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The Black Ghost
11-30-2010, 04:23 AM
I'm a college student right now, but my main interest is fiction writing, specifically the novels/short stories I am working on. In fact...its really the only thing I like to "work" on. The problem of course is that this really doesnt make for a good job.

I do like other subjects like philosophy, anthropology/sociology, history, and other humanities, and I could see myself writing on them a little, but Im not sure if I could do it for a living.


What sorts of careers/jobs do any writers here have to bring in the paychecks?

KingM
11-30-2010, 04:29 AM
Any and everything. I've worked as a software engineer with nuclear submarines and owned an inn in Vermont and now I'm a literary agent. In general, I think a job where you work with computers is less than ideal, because the last thing you want to do is come home and sit yourself down in front of a computer again to work.

rainsmom
11-30-2010, 04:43 AM
Yep -- anything and everything. Lawyers, doctors, white collar, blue collar... doesn't matter. It's all experience, and it's all money in your pocket. Do what you enjoy doing!

I make my living as a writer, just not a fiction writer. I started in tech writing and moved into instructional design. I'm paid very well, and I have a lot of free time in which to write and pursue other interests.

.

Stacia Kane
11-30-2010, 04:55 AM
Rita Mae Brown wrote a book on writing some years back; I forget what it was called exactly. But in it she mentions that she thinks the best day jobs for writers are physical/manual labor-type jobs, because then your mind--the back of it, where the stories and stuff come from, if you know what I mean--is free to wander and your body is getting some exercise and/or movement.

I've never done that type of job, but I think if I were looking for work now that's probably the sort of thing I'd look for. I always fancied being a carpenter or a mechanic, actually. Not just because they both interest me, but because while you're doing the actual work part you have some back-of-the-mind freedom. I'm not at all saying these jobs are mindless, not one bit. I know there's still stuff to think & concern yourself with, just that the actual work itself is something you do with your hands, not typing or talking.

It's fairly steady work, it can pay quite well--I know plumbers and electricians can make crazy money, and really any skilled manual labor profession can--you can do it anywhere, you could conceivably work your own hours/schedule, and it's something that provides immediate gratification; you fix the leak, you build the cabinet, you rewire the outlet, and it's done. A little achievement, which is nice when you're doing something long-haul like writing a novel.

I just thought it was really interesting advice, and it stuck with me, and like I said if I were looking for a day job now, that's totally what I would want to get into.

Erik M
11-30-2010, 05:18 AM
I've done social work, case management, owned a book store, and was a police officer for several years.

Kyla Laufreyson
11-30-2010, 05:51 AM
I'll be starting college next year, and I'm going to be a Creative Writing major because after graduation I'm moving to Norway and can't figure out what sort of career I would even be interested in. My plan as of right now (and my friend there is well-aware of this; we will be living together our entire lives, so I know it's okay) is to just get a part-time job and really spend the majority of my time writing.

I don't care what part-time job, as long as it's something to help pay the bills.

Devil Ledbetter
11-30-2010, 05:52 AM
I'm a marketing director. There is lots of writing and editing in my paying job, plus other stuff that's not as cool, but still important.;) Like managing a big website, and going to trade shows.

A great book for those not expecting to earn a living solely off fiction anytime soon is Ignore Everybody by Hugh MacLeod.

izanobu
11-30-2010, 05:53 AM
Wait, why doesn't fiction writing make for a good job? You can totally make a living writing fiction...

But if you need an interim job until writing starts to pay the bills, I'd recommend anything that keeps you writing. For me this was always scut work. If I had a job I hated (7-11 clerk, etc...) then I was more motivated to write and write so I could quit.

Susan Littlefield
11-30-2010, 06:47 AM
I'm a paralegal. I use my writing skills all the time- plus my research skills, story telling skills (of course, the story is just the facts put in a way that tells the REAL story). I love my day job.

Susan Littlefield
11-30-2010, 06:50 AM
Rita Mae Brown wrote a book on writing some years back; I forget what it was called exactly. But in it she mentions that she thinks the best day jobs for writers are physical/manual labor-type jobs, because then your mind--the back of it, where the stories and stuff come from, if you know what I mean--is free to wander and your body is getting some exercise and/or movement.

I just thought it was really interesting advice, and it stuck with me, and like I said if I were looking for a day job now, that's totally what I would want to get into.

I think you've made a great point with the value of physical labor. It can be difficult switching from legal/factual writing to creative mode. It's actually running that helps my mind switch from non-fiction to fiction.

fredXgeorge
11-30-2010, 07:16 AM
I work at a bookshop. It's great :D

blacbird
11-30-2010, 07:37 AM
Geologist.

CheekyWench
11-30-2010, 07:41 AM
Child wrangler.
In another life I was a gogo dancer, a cage cashier at a casino, an insurance salesman and a pizza slinger.

Ae1
11-30-2010, 08:26 AM
Rita Mae Brown wrote a book on writing some years back; I forget what it was called exactly. But in it she mentions that she thinks the best day jobs for writers are physical/manual labor-type jobs, because then your mind--the back of it, where the stories and stuff come from, if you know what I mean--is free to wander and your body is getting some exercise and/or movement.

I've never done that type of job, but I think if I were looking for work now that's probably the sort of thing I'd look for. I always fancied being a carpenter or a mechanic, actually. Not just because they both interest me, but because while you're doing the actual work part you have some back-of-the-mind freedom. I'm not at all saying these jobs are mindless, not one bit. I know there's still stuff to think & concern yourself with, just that the actual work itself is something you do with your hands, not typing or talking.


I also agree with this. I worked at my university's archaeological survey company, and digging holes all day definitely helped my mind wander towards writing! Of course, the only down side was that I was exhausted and sore at the end of the day and sometimes it was a chore to make myself stay up and write down the things I'd come up with during the day.

