Keeping the day job

Maybe you have a job in the buzz saw department at Sears.  Maybe you’re not happy there and that’s why you want to write a script, make a million dollars, and leave the job that doesn’t foster your creativity.  Maybe you’re haunted by these questions:

  • Should you quit to write the script?
  • Should you tough it out and write on weekends?
  • Should you wait?
  • Should you forget the whole thing and stay put?

Of course you’re not going to stay put, or you wouldn’t be reading this book. And of course you’re not going to wait, because…

There’s no such thing as waiting

Waiting implies an inactive, undisclosed, random amount of time spent hoping that sooner or later your life situation will be more favourable and you can pursue your dream.  There’s no such thing as waiting, because life will go on without you.

It’s time. Decide on action.  Take a step into your future.

How to make your day job work for you

Organize your job so that you can put it on automatic pilot. Eventually you will leave it, but now you’re going to change it.

If one of the dread factors of your job is tension with your co-workers, you are not going to detach. This means you will be getting along with that co-worker you can’t stand.  Here’s how: You have a secret they don’t know, you’re writing your movie.  You’re taking action to get out of this job, and you’re still in it only because now the job is working for you.

All you’ve got to do is show up

Getting enjoyment from any job is a matter of attitude. The true perks on a job are the ones you give yourself.

Giving a job what is required is plenty enough to keep you busy. Just getting there in the morning everyday takes tremendous fortitude.  You don’t need to invent other requirements.

If you are there laying your heart on the line, you’re going to be unhappy because you want an equal response in return. But that wasn’t the deal!  You were only promised a paycheck.  Accepting this frees you up to experience such life affirming behaviour as smiling.  Enjoy and benefit from the experience.

Inner Movie Axiom: If you keep all the little rules, you’re free to break all the big ones.

How to live a double life

There is something uplifting about the secret you have. Something you’re working for now gives you a new way to be at your job. You are not invested in it anymore. It is there to serve you.

A job does something else. It gives you structure so that you don’t have time to get overwhelmed worrying about your script.  Notice how you can use your job to help you write.  When you drive to work, can that be organizational time?  Find pockets of writing time in your work day.  Run your movie on your inner projector.  What scenes can you finish before lunch?  Answer questions about character as you watch co-workers.

See the whole picture. Then chunk it out.  Divide it into 8-minute part.  Make a list of these.  Write a scene, a page, or a line of dialogue between phone calls and the demands of the day.  Lead a double life.

Through the act of writing your script you will be outgrowing your day job. Chances are you won’t be fired until you’re ready to go.  Gauge when.  Usually if you think you can’t stand it for another minute, it opens up and there’s more there to draw from.  The best time to leave a job is when you are ready to leave.  Don’t let them fire you until the moment you’re ready to go.

Meanwhile use the Xerox machine for script copies. This is illegal.  This is immoral.  This is advisable.  You need to feel you are gleaning some benefit from your job; otherwise you can’t continue to be there.  And we need you to be there for the moment.  Keep it.  Now proceed to grow out of it.


I was working on a production in an office for two weeks while needing to finish a movie script. There was a secretary typing madly.  I noticed she was typing the same article four times.  She said she loved to type but there just wasn’t anything to do but answer the occasional phone, so I gave her my movie pages to type and we were both ecstatic.  I treated her to a sumptuous lunch and she handed me a perfectly typed script in return.  Bartering is one of the all-time synergistic pleasures of life.  Let someone who loves the work do the work, while you do the work you love.

What happens when you get fired

Congratulations! This is exactly what you wanted.  But knowing you, here’s what you will think:

YOU: I’m such a jerk I can’t even keep a junk job that I didn’t even want.

You will be very hard on yourself. This is your way of showing yourself that you are responsible.  You fear that if you don’t come down hard on yourself your loved ones will.

LOVED ONE: I knew it. Deep down you’re really a vagrant.

Settle this. If the job is gone, don’t let it continue to take your energy.  You are free.

