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Esopha
02-10-2007, 10:24 PM
Alright, my days of happy fun childhood are over. I'm a junior in high school next year, and college is glaring at me from three years away. I'd really love to be a novelist - the only problem is that I need to have money so I don't starve to death in the mean time.

So, my question is this: What kind of careers should I look in to as an aspiring writer? Should I look into careers that are writing-based, or can I get a secondary (or primary) degree in another subject that I'm interested in and get a day job in that field? Am I overthinking this? Am I blowing things out of proportion? Have my recent PSAT scores inflicted much damage upon my brain cells?

Help.

CheshireCat
02-11-2007, 02:08 AM
So, my question is this: What kind of careers should I look in to as an aspiring writer? Should I look into careers that are writing-based, or can I get a secondary (or primary) degree in another subject that I'm interested in and get a day job in that field? Am I overthinking this? Am I blowing things out of proportion? Have my recent PSAT scores inflicted much damage upon my brain cells?

The latter. ;)

I can only speak from personal experience, but I found that "mindless" jobs completely unrelated to writing freed my mind to wander during those hours when I had to earn $$ to pay the rent. I think if I'd had to write for eight hours, coming home to more writing would not have been a good thing, at least for me.

Of course, to do the mindless sort of work I'm talking about means that others may consider that you're wasting time and energy when you could be building a "real" career. Until you're published, few will take that aspiration seriously.

And you do need to think carefully about it, because it could take years to even sell a book, far less get established as a writer and possibly support yourself on writing alone. (A tiny, tiny percentage of writers in the US are able to live on their writing income alone.) It could also never happen, and you could find yourself waiting tables when you're thirty.

Not that I want to scare you, but it is something to think about. For most writers, it isn't just a job it's a vocation, so consider carefully before you commit your life -- and your livelihood -- to writing.

Establishing another career first, one you could see yourself continuing in whether writing works out for you, might be the best way to go. It's the choice many writers have made, starting their writing careers later in life.

No right or wrong, just what works best for you.

Provrb1810meggy
02-11-2007, 02:17 AM
Well, I want to be a novelist, but since I'm not counting on cashing in on that right away, I want to be an editor. I've discovered that I like to help other people improve their writing! Maybe that's an option you could consider.

Sohia Rose
02-11-2007, 03:17 AM
There is journalism, public relations, publishing, editor, English teacher, business writer and copy writer. That's all I can think of for now.

Willowmound
02-11-2007, 04:10 AM
Do something you enjoy. You're gonna be a novelist in your spare time anyway. Get yourself a dayjob you like. Seek out as many different experiences as you can. These will help you in your writing.

weatherfield
02-11-2007, 06:03 AM
I can speak to this a little, although I in no way have a definitive answer.
While I was in college, I had a mindless (but paying) job and a variety of overlapping internships. Among other things, I was a teaching assistant, an editorial assistant for the university PR department, and an editorial assistant for a literary magazine.

Now, the PR internship and the teaching internship were exhausting. They made it hard to write because it felt like I had already used up all my energy on the daily tasks required by the jobs. The PR internship was especially bad because it involved writing articles and reviews, conducting interviews, and producing a lot of filler copy for university publications. My day-job, on the other hand, was kind of neutral/kind of good. It took up a lot of my time, but that didn't stop me from thinking about various writing projects while I was at work, and something about the more repetitive parts of the job actually seemed to jumpstart the story-generating function of my brain.

However, the best job was the editorial position. I did manuscript screening, proofreading, copy- and line-editing, typesetting—you name it. But I didn't have to write. I spent all day thinking about the mechanics of writing, looking at other people's stories and deciding whether or not they belonged in the magazine, or what it would take to get them in shape if they weren't ready, but I didn't have to write anything myself. By the time I got home, I'd have so many ideas about how to streamline my own work that I couldn't wait to get started.

It's going to be different for everyone, but I'm with Megan on this. Editing had the largest positive effect on my writing and it's something I enjoy a great deal for its own sake. Of course, I love reading slush too, so maybe I'm just weird that way. :D

The_Grand_Duchess
02-11-2007, 06:12 AM
Get a job you like. Thats the best advice I can offer you. I worked in a number of mindless soul sucking jobs and it didn't help my writing becuase I was so tired and pissed off at the end of the day all I wanted was a hot shower and bed.

That's just my take on it though.

finch
02-11-2007, 06:43 AM
I'd get an unrelated day job. The above reasons aside, I've seen plenty of artists take jobs related to their art, who then end up miserable because the job has sucked the love right out of it.

piano_island
02-11-2007, 09:20 PM
Let's see, I want to be a novelist so I work at a daycare which is only one of my many mindless side jobs through the years. Personally, I seem to benefit from mindless side jobs that pay the bills because when I get up every morning and dread work, I tend to visualize myself in a different life. I can't tell you how many plots I've come up with just because I was pretending to be someplace else, doing anything else.

