Five Things I Miss Most About Having A Writing 9–5

An open office workspace with large desks and hanging lights

You’d think I’d know what I want in a writing career after spending some ten years of cutting my teeth in wordsmithery. Ha. Ha ha. Hahahaha.

What happened instead is me flitting from one possibility to another, not really committing to an actual path. Do I want to pursue fiction? Or freelance writing? Am I looking to be an editor? Or remain a writer?

I don’t know.

But what I do know is that the past always triggers a sense of longing, no matter how terrible the experience, and boy did my writing career feel like the wrong call sometimes.

The upsides more than made up for it though, so join me in reminiscing the things I miss from being a nine-to-five writer.

1. You’re protected from major blunders

During my time in the aviation industry, we weren’t allowed to use words like ‘drown’ or ‘crash’, so you always had to reword terms like ‘crash the party’, or ‘drown your sorrows’.

Though it’s natural to sometimes forget about these limitations. You know how we lessen those mistakes? We don’t. It just happens naturally thanks to the hierarchical structure.

In a proper publishing house, your work will first go through a sub-editor to make sure there’s no typos, and that everything adheres to the house style. Then it’s up to the next level of editors before it reaches the final shot caller, most often the editor-in-chief.

And if that isn’t enough, it’s all hands on deck for proofreading before the magazine or publication goes to print.

So even if you were to send in a piece with a huge oversight, you’d have so many other pairs of eyes to help you catch it before your story reaches the public.

Even if something were to happen, it’s the editor-in-chief’s burden to bear. So yeah, I sure do miss having people look over my work.

A riot happening outside a building with a bonfire

Worst case scenario, they burn your office and not your house. Photo: Tito Texidor III

2. Your team can make the impossible possible

You know this favourite assignment of mine about the mud pit wrestlers of India? To be honest, I had my doubts when I first mentioned it in our monthly meeting.

But my art director said it’d be a visually stunning piece, and my fellow writer had a contact in India, plus the photographer also had ideas on how to best present the story.

Even though I had the insights of a martial artist, I doubt the trip would’ve happened had my team not pitched in.

Imagine me covering a similar story today. I’d have no idea where to even begin. And that’s why I miss having a group of diversely skilled people around me.

3. You get to bitch to somebody that gets you

Do you always misspell ‘Philippines’? How about ‘broccoli’? And ‘gauge’? I still misplace the double-letters no matter how many times I look them up. And I get paid to do this.

I used to have cubicle neighbours who understood my plight. All I needed to do was roll my chair backwards and ask them if they knew how to spell a word. And that was much more satisfying than simply googling the answer.

Then there were the puns we used to bounce back and forth. That and spontaneous knock-knock jokes. I try to do the same thing with my dog today but she makes for a terrible audience.

Boy do I miss annoying people with my puns.

4. It feels great to be a team player

Spend enough time with the same people and you start to develop your own code. Sentences like ‘I’ll get you the Holi thingie after I come back from colour sep’ makes more sense among colleagues than they would with your dog, for example.

There’s also the few days in a month where everybody stays back till midnight without being asked, because we know it’s crunch time.

I’ve never been one for team games, but boy does teamwork feel sweet, especially when plans just come together.

Miss Job Teamwork - Hannah Busing

It may be cheesy, but teamwork does give me the fuzzy feels. Photo: Hannah Busing

5. You don’t need to wring your brain for story ideas

Sometimes the stories come to you instead of the other way round. An example being my time as a stringer for the local newspapers.

Never once did I have to pitch a story to my editor, because she was the one on the receiving end for media coverage on this product, or that personality, or a certain event.

All I needed to do was listen to the brief and be there to cover the story. And they always assigned me a photographer, so I didn’t need to worry about the visual presentation as much.

Yup, I definitely do miss being able to just focus on the writing.

There are benefits to flying solo too

It’s not all doom and gloom when it comes to striking out on your own though. As someone who’s had the privilege to try the many different arrangements within the publishing industry, I can say that they all have their pros and cons.

Here are some pros to working on your own.

i. No gatekeepers to hold you down

Sometimes it doesn’t matter if your story’s awesome, because the people in charge might hate it. Heck, even your colleagues might talk you out of it.

But when you’re on your own, you get to call the shots. Want to analyse all chess games played before the 18th century? Go ahead. Think you can make ultra-running exciting on paper? You do you.