When you quit your job

If you think you have no time because you have a high-pressure job, quit, and then you’ll see that you will still have no time! You learn this when you have all the time in the world.  There is always something.

See the section on time, money, and hypochondria. You will have questions about all three.  You will have very few questions on your writing, which, if you’ll remember, was why you quit in the first place.

Not to worry – settle in, then pick up the pencil.

What to do when unemployment runs out

Good. You’ve been living as though the other shoe would drop, now there’s action to take.

Here’s your choice: You can get a day job again and balance your time between writing and the job. But you already did that once, and you’re scared that the script will turn to dust.  This won’t happen, however, because this day job you’ll get because you have to – and you’re mad.  And mad is the best thing you can be right now.  Because what you are adjusting to is not that you don’t have enough money but that you don’t have enough time.

More time than money/more money than time

You will feel the need to budget your money. This is well and good.  However, this will keep you broke.

When you quit your job you think that having saved up money will buy you time. If money buys you time, how much are you paying yourself for each one of your hours?  You can eat up a year of your time with the money you have saved, but what was your salary?  Minimum wage or less?  That is not sound economical use of a year.  Appreciate the value of time and what each hour costs.  The way to be rich is to notice this.  People who are broke have all the time in the world.  They can talk on the phone.  They can bang at your door.  People who are rich have very little spare time.  Their time is utilized, filled, they get value for their hour.  How much are you paying for each of your valuable hours?

When your money runs out

Linda quite her job to write. Now her money’s running out and she needs to work again.  She asked me if I knew anyone who could give her a menial job in “the business” while she kept writing.  Usually I would dive into my Rolodex and start giving out phone numbers, but something here didn’t feel like progress.  I found out this was her modus operandi, taking junk job after junk job so she could write – but she wasn’t writing.  Now here she was again.  So I gave her an assignment: “Stop it.”  Look at the pattern of your behaviour. Inner Movie Axiom: If it doesn’t work, don’t do it again.

Find a better way

When our plan doesn’t work, we think we failed. So we go at it again in the same way, only this time harder.

You can see this when a vending machine takes your quarter.  You hit it.  It doesn’t give you your quarter back, so you hit it harder.

When the plan doesn’t work, change the plan.

The difference between a junk job, a job job, and a real job

Decide now.

Do you want a junk job that pays the rent but doesn’t tax your mind, so that you can still write when you get home?

Do you want a job job where you have a business card but not so much responsibility that you don’t feel free to write?

Do you want a real job, where you are the job and it takes your creative attention?

The difference is in how much of yourself you’re willing to commit to the job.

My contention is, no matter what job you have you can’t help but bring your whole self to it. Avoidance takes energy; involvement gives you energy.

If you do the job with joy you can also write after hours.

The Inner Movie Method was designed so you can write whether you have a junk job, a job job, a real job, or no job. What job you have has nothing to do with what keeps you from writing.

Arrange your circumstances to work in your favour.

One student went from junk jobs to a real job, so she could make more money. But then she had no time.  She wanted to quit.  She hated it.  We made a schedule – she had two weeks to turn her circumstances around so that she could keep her job and she would stop hating it.  She needed to arrange to have enough energy after work so that she could focus on her writing.  In two weeks she moved the furniture (maid), delegated tasks, standardized procedures, and manuevered a ten-hour, four-day work week, so that she had a block of three days off for herself.  She now loves the job and is on Day 16 of her script.

I have to write my script and sell it To pay next month’s rent

This will not happen. Money worries will sap your spirit and creativity.  The energy it takes to scramble for your next meal is energy you need to put into your script instead.

If you are living on somebody else’s couch, down to the last of your clean underwear, and you think that the solution to your money problems is to write your script – don’t.  Take care of your circumstances first.  Then start writing.

How much money is enough?

Financial freedom is having money enough so you don’t need money.

That doesn’t always mean a million dollars; sometimes it means ninety-two cents for a taco.

©Marshall Dodgsons, 1971.



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