Now I teach English in China, where I can support myself quite well on 16 hours a week. And I get 5 months of vacation a year. Plenty of time to write, and I probably won't be going back to digging holes if I can help it!

Stacia Kane
11-30-2010, 08:37 AM
Wait, why doesn't fiction writing make for a good job? You can totally make a living writing fiction...

But if you need an interim job until writing starts to pay the bills, I'd recommend anything that keeps you writing. For me this was always scut work. If I had a job I hated (7-11 clerk, etc...) then I was more motivated to write and write so I could quit.


I do make a living writing fiction. It's just that yes, most people need a way to support themselves until they're in a position where they can do so. :)

dangerousbill
11-30-2010, 08:59 AM
I was a research scientist for my entire career. Not only did this job soak up any creative juices I had, but when writing, I had to use that dense, unreadable prose that proves you're a real intellectual. I didn't take up fiction writing until a few years before I retired.

Terie
11-30-2010, 12:15 PM
Actually, if you have interest in any subject other than English, that's what you should study. Getting a good-paying job in the field of 'English' is hard. Also, when you do, it sucks up a lot of your writing energy, sometimes leaving little leftover with which to work on your fiction.

But if you get a job in another field, as Stacia said, it both lets you use your writing creativity for yourself AND (depending on the job) lets the back of your mind ruminate on your own stuff. Also, it can give you more 'life experience' on which to draw for your fiction, depending on the career path you end up on. (For example, anthropology is a great line of work for fantasy writers.)

That said, I'm a tech writer, and I LOVE the work. It's fantastic to have a well-paid job doing what I like best: mucking about with words all day. It's a good career for someone who wants to write. The only problem with it is what I mentioned above. After sitting in front of a computer all day writing, it's hard to go home and write some more. I have strategies to work around this problem, such as not actually writing at my computer at home: I write in longhand and use an AlphaSmart; but it IS still a problem.

And I wonder if I'd get more fiction writing done if I'd found a good career doing something -- anything -- else. Too late now, but I do wonder.

So there you go....a vote both pro and con for majoring in English! :D

Oh, another thing. DON'T major in a subject (such as business or computer science) only because you think it'll get you a good job later. If you decide to major in Something Else and minor in English, make sure the Something Else is also Something You're Interested In, otherwise, studying will be a drag and it'll just be a waste of time. So if you're actually interested in business or computer science, great; but if not, don't major in them.

Oh, and one more thing. There's also the old joke: What's the most common thing someone who majored in English says? 'Do you want fries with that?'

seun
11-30-2010, 12:29 PM
Work in a liberry (as some of the public insist on calling it). I'm surrounded by books all day which is very cool on one hand, but on the other, I get to see some Godawful books and have to force myself not to wonder how they got published when I can't.

gothicangel
11-30-2010, 12:39 PM
I'm planning on starting postgrad study in September, so I'm probably going to head into academia.

Failing that I would love to own my own cafe business. While at University try a variety of part-time/summer jobs, find out what you enjoy.

quicklime
11-30-2010, 04:29 PM
I'm a college student right now, but my main interest is fiction writing, specifically the novels/short stories I am working on. In fact...its really the only thing I like to "work" on. The problem of course is that this really doesnt make for a good job.

I do like other subjects like philosophy, anthropology/sociology, history, and other humanities, and I could see myself writing on them a little, but Im not sure if I could do it for a living.


What sorts of careers/jobs do any writers here have to bring in the paychecks?


well, the pragmatist in me would advise you do SOMETHING as a fallback instead of betting the farm on a writing career. For myself, I was a biologist first, then decided to try writing, so I was through undergrad and most of the way through grad school before I wrote a single short.

Pretend writing is an unattainable goal--what would you do instead? Because being published and liviong comfortably off it isn't impossible, but it's lottery odds. In that light, it seems wise to have a Plan B.

jaksen
11-30-2010, 07:23 PM
I'm surprised no one has said teacher yet, because we have all this 'free time' to write, correct? Or we get these huge summer vacations.

(Actually, in MA we get no paid vacations; all that summer time off (July and August) is unpaid, but never mind that...)

Teaching is a good career if you do want guaranteed time off, whether paid or not. Problem is, if you're an academic teacher, teaching 120+ kids a day (secondary level) and assigning projects, writing lesson plans, writing up labs, and then the correcting, it does take a lot of your time. (No way can you do all this during the work day; a lot of it is done at home on your own time.) You're also expected to get your Masters within a certain time frame, and then take courses and keep current in your field so you can keep your teaching certificate. It's all part of the deal though, and every job has their requirements.

But if you do a decent job and work in a good system, it's a great career and an excellent way to stay current with what's happening with young people - if that's the genre in which you're writing. There are many successful writers who were/are teachers, at all grade levels, including university, etc.

(I taught 35 years, Bio degree, taught science, middle-school level.)

Jamesaritchie
11-30-2010, 07:27 PM
The job doesn't matter much, though it is, I think ,best to avoid any job that entails writing all day. It can be tough to write at work, and then come home and write your own stuff.

The great thing about manual labor jobs is that your mind is free, and the physical labor keeps you in good physical condition. Too many writers get almost no exercise, and this is not a good thing.

I don't work at anything except writing, though I take the very occasional job of editing/reading slush, but I do a lot of physical labor jobs that don't pay, simply because I like the feeling of hard work done well.

But the best job for a writer is writing. It's more than possible to earn a decent living as a writer, though it can take a few years to get there, and you have to pull in money until then.

The best possible job outside of writing is whatever you know you'll enjoy.