One thing you’ll learn is that the market is a much more reliable indicator of your niche or story, rather than the approval of one person in the right seat.

ii. You get to be you

Remember what I said about companies banning certain words? They also do the same for your choice of topics. For instance, some publishing houses only print political topics from a certain angle.

Well you’re free from that as a solo writer. You can write whatever you want, whenever you want. 

Want to be known as the guy who reviews chess games prior to the 18th century? You can. Want to repeat examples because you’re totally out of ideas since you don’t have a team behind you? You can too.

iii. You get to choose your clients

Provided you’re not living hand-to-mouth, you can very well pick the exact niche you want to be in, and that can be a very empowering way to go about your writing career.

Interested in travel writing? You can reach out to hotels and tour companies. Want to write book reviews? You can look at authors and bookstores instead.

And once you reach a certain level, you can even decide which jobs you take on, and which you don’t. How cool is that?

This is an Easter Egg for Tanish, because you might be the only person who accesses alt texts. Hello! p.s. This pic shows a black woman wearing headphones laughing at her laptop.

This could be you looking at your freelance offers. Photo: Soundtrap

So which path should you take?

How do you approach a writing career? Do you take a chance with your own digital presence and go freelance? Or do you earn your stripes by climbing the publishing ladder?

If it were up to me, I’d tell you to try all the paths, especially if you’re serious about writing for a living. This is so that you’ll have a wider base to build your career upon.

Of course, don’t force yourself to join a finance publication if that topic bores you, but even then, you could learn a thing or two from writing what you hate.

However, what matters more is that you stop and smell the roses every once in a while, because if I’m going to be honest with you, writing this piece is making me wish I could go back and relive the old jobs that I took for granted.

Even the ones I hated.


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77 thoughts on “Five Things I Miss Most About Having A Writing 9–5

  1. Hi Stuart, thanks for taking me to the writing workplace with you. I really enjoyed learning about the editors. Both ways, close to people or alone, have advantages and disadvantages. I like more to work by myself, to plan and execute my ideas, but I agree that change of knowledge is fundamental.

    • Lol, I guess that’s a new thing I can start doing on WordPress, huh? Bring your readers to work day! But yeah, if given the chance, I’d always like to work for myself, though the community aspect of an office job can be fun sometimes. Thanks so much for visiting!

  2. Hi Stuart, this is something I really need to read at this time. My take away, writing what I hate means starting to see something good in it, that may lead to somehow liking it. A nice way to lessen negativity. Thank you, you are great!

    • I love how you came up with your own takeaway and made it your own. You’ve given me a new perspective to look at too.

      And YOU are great for taking the time to share your lovely comment!

  3. I knew your comment was missing on my screen so looked this up when checking your next post.
    Oh yes so true. The cats are lil dickens too but that’s my own bloody fault.

    Oh you blew that out of the water Stuart for sure.

    You’re so welcome. Always a pleasure!
    💖

  4. Come on Stuart, you mean your dog does applaud your work by jumping up on your papers or hitting the keyboard. grrrr … it’s a common theme here and never mind the cats.

    Oh this is relatable and now i’m not feeling so bad, being you’re a professional…..

    “I still misplace the double-letters no matter how many times I look them up. And I get paid to do this.”
    I can’t tell you how many times this happens to me.

    Great post as always!
    👏👏👏

    • I’m grateful I have a smallish doggo, which means that everything on tables are out of reach. Because the chaos that would happen otherwise…

      I hope this post dispels the myth that we need to be on par with the likes of Hemingway to write for a living, because if I can do it…

      Anyway, thanks again, Cindy!

  5. It is really interesting to read this post, I am sure this will be helpful for people who are thinking about not having a 9-5, what you could miss as well as the positives. Thank you for sharing your experience.

    Lauren

    • Heya Lauren! Yeah, this post reminisces the 9–5, but I’m sure that if I were to go back to an office setting, I’d probably find something to moan about. Grass is always greener and whatnot. Thanks so much for stopping by!

  6. Once again, a very engaging post. I agree with both the pros and cons. In my 9-5 professional career, there are editors; however, sometimes they tend to make changes that are perfect or bland or difficult to read, which I don’t approve of. I like my pieces to be a little rough around the edges but in simple, plain English that even a 4th grader can read and understand.