On the flip side, when I try to do jobs that relate to what I want to do...it does suck all the love and life out of my creativity; but maybe that's just me.

I thrive in suffering...

spinnerin
02-11-2007, 09:40 PM
The other advantage of getting an unrelated day job is that you'll learn about things that don't seem directly connected to writing, but are very helpful down the line, like business or computers or even customer service. I think there's a distinct value to having a variety of kinds of work experience, and not doing just one thing all the time.

WildScribe
02-11-2007, 09:42 PM
Writing. :D

Esopha
02-13-2007, 01:40 AM
Thanks everyone! I didn't expect so many replies. :)

You've all given me a lot to consider. Thanks a lot for helping a psycho high school student prepare for her future.

Jamesaritchie
02-13-2007, 02:44 AM
Alright, my days of happy fun childhood are over. I'm a junior in high school next year, and college is glaring at me from three years away. I'd really love to be a novelist - the only problem is that I need to have money so I don't starve to death in the mean time.

So, my question is this: What kind of careers should I look in to as an aspiring writer? Should I look into careers that are writing-based, or can I get a secondary (or primary) degree in another subject that I'm interested in and get a day job in that field? Am I overthinking this? Am I blowing things out of proportion? Have my recent PSAT scores inflicted much damage upon my brain cells?

Help.

You should look at doing anything you believe you would love doing. The best career is always the one you most enjoy.

suzymccoy
02-13-2007, 09:20 AM
How about a suggestion from an old Grandma? Pick a career that you enjoy. You need something that is going to pay the bills and put food on the table. The Novelist in you is going to emerge no matter what you do. As you watch someone walk down the street, something about him or her may spark an idea, carry your notebook and write it down. You boss in whatever career you decided on may be a character in one of your novels. Get out there and experience life, what is around you and different occupations. You are going need all of this as you start writing your novel. So anything and everything you do is not wasted. It is material to be used in the future. I hope this helps a little and good luck with what ever you choose.

Birol
02-13-2007, 09:52 AM
As for what jobs out there are available to writers, remember this: Anything you've read has to have been written. That includes ad copy (yes, someone paid someone to write those little blurbs in the catalogues that clutter your snail mailbox), instruction manuals (insert Tab A into Slot B while standing on your head and sticking out your tongue), websites, magazine articles, greeting cards, and so on.

An old story, but it bears repeating: One of the first pieces I had published was a calendar of upcoming events for a regional magazine. I had a NF article in the same magazine. My mother was telling me she enjoyed the NF article. I asked, "What about the other piece?"

"What other piece?"

"The calendar of upcoming events."

"You wrote that? I didn't realize anyone wrote those!"

Yes, Mom. Words and everything. ;)



Repeat after me: Anything you read has to have been written.

Will Lavender
02-13-2007, 09:08 PM
When you go to college, major in something that is going to make you some money.

English ain't it, probably.

I wish somebody would have given me that advice. As finch said above, you don't want to do something/study something that's going to suck the love out of writing.

I'd recommend getting into a field that will pay. Write on the side.

I struggled mercilessly with money issues all through my teens and twenties until I wrote a publishable novel. It would have been much easier had I been able to do something that, you know, paid well. Many times I thought of giving up writing to try and do somethign that would bring my family money.

Kate Thornton
02-13-2007, 09:23 PM
I have had a career that I enjoyed. I went into a field in which I had a real interest and enthusiasm and I loved it. And it paid the bills nicely so I could write. And I *did* write! And I still looked forward to getting up every day and going to work.

Now that I could retire, I find myself still involved in work that I enjoy (and I like all the $$$) and with even more time/$$$/life experience with which to write.

I say find a career you will love and have a dual career with that and writing. There's no rule that says you can only do one thing at a time. The rule is that you should only do things you find interesting and rewarding.

Bubastes
02-13-2007, 11:48 PM
And if you can't find a career you enjoy, you can also find plenty of material in a career you hate (warning: make sure it pays well enough to be worth the trouble, and don't do it long-term). The tricky part is keeping up your energy and self-esteem in such a situation so you can continue writing. Good luck!

johnrobison
02-14-2007, 12:10 AM
One suggestion that I have not seen among the responses so far is to find a job doing something you enjoy, and that provides writing opportunity as a perhiperal benefit.

For example, I manage a European auto service and restoration business, and I write magazine articles about what we do. It's not part of my job to write articles but the job provides the raw material that made the writing possible.