Juliette Wade
11-30-2010, 08:39 PM
I'll second the folks here who say you might want to major in something other than English. The reason I've had the success I've had in writing - not that I make a living with it by any means - is because of my expertise in linguistics and anthropology, and the special viewpoint that gives me in what I write. Even if you don't pick a subject that you feel can give you a good job, pick one that you feel passionate about and which may help you with some aspects of writing that you won't learn in an English department. I don't mean to criticize English departments by this, either. Being a writer and being an expert in English literature are two different things - both very valuable, but expertise in English literature is not the only good academic background for successful writing. I happen to be a stay at home mother - but if I weren't, I'd probably be out teaching Japanese somewhere.

sleepsheep
11-30-2010, 08:48 PM
I'm an academic researcher (and doctoral student). My day-job consists of a lot of mind-numbing statistical analysis and programming. It's not really a career that's very conducive to fiction writing, mostly because there are so many non-fiction commitments that I'm required to fulfill (such as co-authoring journal articles).

I think teaching (not University teaching, but middle school and high school teaching) is a pretty sweet gig for a wanna-be writer. You are involved in intellectual work, but you are also on your feet all day. Also, there isn't that much work that you must bring home, and you get three months off during the summer! Right now I'm trying to make the switch to a job as a public school teacher, so perhaps once I'm actually doing that, my opinions will change.

gothicangel
11-30-2010, 08:55 PM
I think teaching (not University teaching, but middle school and high school teaching) is a pretty sweet gig for a wanna-be writer. You are involved in intellectual work, but you are also on your feet all day. Also, there isn't that much work that you must bring home, and you get three months off during the summer! Right now I'm trying to make the switch to a job as a public school teacher, so perhaps once I'm actually doing that, my opinions will change.

:scared:

sleepsheep
11-30-2010, 10:08 PM
:scared:

I know, I know. But I already have my MA degree, so once I'm done with my certification requirements, I won't need to spend any additional time in school. The NYC public school system is actually pretty great - teachers get development hours during the day, so (theoretically) you are not supposed to have work to bring home, and the salary is quite good. It's certainly a lot more flexible than academic research, which is what I'm doing now, and definitely a lot more satisfying. Looking at data tables all day can be a bit soul crushing, you know.

AEFerreira
11-30-2010, 10:46 PM
I've been both a high school teacher and a university career / mental health counselor.

I would recommend going to your college's career services office and setting up an appointment with a counselor. A good career counselor can help you carve out a path that incorporates your interests and also practical considerations about how to make a living / get into graduate school. They also can administer interest and personality assessments like the MBTI and the Strong Interest Inventory that can help you pin point interests and careers you may not have thought about yet. They can also point you towards reasources for getting an actual job, or internships to build up your resume.

Careers are becoming more multifacited nowdays anyway, so it might be good to look at both gigs you can do as a writer and careers that incorporate other interests. A lot of students I've had who wanted to major in something "creative" (English, Music, Writing, Art, etc) often had a practical minor that qualified them to do a secure job right out of school.

Getting a practical major or minor in something like marketing or business also is good for anyone who wants to make money at something creative. My husband is a professional Musician, and music is his passion, but in order to make money with his private studio and with gigs requires a lot of business and marketing knowledge and skill. My brother is also a musician who got his BBA and combined those interests to start up an independant record lable. I imagine business skills would be important for a writer too who wanted to make writing their profession.

The manual work suggestion is a good one. One of my favorite summer jobs in college was working on a farm because of all of the time it gave my brain to wander and be creative.

I would look at teaching too. My teaching job was a pretty sweet gig. I got paid all summer, and we had enough free periods during the day that if I used my time wisely I almost never took work home (except maybe around finals). I taught Religious Studies at a Catholic High School.

You also get snow days, half days, lots of sick and personal days (I had 15 paid sick days and 3 paid personal days every year) and, if it is a Catholic School, every imaginable holy day off. It all depends on the the school/district. Even when you factor in correcting and lesson planning, you still have way more free time than with most other jobs. And as someone said already, being with students and other faculty members all day can give you a lot of practice observing and learning about people and relationships (don't disregard faculty drama...it can be as interesting as student drama :) )

Also, with many private schools, you do not have to be certified. You can get a job right out of undergrad.

Depending on the school, you often can get your Masters either paid for partially/completely, particularly if you work at a prep school that is affiliated with a university (ie. the faculty of Fordham Prep in the Bronx gets free tuition for graduate work at Fordham University, and the faculty of Diocese of Bridgeport gets a major discount at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield).

jaksen
11-30-2010, 11:07 PM
I think teaching (not University teaching, but middle school and high school teaching) is a pretty sweet gig for a wanna-be writer. You are involved in intellectual work, but you are also on your feet all day. Also, there isn't that much work that you must bring home, and you get three months off during the summer! Right now I'm trying to make the switch to a job as a public school teacher, so perhaps once I'm actually doing that, my opinions will change.

Wow. Where do you get three months off? Okay, maybe in some parts of the US. In MA we get July and August. (Without pay.)

There isn't that much work to bring home? I had lesson plans, lab papers, and papers to correct almost every day. I corrected on holidays.

I was on my feet all day. I never taught from a desk. When I started teaching, we were told, stay on your feet, plus teaching a lab-oriented science class, you had to be on the go, helping kids, and for safety reasons. In my last years of teaching, I was sometimes on my PC using a white board for instruction. When the kids saw me sit they asked if I were sick or something. :D

However, it's still a good job for a writer. I left for work at 6:00 AM and got home around 3:00 PM. (School went from 7:30 AM to 2:10 PM.) I had three kids and even with all the paperwork associated with the job, I managed to write.