    Just to break away from those restrictions, I would love to go back to solo writing and editing one day, though I would miss the structure and guidance that comes with a corporate career.

    • Worst is when they edit your piece into something that totally doesn’t represent you, and they expect you to live with that, lol. I’m seldom attached to my work, but there was this one bit that was written in a voice that was so childish even I (who’s the most childish person I know) couldn’t stand it. Anyway, thanks so much for stopping by!

  7. The only “professional” writing I’ve done is with my friends who are photographers wi to blogs who’ve asked me to write for them. This is so incredible to read because I’ve never been in such situations where I had anyone revising or editing for me- I wish I did though! The fact that you misspell things regularly even though you KNOW the word and still have to look it up makes me feel way better. I’m terrible at spelling and grammar. I’m forever trying to do better

    • Not only do I regularly misspell words, I also misuse idioms, which have actually gone to print. Examples being, using ‘head to head’ in place of ‘neck and neck’, and thinking ‘toe the line’ meant challenging authority instead of staying in line.

      The best thing about writing is that you never have to produce anything in real time (compared to photography where a moment could disappear if you don’t catch it), so here’s to forever improving at it!

  8. You always include humor in your blog posts Stuart and that’s why I always visit your site.

    This topic of having a 9-5 well for me was evident whilst I was still a student, I loved writing in school and when I was a kid I used to mark books and the Bible , haha well I was a kid but the books are still there.

    Also, what’s good about writing is that you get to be you especially if you are a Freelancer and not an employee of a publishing company.

    Lastly, your content is very good and have a great day!!

    • Aww, humour is a tough thing to pull off for me, so I’m always thankful for praise in that regard.

      Oh yeah, sadly though, even freelancers have to sometimes adhere to company policies (whoever’s paying). The dream would definitely be to be paid for your vision and words themselves, which is part of the reason why I’m looking into fiction.

      Thanks again so much for your lovely words. You’ve made my day!

  9. Having worked in a large organisation all my life, in general I agree with all the points especially the one about others covering your errors! I wonder how I would feel if I did not have my nine to five routine….although I do feel the grass is always greener on the other side…especially when most of what you write comes out way too different and unrecognisable in the final notes of meetings, presentation slide decks and projects and the dept news letter articles! Have a great day ahead!

    • Ooo. The 9–5 can apply to both big and small companies, and since we’re talking about large organisations, let me just say that what I miss about them is that you’re seldom watched over, unless you have a terrible HOD. Like you can take a few extra minutes on your break, but try doing that in a small company and everyone knows you went out too long.

      The downside? Bureaucracy, omg.

      Anyway, great to see you here again, Jeanne!

      • That’s a great comparison and I agree about the bureaucracy thingy….well you know the old saying….’when in Rome….do as the Romans do…’ 😏

  10. Great post, Stuart! Not a 9 to 5 person but well, I can relate. I have a feeling I commented here but it didn’t get published somehow (?) so excuse this awkward value-less comment. See you!

  11. Great post, Stuart! I think however we end up working, there’s always a small part of us that wonders if something else is better. I’ve never had a 9-5, I’ve only had part time jobs then started my blog and went into full-time blogging. But I always wonder whether I should just jack it in and get a 9-5 for the ease of it! I bet having a team of people to help you was a great perk.

    • Yup! Having a team was nice, but the stable pay every month was great too. No worrying about the next step, or how to keep a certain income flowing. If you ever join the 9–5 world, be sure to share your experience! I’d love to read about it :)

  12. Your description of a writing 9-5 sounds like my 9-5 job and I’m not even in the writing industry! But we write a lot of reports. And every piece get reviewed and edited *cough* scrutinised going up the layers before it can be published to our clients!

    It’s true about the safety net and having the comfort of “quality control”. But I always feel like my creativity is sucked out in this process! 😓

    On the other hand, my blog allows me to write freely but I am constantly questioning is it good enough and seeking some levels of scrutiny from someone more experience. Aaahhh you just can’t win!! Lol

    • Oh my. Does that mean I actually miss the 9–5 in general? Noooo…

      Having your work go up and down the chain of command does get tiring though, doesn’t it? You follow the instructions of your immediate boss, and bam, the CEO says it’s totally off-kilter.

      But I appreciate that experience. It’s taught me to not be so attached to my work sometimes and just get the work done.

      At least if we need a proper creative outlet, we still have our blogs :P

      Anyway, thanks so much for stopping by!