Good luck with your choice, whatever it proves to be

PeeDee
02-14-2007, 06:21 AM
Get a job in a used bookstore. Mostly, because it's fun to work in a bookstore, but in the back of your mind, you're going to notice people and how they react to books. There are some wonderful books that people won't buy "cause they just got bored by page five," or "it's too damn wordy" or whatever.

It's a fun experience.

Plus, they don't generally mind if you drink tea while you're working.

But mostly, as everyone else said, get a job you like, 'cause writing is about as financially useful as scrabbling in a beanfield. And for Pete's sake, if you're in college, stay in college! One of the biggest regrets of my life was that when I was young, I figured I'd be writing full-time by the time I was twenty, and so I gave up on college. That's a very silly idea. Don't do that.

JeanneTGC
02-14-2007, 07:53 AM
Chiming in with the others who are saying, do something you like that also pays well.

I've had a very successful career in marketing (still do). It not only pays the bills, it taught me a lot about writing (even though I was never on the creative side of any agency), but more importantly it taught me about how business and people work. Both useful for a writer.

No matter what, listen to PeeDee and stay in college. Today you need that college degree to get a good job. And a good job that you enjoy (at least most of the time) will mean that you don't have to worry about putting food on the table during the available writing time you might have.

I'm not a personal fan of the mindless jobs. I find that I write better, in fact, do everything better, when my mind is challenged and when I have things to DO. Everyone's different -- pay attention to how you work best and create best, and try to find a blending of the two.

PeeDee
02-14-2007, 09:56 AM
No matter what, listen to PeeDee and stay in college. Today you need that college degree to get a good job. And a good job that you enjoy (at least most of the time) will mean that you don't have to worry about putting food on the table during the available writing time you might have.

Although there's always the old saying "A college degree and a dollar will get you a cup of coffee." :)

JeanneTGC
02-14-2007, 10:31 AM
Although there's always the old saying "A college degree and a dollar will get you a cup of coffee." :)
Yes, but the new saying that goes along with that is, "A High School diploma and a dollar will allow you to serve coffee and also ask if someone wants an Egg McMuffin with that."

PeeDee
02-14-2007, 10:35 AM
Yes, but the new saying that goes along with that is, "A High School diploma and a dollar will allow you to serve coffee and also ask if someone wants an Egg McMuffin with that."

It's true. And so...stay in school kids!

(this public service announcement brought to you by PHENTERMINE)

PeeDee
02-14-2007, 10:36 AM
If all else fails, get a degree as a librarian and go get a job with interesting and mostly cool people at your local library. The pay is decent (is better than McDonald's) and it's fun, and they let you drink tea.

Mags
02-14-2007, 10:41 AM
I work for a law firm in the marketing department. I've learned quite a bit about writing clearly and also how to assimilate information and rewrite it--it's something I do all the time. So I do think it's worth it to have a writing job.

If I had to do it all over again, though, I would have gone to library school.

And my ideal job is a receptionist somewhere not busy where they let you write or surf the 'net or do whatever when the phone's not ringing. I used to have one of those, many years ago, but unfortunately it didn't pay the bills. If one were publishing regularly, however...

Gozzy
02-14-2007, 04:05 PM
Get a job you like. Thats the best advice I can offer you. I worked in a number of mindless soul sucking jobs and it didn't help my writing becuase I was so tired and pissed off at the end of the day all I wanted was a hot shower and bed.


I couldn't agree more. For me it's editing - it's fun (hard at times, but fun), I get to work with liberal minded folk and by the nature of the job I get to meet people and learn things that would probably be off limits if I were a regional toilet paper sales coordinator on a comfortable salary. From a career perspective it has helped productivity (and confidence) and opened a lot of freelancing doors that were closed when I worked as an English teacher - not a great job when you want to be somewhere else.

As for what career is good for you (after graduating), only time will tell. If you screw one thing up or find that what you are doing isn't your cup of tea other doors will inevitably open, so don't get too heavy about making sure you are "on track". Good luck in whatever you choose to do!

By the way, I'm with PeeDee when it comes to taking jobs where they let you drink tea:e2coffee: .

Rich
02-14-2007, 04:14 PM
Keep in mind the one writing job that pays the most per word is composing ransom notes.

weatherfield
02-14-2007, 07:23 PM
Come to think of it, out of that whole laundry list I gave you citing Jobs I Had in College, the editorial position was the only one that let me drink tea! Double points to the editorial position.

Soccer Mom
02-14-2007, 08:07 PM
Lawyers drink tea.



Just saying. :D

Kate Thornton
02-14-2007, 08:13 PM
PeeDee! A librarian's job requires a master's degree in library science from an accredited college and is no small undertaking (some of my best friends - okay, *5* of them! - are librarians.)