To AEFerreira: Paid vacations? Sweet. We didn't get paid vacation time in MA. We did get sick time and 3 personal days a year.

sleepsheep
11-30-2010, 11:19 PM
Wow. Where do you get three months off? Okay, maybe in some parts of the US. In MA we get July and August. (Without pay.)

There isn't that much work to bring home? I had lesson plans, lab papers, and papers to correct almost every day. I corrected on holidays.

I was on my feet all day. I never taught from a desk. When I started teaching, we were told, stay on your feet, plus teaching a lab-oriented science class, you had to be on the go, helping kids, and for safety reasons. In my last years of teaching, I was sometimes on my PC using a white board for instruction. When the kids saw me sit they asked if I were sick or something. :D

However, it's still a good job for a writer. I left for work at 6:00 AM and got home around 3:00 PM. (School went from 7:30 AM to 2:10 PM.) I had three kids and even with all the paperwork associated with the job, I managed to write.

To AEFerreira: Paid vacations? Sweet. We didn't get paid vacation time in MA. We did get sick time and 3 personal days a year.

In NYC you get July and August off, plus all the holidays throughout the year (winter recess, spring recess, random days off) add up to another month, or more. I think you get a lot more time off than almost any other profession. I think the part about being on your feet all day is actually kind of nice. Right now I sit at a computer all day, and when I'm off the clock, the last thing I want to do is sit down at the computer some more. NYC teachers get paid on a yearly salary, so even if your starting salary might seem a bit low (at 45-55k) you are still making a very good hourly rate if you consider all the vacation days. Teachers also get development periods during the day during which a lot of the grading and prep work can be done (although I know that very many teachers bring papers to grade at home).

Again, I'm not actually doing this work right now, but from my perspective, it seems pretty great.

jaksen
12-01-2010, 01:51 AM
First year teachers usually are amazed at the amount of work they have to do. But as the years go on, and if you are teaching the same course, it does get easier.

We had planning time, too, but 45 minutes a day? Dealing with 120+ kids? You just don't have enough time, what with the new demands on your time placed by admin. and parents. They want constant, instant commnication via phone, email, sites that post homework and grades, etc. etc.

But still it is a good deal, when all is said and done, for someone who wants or needs those few extra hours a day to write. I used to get up at 4:00 AM to write, then used late afternoon for writing. I started working as a teacher at a fairly young age, so I was able to retire earlier.

For a writer, that's great.

whimsical rabbit
12-01-2010, 02:34 AM
I used to write film and literature reviews, then worked in the film industry for a few years, and now I'm doing a creative writing Ph.D. I'd LOVE to be able to live off my fiction writing (who wouldn't? :D) but since I really can't count on it, I hope to be able to go into academia or any sort of educational institution for that matter, to teach some of the things I love and learned, and still learning. I don't aspire to be a career academic. Just to be able to teach what I love if that makes any sense.

AEFerreira
12-01-2010, 06:17 AM
45 minutes a day?


YIKES! We had about 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours, depending on where "long period" (the period during lunch) fell in the rotating schedual. No wonder you were over-cooked. I would have gone nuts.

_Sian_
12-01-2010, 12:30 PM
Rita Mae Brown wrote a book on writing some years back; I forget what it was called exactly. But in it she mentions that she thinks the best day jobs for writers are physical/manual labor-type jobs, because then your mind--the back of it, where the stories and stuff come from, if you know what I mean--is free to wander and your body is getting some exercise and/or movement.

I've never done that type of job, but I think if I were looking for work now that's probably the sort of thing I'd look for. I always fancied being a carpenter or a mechanic, actually. Not just because they both interest me, but because while you're doing the actual work part you have some back-of-the-mind freedom. I'm not at all saying these jobs are mindless, not one bit. I know there's still stuff to think & concern yourself with, just that the actual work itself is something you do with your hands, not typing or talking.

It's fairly steady work, it can pay quite well--I know plumbers and electricians can make crazy money, and really any skilled manual labor profession can--you can do it anywhere, you could conceivably work your own hours/schedule, and it's something that provides immediate gratification; you fix the leak, you build the cabinet, you rewire the outlet, and it's done. A little achievement, which is nice when you're doing something long-haul like writing a novel.

I just thought it was really interesting advice, and it stuck with me, and like I said if I were looking for a day job now, that's totally what I would want to get into.

This is interesting, because I actually did a job this year that while not manual labour, definitely involves no type of thinking whatsoever. I thought that it would help me to come up with new ideas and the such...

However, there are only so many ideas, plot lines, character archs ect that you can come up with while working. I had one show up today, and it was brilliant - I got to think up half a novel. I was free to do it, and time flew by.

Problem was, this idea didn't show up until halfway through my shift. So I spent the first four hours being ridiculously bored. I can't make ideas come, they just do sometimes. And while it's nice to have the freedom to think on them, I can't wait for university to challenge my mind again. I feel like it's turning to mush.

(It should be noticed that I have both left and right sides of my brain in action most times - I love science, maths, that sort of stuff, but also English, lit, politics, sociology. I'm all over the shop, so maybe that has something to do with it.)

Just saying from experience - don't choose a job that will let you have time to think about writing, because at least half the time there won't be an idea to think on all mull over, and you'll hate the job during that time.

Of course, this could just be me, but that's what I learned this year. :D

seun
12-01-2010, 02:00 PM
I think teaching (not University teaching, but middle school and high school teaching) is a pretty sweet gig for a wanna-be writer. Also, there isn't that much work that you must bring home.

I'll mention that to a couple of my friends who are teachers and see what they say. ;)

The Writer
12-01-2010, 03:31 PM
I'm in med school currently and fear that once my internships begin (15th of july) my writing will be pretty much over. The few moments I get off will be for friends an family. I'd like to finish my first novel before then, but I'm not sure that's even possible.

