Day 6

'Don't tell me I can't do this': Sarah Meehan Sirk on becoming a writer

Many people dream of quitting their day jobs to become a writer. Former Day 6 producer Sarah Meehan Sirk tells us how she pulled it off with her new book, "The Dead Husband Project."
Sarah Meehan Sirk is the author of the short story collection The Dead Husband Project. (Penguin Random House Canada)

It took seven years of writing in stolen moments — after work, on vacations, and during the rare quiet interludes when her kids were down for a nap — for Sarah Meehan Sirk to spin her stories from their earliest drafts into a finished book.

But the hard work has paid off.

Meehan Sirk's debut short story collection, The Dead Husband Project, has received rave reviews from critics at The Toronto Star and The Globe and Mail.

She also happens to be a former CBC Radio host — and one of the founding producers of Day 6.

Earlier this year, Meehan Sirk officially stepped away from her job at the CBC to become a full-time writer.

"I had been working for a really long time to make this happen in the background, and it just felt like it was time to put it in the foreground, for at least a period of time," she tells Day 6 host Brent Bambury.



Sticking with it

Between two maternity leaves and a busy, successful career, it wasn't always easy to find the time or mental energy for writing.

When Day 6 first launched in 2010, Meehan Sirk worked around the clock to put the show together. Then, the very week of the show's premiere, she signed with a literary agent.

"There was this 'Okay, let's make a book!' at the exact same time that we were saying, 'Okay, let's make a show!'"

Inevitably, there were periods of burnout over the years. But at the end of her long, intense workdays as a journalist, writing fiction offered a release for Meehan Sirk.

"For me, fiction has always been so close to truth," she says.

"It made sense of something; it calmed something."

Still, as she settled into a career and started a family, Meehan Sirk often felt a pressure to set aside her writing.

"That was the biggest current I was working against," she says. "'You're crazy; you're too old ... if you wanted to do this in your 20s, do it then; don't do it now."

"I just said, 'Forget it!' This is what I want to do."


A balancing act

The challenges of pairing parenthood with personal creative goals are a recurring theme in The Dead Husband Project.

In the book's title story, a young visual artist repeats a piece of advice she was given early on in her career: "Let other people have children."

Meehan Sirk recalls reading the same advice in a column for aspiring writers when she was a new mother herself.

You can have a career, you can have children, and you can make that thing happen. It's going to be hard; it's going to not be fun a lot of the time; but you can make it happen.- Sarah Meehan Sirk

"It was like an arrow to the heart," she says. "And I thought, 'I get it.' And it's not just about the time; but it's also the emotional pulls, too, and the exhaustion."

"But it was important to me to put it in the story, because I kind of wanted to own it. I wanted the artist character to have to confront it, but I did not want to let it be true."

In fact, Meehan Sirk says the decision to raise children has boosted her motivation as a writer.

"I want to show [them] that you can have a career, you can have children, and you can make that thing happen. It's going to be hard; it's going to not be fun a lot of the time; but you can make it happen."

"And that was way more important to me than shuffling under the rug this 'silly dream' that I had in the background."

To hear the full interview with Sarah Meehan Sirk, download our podcast or click the 'Listen' button at the top of this page.