started labeling it such.)

Thanks all for your input!

RE: Anyone ever leave the corporate world...

I agree with a lot of what has been said, but wanted to discourage the idea of DH becoming a professsor.

There are a lot of rank levels below "professor": instructor, assistant professor, associate professor - and usually anything above instructor requires a Ph.D.(not just a Masters). Teaching contracts are short term with the understanding you move up or you are out. At each level, many, many people get squeezed out - "publish or perish" - and shown the door. To make it to full professor is a significant acheivement, and the tenure (absolute job security, like the Pope) and sabbaticals (year off teaching to pursue research, etc.) are perks that just don't exist in the rest of the real world. That, the youthful culture, the prestige, and the intellectual purity and nobility of it all no doubt figure in to that job satisfaction report.

Doing some teaching may be an OK way to make some interim money - but don't confuse being one of the legion of low paid instructors with being one of the elite full professors. Whole 'nother thing. Dh would need 6 years give or take for the Ph.D. and another 6 to 15 to try to climb the ladder, actually more like a pyramid with so many at the base and so few at the top. And as Sweeby says, even then many full professors make peanuts. Only the first rank universities pay really well, and those guys usually bring in huge bucks to the university in research grants and book earnings. (also, did you know a university significantly "taxes" all your outside earnings when you are full time faculty?)

Going for professsor rank is a very, very competitive life, only for the truly dedicated. Not something DH should think he can do briefly while setting up a writing career. No way.

Also, I agree that true writers write - no matter what. It is like a driven passion. Sounds like DH is looking for something better and thinking back on liking writing when he was in school. That's different from drive. Perhaps he should step back and open his mind to all work possiblilities.

One exercise in career planning is to take some time and make a very long list of every conceivable occupation. All of them - not the ones for you. All of them.
Then, and only then, strike out the impossible or absurd for you (jockey, ballerina, Microsoft chairman, pro basketball player, movie star...). Next strike out the ones requiring too much training/time (brain surgeon, astronaut, *professor*). Next strike out what is unappealing. What is left may be surprising and worth further consideration.

Good luck to you and DH.

RE: Anyone ever leave the corporate world...

"did you know a university significantly "taxes" all your outside earnings when you are full time faculty"

I didn't know that , nor did I know what the route might be to finally become a well paid preofessor.

Perhaps though, he can work for a college. I think it would be a better environment than working for a private company. He may easily apply his current experience with online learning technologies to a school hoping to offer online courses.

That exercise sounds like an excellent one. I think I may use that one when I finally feel ready to enter the workforce again myself.

RE: Anyone ever leave the corporate world...

Happy to help. Rereading my post I should have been clearer that I was talking about the "professor" path, or "tenure track". That's the path that eliminates most contenders along the way. DH could still pursue teaching in a non tenure track position, essentially a contract to develop and teach classes as an instructor. That work is not tied to a professor slot, so there is no "up or out"/ "publish or perish" issue. But, there is also no future in it, as there is no possibility of promotion. And it is a lot of work to develop a course the first year, preparing all those hours of lectures, grading papers, etc. for such little pay. Way easier to pull out the binder and do it for the tenth time!

I like your idea of DH applying his technical experience to a new arena. I suspect he could be paid well for that knowledge and experience.

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