If you really want to become a writer, take a job that you enjoy, but that gives you the time to write as well.

I really want to become a doctor, much more than I want to become a writer.

BRDurkin
12-01-2010, 07:50 PM
Wildland firefighting is a pretty good job. Lots of time sitting around in the woods, great for brainstorming. You're not ALWAYS fighting fire, unless it's just a really bad season. Of course, it's a summer only job.

I actually have a harder time writing in college than I do when I'm with the Oregon Department of Forestry, heh.

Libbie
12-01-2010, 08:45 PM
I'm a college student right now, but my main interest is fiction writing, specifically the novels/short stories I am working on. In fact...its really the only thing I like to "work" on. The problem of course is that this really doesnt make for a good job.

I do like other subjects like philosophy, anthropology/sociology, history, and other humanities, and I could see myself writing on them a little, but Im not sure if I could do it for a living.


What sorts of careers/jobs do any writers here have to bring in the paychecks?

At the moment, I'm working in a used book store, which is fantastically fun. In the past, I've worked as a zoo keeper. I'm trying to find more work as a keeper, but it's a tough business to get into during the best of times, and even harder with the job market being what it is.

Really, though, I just want to write full-time. So the book store and everything else I've done is a holdover until I can make enough off my writing to quit my job. I have no doubt I'll be able to do that some day. It'll probably be a few years, but I'll get there eventually.

SafetyDance
12-01-2010, 08:55 PM
I taught highschool English for a while after graduating. I left because it isn't a job (or at least, not in England), it's a lifestyle, and an exhausting one at that. I spent uni running around restaurants in part time jobs, so I thought I knew what a tiring job was. I didn't :P The paperwork was insane, the amount of work was insane; a friend of mine has been teaching for two years now and still has no real life of her own. She wants to write a book; she's just waiting for a summer when she's not too exhausted. So unless you want to give it five or ten years for your life to settle down, no, I would not say teaching is a good job for a writer -- in my experience, of course.

After that, I worked in an art gallery. Now that was a cool job. Surrounded by inspiration, on my feet a lot, quiet atmosphere; it was horrifically dull often, but I had lots of time for thinking through my plots (and reading!).

SafetyDance
12-01-2010, 09:03 PM
First year teachers usually are amazed at the amount of work they have to do. But as the years go on, and if you are teaching the same course, it does get easier.

Depends on how many years you want to wait, huh :)

When I was training, I remember looking around at the teachers I most admired. They had no personal lives. They were awesomely skinny (and it is indeed the best diet I've ever done) but they were awesomely miserable for the most part. I was training at a nicely affluent school, too.

I may be slightly jaded :P However, a lot of my friends went on to teach (what else were we going to do with the very-academic-but-otherwise-useless-degrees we were encouraged to do, when Tony Blair wanted everyone to go to uni?) and I can't name one who actually likes it.

I'm glad somebody does, though. Somebody has to teach my daughter :P

Jamesaritchie
12-01-2010, 09:58 PM
In NYC you get July and August off, plus all the holidays throughout the year (winter recess, spring recess, random days off) add up to another month, or more. I think you get a lot more time off than almost any other profession. I think the part about being on your feet all day is actually kind of nice. Right now I sit at a computer all day, and when I'm off the clock, the last thing I want to do is sit down at the computer some more. NYC teachers get paid on a yearly salary, so even if your starting salary might seem a bit low (at 45-55k) you are still making a very good hourly rate if you consider all the vacation days. Teachers also get development periods during the day during which a lot of the grading and prep work can be done (although I know that very many teachers bring papers to grade at home).

Again, I'm not actually doing this work right now, but from my perspective, it seems pretty great.

I suspect part of how good a job teaching is depends on where you live. Starting salary here is under $25,000 per year, and it goes up very, very slowly. Though I'd rather try to live here on 25K than in NYC on 55K.

Most of the teachers I know have to find second jobs during the summer. And the two teachers in my family bring home more work than they get done at school.

We have two close friends who were teachers. Both quit because of the low pay and long hours. One of then now works at Bob Evans, and makes more money for less work.

I know one extremely happy teacher, but he 's happy because he loves teaching. He doesn't love the low salary, and he doesn't like the months off because he can't afford to do anything worthwhile during those months. Time off is good, but he still has to pay bills during these months, and there isn't much left once the bills get paid. But he loves teaching kids, so he's sticking with the job.

I do know a very happy man who started as a teacher, but worked his way quickly up to principle, and then to administrator. He make well over 100K per year, and doesn't have to deal with kids.

But most of the teachers I know are just plain unhappy with their chosen profession.

dangerousbill
12-01-2010, 11:05 PM
Actually, if you have interest in any subject other than English, that's what you should study. Getting a good-paying job in the field of 'English' is hard.


I once did a fair amount of hiring, and I considered a degree in English a 'default' degree, one that you took when nothing interested you in particular. It meant you were educated and potentially literate (but NOT always).

If I liked a candidate for other reasons, I'd ignore the degree and ask them other questions: 'Do you fix things at home?' 'What summer jobs did you have during school?' 'What do you read?'

Sometimes, it wasn't easy to get a candidate to volunteer that s/he was a hunter, or an artist, or worked at a homeless shelter, or knew how to repair cars, etc.

What I was really trying to fish out, were the answers to: 'How resourceful are you?' 'Can you work without close supervision?' 'Can you learn on the job?', questions you cannot ask directly and expect a straight answer.

Stacia Kane
12-01-2010, 11:08 PM
This is interesting, because I actually did a job this year that while not manual labour, definitely involves no type of thinking whatsoever. I thought that it would help me to come up with new ideas and the such...

