Can You Afford to Stay Home & Write?

Staying home to take care of your kids and focus on your writing is a laudable goal. It is vitally important, however, that you consider all the financial repercussions of this decision. No one (who knew what they were talking about) ever said that writing was a lucrative pursuit. If you are barely keeping your head above water with two incomes, cutting that in half may not be the way to go.

Photo Courtesy of Brenna Richardson © 2013.

 Photo Courtesy of Brenna Richardson © 2013

First things first. You need to sit down with your loved ones and calculate the family’s income without your job. If you can’t pay for the mortgage, food, clothes, or running water without your income, do not quit your job.  Simple as that.

Don’t assume your writing will pay for anything, ever, until it actually does.

Writing is tough work that takes a long time. It’s best to assume that you are going to go years before the seed-words you plant on the page start bearing fruit. Don’t invent phantom figures for your budget based on the last thing you read on some writer blog. Selling writing requires, grit, tenacity, and half a cup of “too dumb to quit.” Everyone’s heard about how so-and-so famous author got rejected dozens of times before their work sold. One day that will be your story too.

Warning: Do NOT attempt this alone.

If you are a single parent, I would strongly discourage you from staying home to write, unless you’ve got some other substantial form of income already coming in. The stay-at-home Dad scenario works the best when a spouse or other loved one is bringing in enough income for everyone to breathe comfortably while Dad’s writing gets on its feet.

As others have pointed out, this approach works a good deal like the old art patronage system during the Renaissance. Wealthy families would pay the room and board for artists, who could then, focus on their art. Your spouse is your Medici, opening the window for your muse while keeping the wolf from the door.

This is not to say that unless your spouse is unconscionably wealthy you will never get to stay home with the kids and write.  Tight budgets lead to conflict. Conflict leads to character development. A well-developed character drives the plot. Right? Tighten your belt, sure. Just don’t put your family at risk for the sake of your dreams.  That’s all I’m saying.

Finally, don’t burn bridges.

It may be fun to tell off your boss, make a big scene, and vandalize your old office in the middle of the night, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Keep your relationship with your former employer in good standing, as much as it is in your power to do so. Stuff happens. Your spouse may lose her job. You may need those health insurance benefits more than you realize. You might decide that your kids drive you nuts, and writing just isn’t for you. Nothing wrong with that. Don’t be foolish about your departure, and your old job may welcome you back.


Are you a Stay-At-Home Writer/Dad? How did you decide whether you could afford it? Are you still writing on nights and weekends? Leave a comment below.

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Joshua Rigsby is a freelance writer, tea drinker, and full-time father based in Los Angeles, California.

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