      • Yes absolutely! Experience has been great. Getting all those eyes on my writing can only mean improvement right. But yes it can be taxing and demotivating sometimes!

        Totally!! The world has my 9-5 job to thank for the birth of my blog!! Hahaha

  13. This is quite a nostalgic piece! This post gives me hope that there is a future in writing. I was just talking to another teacher this week who also writes on his blog and he was shared how sometimes he doesn’t know what the use of writing is. It was kind of depressing to hear.

    • I think that no matter how far technology progresses, there’ll always be a demand for writing. For all intents and purposes, even radio and video boil down to writing, right? Anyway, always great to have you here, Jennk!

      • Yes, you are write! But to give more context, this teacher was mainly writing creatively and writing for “fun” on his blog and not really earning any money from it. So, I think he was referring to how he personally writing isn’t “practical” for him at the moment, and writing is just merely an outlet for him right now. And we talked about how you can’t “make money with writing” unless you “make it big” 🤣

  14. Hey I hear ya! Me, I do at times feel torn betw wanting company and wanting to be by myself in my writing journey. Sighhh…at my age and years now away from full-time employ, I suppose the options to find companionship in my writing journey get whittled down quite a bit. Still, I shall soldier on. Btw, just started reading Tinhead City! Gripping, and kinda reminds me of Neil Gahmen for some reason! Kudos bro!!

    • To be honest, I’m rather enjoying not having gatekeepers bit, especially when there are tons of hoops to jump through just to get a simple piece out.

      Omg thanks so much for your support, and I appreciate your kind words about it! Always great to see you here, Kelvin.

  15. Not sure I have that many writing lives since I’m coming to the party late. I saw the value of teamwork as an educator, and I value the opinions of my fellow writers, but I think I’m going to be a combination of solo and a supportive team player. You have had an interesting work history; my resume is pretty short.

    • I still don’t really see the value of teamwork, mostly because I tend to be a loner, but boy does getting into a groove with a team really feel good. I guess we’re wired this way as a means of species propagation. Because if I can feel good about teamwork, I wonder what the more team-based people would feel, lol.

      If by interesting you mean one short stint after another (but looking mighty dodgy like I can’t hold a job), then yes :P

      Thanks so much for stopping by, Pete!

  16. I appreciate this thoughtful post Stuart since I have only been a solo blogger and solo writer. I imagine how writing as a job for a company offered you some sweet benefits, those being listed above. I love my solo gig but it pushes you to the limits of your comfort zone…..then beyond.

    Ryan

    • Besides the comfort zone thing, it’s also a terribly lonely path, because for one, I’ll bet you have few friends doing the same thing. And another, it’s hard to know if you’re making any progress sometimes. But the rewards are also awesome. Give and take, eh? Thanks for always being here, Ryan!

  17. I swear, I feel like every time I read one of your posts, it never ceases to amaze me how many lives you seem to have lived before landing where you are lol… “During my time in the aviation industry” was like hearing “back in my day…” hehe

    I enjoy team work but I know if I did this writing thing within a team, I’d never have the guts to write more than half the things I’ve explored so far (for fear of judgment or criticism). Sometimes I think I am still doing this because I have no one actually telling me .. “hey that’s not a good idea, that won’t be received well, I don’t think you’re that good!” LOL…

    But I do see the one plus side about working as a team- like you said, you have other people to come up with interesting storylines and subjects with you.. as opposed to feeling the dread on a weekly basis trying to come up with something on your own…

    • Lol it really does sound like ‘back in my day’, doesn’t it? Especially since I was in aviation when travel was still pain-free. Feels like a whole era ago.

      The good thing about writing in a team is that you can just throw out your ideas first. The harshest judgement or criticism usually happens after handing in your finished product, so I’d be more stressed out about that, lol. Fortunately, I had a particularly harsh editor that shredded all my inhibitions about sending in work.

      Love your spate of comments, Jen!

    • Oh yeah. The best is when you guys just riff off each other, or continue each other’s puns. That’s an amazing feeling that I’ve yet to experience in person ever again.

      Here’s a Stuart Original™ that I told on stage in a pun competition:

      An Indian cracker told a joke.
      Pappadom-tss.