However, there are only so many ideas, plot lines, character archs ect that you can come up with while working. I had one show up today, and it was brilliant - I got to think up half a novel. I was free to do it, and time flew by.

Problem was, this idea didn't show up until halfway through my shift. So I spent the first four hours being ridiculously bored. I can't make ideas come, they just do sometimes. And while it's nice to have the freedom to think on them, I can't wait for university to challenge my mind again. I feel like it's turning to mush.

(It should be noticed that I have both left and right sides of my brain in action most times - I love science, maths, that sort of stuff, but also English, lit, politics, sociology. I'm all over the shop, so maybe that has something to do with it.)

Just saying from experience - don't choose a job that will let you have time to think about writing, because at least half the time there won't be an idea to think on all mull over, and you'll hate the job during that time.

Of course, this could just be me, but that's what I learned this year. :D


Oh, I'm sure it's not just you. We've all worked dull, mindless jobs and hated them. But I don't think either Rita Mae Brown or myself, or anyone else in the thread, was recommending a dull mindless job where you just stand around all day. Or even "where you have time to think about writing." I specifically said "these jobs are not mindless," in fact.

(Although having said that I bet those night security guards can get some writing done, like between their rounds etc.)

The point was that for a lot of people, being engaged in some other activity can stimulate the creative/working parts of the brain, especially if that other activity is physical and familiar (this is why lots of us get great ideas in the shower or while driving). So you do something you enjoy, but that's physical rather than strictly mental. Not something dull and/or mindless; something that will engage you physically and interest you, but won't require that type of verbal creativity.

sleepsheep
12-01-2010, 11:16 PM
I suspect part of how good a job teaching is depends on where you live. Starting salary here is under $25,000 per year, and it goes up very, very slowly. Though I'd rather try to live here on 25K than in NYC on 55K.


It also depends on what your family situation is, and if you have a partner to contribute to the income. 55k actually isn't that bad, because living in NYC doesn't have to be that expensive if you are willing to live in the boroughs. Also, in NYC there are a lot of incentives for teachers, which include complete repayment of loans and housing stipends. If you are teaching high need subjects (ESL, mathematics, technology, or special education) and/or are working in low-income areas (of which there are very many) you can make a high salary right from the start, and benefit from various other financial incentives offered by the department of ed.

dangerousbill
12-01-2010, 11:26 PM
I think teaching (not University teaching, but middle school and high school teaching) is a pretty sweet gig for a wanna-be writer.


Maybe, maybe not.

I didn't actually have time to write until I worked at a technical university for the last 7 years of my career. Teaching was the fun part of the job, but I was faculty and so the largest share of my time was spent groveling for grant money and dealing with logistical (not academic) problems of students: tuition problems, travel, housing, domestic emergencies, assistantships, visa and language problems (80% of technical students are foreign), etc.

These problems I could leave behind when I went home, so I was free to write on the train or at home, and my brain wasn't all frazzled.

A friend who is taking a late-in-life high school teaching certification is exhausted all the time. His writing endeavors are limited to editing and revising old work.

SafetyDance
12-01-2010, 11:29 PM
Also, in NYC there are a lot of incentives for teachers, which include complete repayment of loans and housing stipends. If you are teaching high need subjects (ESL, mathematics, technology, or special education) and/or are working in low-income areas (of which there are very many) you can make a high salary right from the start, and benefit from various other financial incentives offered by the department of ed.

You may well want to question why those incentives are there in the first place, because I fell for them too :P They aren't to reward you for all the good you're doing in the community. You're evidently not of meagre intelligence, doing the job you currently do (so I'm not attempting to patronise you) -- and there are up sides to being a teacher, people do enjoy it -- but it is not, in any shape, a "sweet deal," as has been suggested.

Stephanie Mojica
12-02-2010, 12:19 AM
I would also advise you (and others) to not fall into the line of thinking that you can't make money writing because we're in a "bad economy."

Plenty of writers are doing better than ever despite any global economic challenges; mindset is almost as critical as formal training IMHO.

Peace,
Stephanie

Truth and Fiction
12-02-2010, 12:26 AM
I currently work as an editor of a trade publication, and it seems to fit me pretty well. Before this, I worked for various nonprofit agencies, writing newsletters, website copy, agency literature, funding requests, etc. If you have solid writing skills, all sorts of positions in a range of companies, from nonprofit to corporate, will have a use for you.

Queen of Swords
12-02-2010, 12:30 AM
I'm studying to be a medical laboratory technologist, because I've always loved identifying and dealing with diseases (just not with the actual patients who have them). Plus, the money's good. I'd prefer to be a full-time writer, but until that happens the bills need to be paid.

_Sian_
12-02-2010, 12:39 AM
Oh, I'm sure it's not just you. We've all worked dull, mindless jobs and hated them. But I don't think either Rita Mae Brown or myself, or anyone else in the thread, was recommending a dull mindless job where you just stand around all day. Or even "where you have time to think about writing." I specifically said "these jobs are not mindless," in fact.

(Although having said that I bet those night security guards can get some writing done, like between their rounds etc.)

The point was that for a lot of people, being engaged in some other activity can stimulate the creative/working parts of the brain, especially if that other activity is physical and familiar (this is why lots of us get great ideas in the shower or while driving). So you do something you enjoy, but that's physical rather than strictly mental. Not something dull and/or mindless; something that will engage you physically and interest you, but won't require that type of verbal creativity.

Okay, I misread you then. The bolded stuff is a very good point, and I agree totally with most of the quoted material. Just happens that I've done those sort of jobs before, and if the actions are familiar with me, I eventually get so frustrated with the familiarity that it effects my enjoyment of the work. Even if it was interesting work to start off with.

Sorry about the misreading - totally my fault :)

Thanks,

Sian

Libbie
12-02-2010, 12:49 AM
I would also advise you (and others) to not fall into the line of thinking that you can't make money writing because we're in a "bad economy."

Plenty of writers are doing better than ever despite any global economic challenges; mindset is almost as critical as formal training IMHO.

Peace,
Stephanie

...and fortunately, formal training has nothing at all to do with whether you'll be successful as a writer. That is, if you're self-taught you can make as much money as any formally trained writer. There is no requirement for formal training.

Stacia Kane
12-02-2010, 03:56 AM
...and fortunately, formal training has nothing at all to do with whether you'll be successful as a writer. That is, if you're self-taught you can make as much money as any formally trained writer. There is no requirement for formal training.

Ditto this, 100% (except you can also make more than "formally trained writers").

You do not need a particular level of education or background or anything else to be a successful writer. Period.





Sorry about the misreading - totally my fault :)

Thanks,

Sian


No worries! :)

DancingMaenid
12-02-2010, 04:42 AM
I'm currently working on an engineering degree.

I thought for a while that I would major in English, but then I thought seriously about the opportunities I'd have with it, and realized I didn't care for the idea. I have a lot of interests, so finding potential majors wasn't hard, but it's important to me that my degree gives me some skills I could actually apply to a job that would interest me, as opposed to being something that's just fun to study at the time. I love studying literature, but I realized that there probably wouldn't be that many jobs that I'd want that would directly relate to it.

And I've known for a good while that I don't want writing to be a job, so choosing a different field has been freeing so far.

Libbie
12-02-2010, 05:51 AM
If engineering interests you, go for it. Typically employers really don't care WHAT your degree is in -- they care that you have one. There are some exceptions, such as fields like engineering where a lot of specialized knowledge is required. But most jobs that will get you into the middle class just want a degree in anything, so English is as good as anything else. I always advise people who want to go to college but don't necessarily want to enter a very specialized field of work to just study what interests them, because four years or more is a lot to get through if you're not enjoying any of it.

(You could go my route, too, and not go to college. Sure, at the moment I live in a closet and work at a used book store. But I've put all my effort into my writing and I think it's about to pay off.)

jaksen
12-02-2010, 05:56 AM
You do not need a particular level of education or background or anything else to be a successful writer. Period.



Das ist die Wahrheit!

(That is the truth!)

AlishaS
12-02-2010, 06:13 AM
I am a stay at home mother of an almost 4 year old boy, so... to answer your question, my husband (who works in the oilfield) brings home the money.
Because my job is demanding and 24 hours a day, I do most of my writing very late at night. I do take a pen and paper everywhere, however, because you never know when an idea will pop in. I've done a lot of editing and writing at the local McDonalds playland. It's a win--win for my son and I. He gets to play and release all that energy and I have time to relax for a bit and write.

XxDethmetalxX
12-02-2010, 06:18 AM
I've worked as a surgical technician and trailer disassembler, and am currently applying for the position of sales assistant. Once I graduate high school (and college), however, I intend to work as an editor.

sleepsheep
12-02-2010, 06:35 AM
I'm surprised that nobody has suggested the "marry rich" option. Committing yourself to a career that you hate just for the money can be just as soul-crushing as marrying a person you don't particularly like for that same reason. Do what you enjoy.

Stephanie Mojica
12-02-2010, 04:10 PM
It really doesn't matter what your degree is in or in some cases if you even have one at all!

The key is getting great published writing samples online or in print and then showing those "clips" to prospective clients.

Don't have any writing samples? Sites like Associated Content/Yahoo Contributor Network allow beginning writers who can follow guidelines to post articles. From there, you could get online writing jobs with sites such as Demand Media Studios.

Good luck!

Peace, love, and happiness,
Stephanie

Terie
12-02-2010, 04:38 PM
It really doesn't matter what your degree is in or in some cases if you even have one at all!

The key is getting great published writing samples online or in print and then showing those "clips" to prospective clients.

Don't have any writing samples? Sites like Associated Content/Yahoo Contributor Network allow beginning writers who can follow guidelines to post articles. From there, you could get online writing jobs with sites such as Demand Media Studios.

Good luck!

Peace, love, and happiness,
Stephanie

This is beginning to sound an awful lot like sig line spam. This reply has absolutely NOTHING to do with the OP's question.

Truth and Fiction
12-02-2010, 06:13 PM
I've never worked one of those physical jobs that would leave your mind blissfully rested for writing later, but I could see how that would work. And I do hear stories about writing teachers, journalists, etc. feeling burned out by expending so much mental energy on writing/critiquing/editing for work that they don't have much left for their own writing pursuits. But I just want to add that my work as an editor -- writing and editing features, writing departments, etc. -- has been beneficial to my creative writing. While writing a feature for a trade magazine is an entirely different process than writing, say, a short story, it still works my critical thinking/writing muscles. Something as simple as editing product descriptions can, over time, help train you to cut unnecessary words, etc. So for me, it's been a good fit. I guess it really depends on every person and every job.

The bottom line is, you can pretty much do anything and still be a writer if you're willing to put in the work! (I'm not saying I'd want to be a lawyer with three kids who has to wake up at 4am to write, for example, but it happens, I'm sure.)

Good luck.

Anne Lyle
12-02-2010, 07:22 PM
Any and everything. I've worked as a software engineer with nuclear submarines and owned an inn in Vermont and now I'm a literary agent. In general, I think a job where you work with computers is less than ideal, because the last thing you want to do is come home and sit yourself down in front of a computer again to work.

Tell me about it! I'm currently a full-time web developer/manager, which means my eyes and wrists suffer (though switching to the Dvorak keyboard layout has helped with the latter). I'd love to be able to do something relatively mindless that paid as well as IT, but that's about as likely as making a comfortable living from writing fiction...