  18. When I worked in public relations, my barely-acquainted work partner asked for help coming up with a word that meant something or other. I had no idea, so instead of a logical answer, I said, “How about dog treats? I find that works well in any situation. As a noun… a verb, adjective… whatever you need.” She laughed, we later became roommates, and have been friends ever since. She heard I was going to a conference in her state, so she signed up to attend. We’ll be hotel roommates now. :)
    I do miss the human interaction and the safety net of other editors above me. Now I’m the editor-in-chief for my organization, so if something is wrong… Yep.

    • Oh wow! Awesome to know that you’re an editor-in-chief. Writing and jiu-jitsu. How more similar can we be? I’m not married nor do I have children, so I guess there’s that difference, at least.

      Can’t imagine all that responsibility of accidentally okay-ing a faux pas, because it’s so easy to overlook things, especially when you’re looking at words all day.

      Love your story about human connection, and it’s funny how our most substantial events can be traced back to the most minute of things. Anyway, thanks for stopping by!

      • I use editor-in-chief loosely, as it’s a small organization. My title is simply editor, though it still amounts to mistakes landing on me. I recently sent something out where I attributed someone to the wrong organization, and that person wrote in to point it out. Yikes! Talk about a faux pas! My boss was not happy, but is thankfully forgiving. Still, eeeeek!!!

        That friend and I still call each other Dog Treats, or simply DT, as a nickname to this day.

        Writing and Jiu-Jitsu are a winning combination! There should be more of us in the world! :)

  19. Thank you for this piece. I agree with your summing up sentence: “If it were up to me, I’d tell you to try all the paths, especially if you’re serious about writing for a living.” Yes, we do need the freedom to explore our own style and areas of writing, but we also need the company, experience, learned insights and encouragement of other writers.

    • Definitely. Once someone wants to turn pro, it’s much better to know more than to be hyper-specialised. But that’s just me, because I’m sure there are writers who’ve only done technical writing all their lives and are still thriving in the industry. And thank YOU for visiting!

  20. Right there with you. Been on both sides. Although, I have to say I have no wish to go back to “the office.” (In quotes, because it’s soooo different now than it was pre-covid.) Still, being around other folks writing is kind of like a warm blanket on a cold day. Thinking about this, it must be why I like meeting in coffee shops for write-ins with fellow authors.

    • Oh yeah. I wouldn’t even know how to handle a full-time job now. Am I looking at going to the office? Work from home? Or a hybrid? And what’s the purpose of needing to go to the office after what COVID has shown us about remote working?

      As much as I’d like to have people around me, I also don’t mind NOT having to join the rush hour commute.

      Anyway, great to see you here again!

  21. I write as a hobby. Last year, I applied for a full-time writing job at the company I work for. After the interview, I did some soul searching and decided it wasn’t for me for many of the reasons you point out above.

    One thing I know for sure, I could NEVER be an editor. I took a copy editing course last year and hated it. I consider myself a detail-oriented person but there’s a limit.

    • Hahaha. Editing is totally different though, isn’t it? I’ve never had the desire to NOT write, and being an editor is just that. Entire days spent not writing, and just making sure everything else—like paginations and schedules—is in order. Gah.

      But if I were to return to a 9–5, I might have to take up an editing job, because that’s the only way up. Anyway, thanks so much for sharing, Michelle!

      • It’s often the other way round. You need ample experience as a writer before becoming an editor, at least when it comes that title in a company.

        Entrepreneurs can become editors and offer their services from the get-go, so there’s no real standard to reach.

        Even being a sub-editor does require some writing experience beforehand, though not as much as if you were applying for an editor’s job.

        If we’re talking being an editor for the newspapers, a magazine, or a famous online portal? Probably 5–10 years.

      • That makes sense. I was an editor for a college magazine “for fun” and a write for this other college magazine, but the publishing industry seemed so hard to break into and kind of unstable and fast pace, so I chose the teaching route after graduating from college.

  22. “During my time in the aviation industry, we weren’t allowed to use words like ‘drown’ or ‘crash’,” You remind me of my grandparents who grew up in a fishing village. You are not allowed to say a lot of words, like die, drown, flip…

    • Lol. As a half-Chinese, I can also take this to another level. We can’t say ‘four’ because it sounds too close to the word ‘die’, and in some instances we can’t say ‘start driving the car’ because it almost resembles the idiom that has to do with a funeral car. Interesting how we all have different taboos across companies and cultures, eh?

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