As for the OP - study what you enjoy and what you think you could make a living at, and plan to write on the side to begin with. Writing, unlike music or sport, is one career that you can pick up at almost any age, so have fun whilst you're still young ;)

Jamesaritchie
12-02-2010, 08:16 PM
Ditto this, 100% (except you can also make more than "formally trained writers").

You do not need a particular level of education or background or anything else to be a successful writer. Period.






No worries! :)

It's possible to earn a living as a writer without a college degree, but it sure isn't very likely. And that's putting it mildly.

Besides, you always need a fallback option to earn a decent living until you do become a successful writer, which can take years, or decades, if it happens at all. It probably won't, even with a degree, much less without one.

johnnysannie
12-02-2010, 10:39 PM
What sorts of careers/jobs do any writers here have to bring in the paychecks?

Until this school year, I most recently worked as a substitute teacher in the local district. My careers/jobs since getting my college degrees (yes, that is plural) have included radio broadcasting, advertising copywriter, teaching, working with the mentally handicapped in group home settings to re-introduce them to life outside a mental institution, sales clerk, and a few others.

At present, my sole full-time and only occupation is writer - primarily fiction.

It, however, took me many years to reach this place even though way back in college, one of my writing profs told me that I certainly had enough talent and skill to work as a writer but whether or not I would would be up to me.

While I agree that a college degree isn't necessary to work as a writer or become a successful (even a working) fiction writer, I think it isn't something that would-be writers should eschew just because someone says that they don't need it for success. It may not help - but then again it may in immeasureable ways - but it isn't going to hurt. Any life experience - be it a job, college, career, marriage, parenthood, anything - enhances the writer and helps to flavor our work.

Medievalist
12-02-2010, 11:00 PM
It's possible to earn a living as a writer without a college degree, but it sure isn't very likely. And that's putting it mildly..

Meh.

It's not all that uncommon, or even unlikely. It really isn't. I suspect you are assuming a fair number of authors have degrees who, in fact, don't.

There are at least ten authors here who haven't a college degree and are published by mainstream publishers.

And I know four who don't have high school diplomas.

What they all have in common is an extraordinary degree of verbal ability, they have mastered the basics of English prose, and they've got an obsession about working hard, and doing their best. They are, all of them, extraordinary people.

Moreover, I am not at all sanguine about the underlying assumptions in our culture that a four year degree equates with a "better" or higher paying job; what I'm seeing in my former students is that their undergrad degree equates to starting their working lives in debt, in a bad economy that looks like it's going to get worse.

Tifferbugz
12-02-2010, 11:09 PM
I'm surprised that nobody has suggested the "marry rich" option. Committing yourself to a career that you hate just for the money can be just as soul-crushing as marrying a person you don't particularly like for that same reason. Do what you enjoy.

I'd add that not being able to pay the bills is also soul-crushing. Do what you enjoy, but don't forget to have a practical backup plan.

Jamesaritchie
12-02-2010, 11:51 PM
Meh.

It's not all that uncommon, or even unlikely. It really isn't. I suspect you are assuming a fair number of authors have degrees who, in fact, don't.

There are at least ten authors here who haven't a college degree and are published by mainstream publishers.

And I know four who don't have high school diplomas.

What they all have in common is an extraordinary degree of verbal ability, they have mastered the basics of English prose, and they've got an obsession about working hard, and doing their best. They are, all of them, extraordinary people.

Moreover, I am not at all sanguine about the underlying assumptions in our culture that a four year degree equates with a "better" or higher paying job; what I'm seeing in my former students is that equates to starting their working lives in debt, in a bad economy that looks like it's going to get worse.

In this area, I try never to assume. I've spent a lot of hours counting writers with degrees, and writers without. Writers without degrees certainly exist, but they're hugely outnumbered by those with degrees.

Each time I read a book, I always look up two things, which are how the writer writes books, and whether or not that writer has a degree, along with where the degree is from, and what it's in. I also do this with each new writer who appears on the NYT bestseller list.

The numbers are way against a writer without a degree for all books, but when you factor in actually earning a living from writing, the percentage with degrees goes way, way, way up. This is doubly true when you look at newer writers, and not those from generation past.

It's one thing to have a book published by a mainstream publisher, and quite another to make enough money from writing to keep the wolf from the door.

And bad economy or not, a degree is always worth a heck of a lot more than no degree. Even if it doesn't get you a great job in a bad economy, it should get you some job. You may finish college in debt, but if it amounts to more than a few thousand, that's your fault. It never has to do so.

Even jobs that required no degree just a decade or two ago now look for degrees. One of my sons has a factory job that was unskilled, manual labor fifteen years ago. Now it takes knowledge of computers and robotics. His degree got him the job. Another of my sons works, of all places, in a pro golf shop, that last place you'd think a degree would matter, but his degree got him the job.

And bad economies never last forever. They always turn around. When they do, those with the most education benefit the fastest and the most.
It's easy enough to say that all a writer needs is a way with words, and the ability to tell a good story, but in reality, the writers who do these things best almost always have a degree.

The world has changed. A degree may not automatically land someone a very high paying job as degrees once did, but in today's world, and certainly in the world of tomorrow, it's likely to take a degree of some sort to get any job at all outside of pumping gas of flipping burgers. I don't say this is a good thing, I don't think it is, but it is the way things are.

And no matter how you slice it, very, very few who try to be writers are going to have any success at all, so they'd darned well better have a backup plan that will ensure a decent living.

It's certainly possible to be a highly successful writer without a degree, but if you plan on earning enough money to matter from writing, it's taking one hell of a serious chance.