They love their jobs, which are pretty high-paying (my friend Nancy is a senior law librarian for a large prestigious firm and makes a lot more than I do as a senior engineer) and they are intelligent, witty, and driven professionals.

But you are right about public library work - I worked for a few years as a library assistant, then as a library technician - both non-degreed jobs. Lotsa hard work, but surrounded by books and people who know how to read. (And some who don't - libraries often foster literacy programs. The above-mentioned Nancy is a champion of literacy and two evenings a week teaches people to read. Yes, she is a dynamo!)

I learned so much from the experience. It was a good one.

Kate Thornton
02-14-2007, 08:14 PM
But I'm with you all on jobs where you can drink tea.

I drink tea at Boeing all the time!

PeeDee
02-15-2007, 05:03 AM
I wasn't trying to imply that it was easy to get your degree as a Librarian, just that it's fun, worthwhile, enjoyable to study, and you can't beat the job you get after college. I spent a number of years happily working in various capacities in libraries, and would gladly do it again.

PeeDee
02-15-2007, 05:03 AM
A sure sign I'm getting picky, but these days my requirements for jobs include, 1) Does not have a uniform, especially a --ing hat. 2) Does not mind tea. 3) Allows me to sit down now and then.

Hence why I'm happily living in this used bookstore. :D

scarletpeaches
02-15-2007, 05:09 AM
"Rich and famous novelist" is the career for me.

PeeDee
02-15-2007, 05:28 AM
"Rich and famous novelist" is the career for me.

Agreed.

I'll even be a heartless sell-out. Attention wealthy people! Writer of Fiction Novels here, ready to sell his artistic integrity for the quick buck!

Esopha
02-15-2007, 07:06 AM
I want to be a rich and famous novelist.

I just don't want to be completely emaciated before I get there. xD;

Mmm. Does anybody have any experience in journalism, botany or landscape architecture?

Rich
02-15-2007, 03:29 PM
I'm already a "rich." And I've been threatening to write a novel since the Nixon Administration.

batgirl
02-16-2007, 03:13 AM
Seconding Kate on librarian < library assistant/technician. I'm a library assistant (that's what it's called where I work, other places say technician) at a university library and I got the job with a BA in German, no library experience, and no Master's degree.
My original plan was to work as an assistant for a year, to get the library experience that the Master's program required for entrants. After a year I thought: why should I quite my library job and go back to school for two years for a degree that might get me another library job? Especially another library job with a wussy Professional Association instead of a decent union?
So I stayed where I was. What other job gives such access to research materials?
But I only drink tea in the staff lounge.
-Barbara
PS: if you have any kind of knack for foreign languages, take as many different ones as you can. They're useful in a vast number of situations, and because N Americans are so intimidated by other languages, it's quite hard to find job candidates who have more than a couple of years of whichever second language is required. I got my job because I knew a little of several languages, just enough to figure out titles and catalogue descriptions. You don't have to be at UN translator level.

engmajor2005
02-16-2007, 03:20 AM
All of you obviously don't work in the kind of library environment I work in. I'm a library assistant, and the work is so overwhelming that some days I would rather be unemployed than have pay and bennies.

Co-workers are great though.

PeeDee
02-16-2007, 03:28 AM
All of you obviously don't work in the kind of library environment I work in. I'm a library assistant, and the work is so overwhelming that some days I would rather be unemployed than have pay and bennies.

Co-workers are great though.

Yeah, every library I worked in had enough work going on that you could get buried under it in a heartbeat.

Okay. To be clear.

1) Getting a degree in library sciences is hard work, and takes a lot of time.

2) Libraries are busybusybusy places to work.

3) The pay is good. Sometimes. Except when it stinks.

4) The co-workers are wonderful, and usually sane.

5) Do Not Spill Tea On Books, Damn It

:)

Esopha
02-16-2007, 03:31 AM
3) The pay is good. Sometimes. Except when it stinks.

That seems to be the case with every career. xD

janetbellinger
02-16-2007, 03:42 AM
Must be technologically brilliant to work in libraries nowadays. Must know how to program and fix computers and how to find everything on them.


Yeah, every library I worked in had enough work going on that you could get buried under it in a heartbeat.

Okay. To be clear.

1) Getting a degree in library sciences is hard work, and takes a lot of time.

2) Libraries are busybusybusy places to work.

3) The pay is good. Sometimes. Except when it stinks.

4) The co-workers are wonderful, and usually sane.

5) Do Not Spill Tea On Books, Damn It

:)

Birol
02-16-2007, 03:50 AM
Must be technologically brilliant to work in libraries nowadays. Must know how to program and fix computers and how to find everything on them.

Yes. University reference librarians are deities. Homage must be paid to them at all times.

"I'm looking for references to blue-eyed Greek philosophers who lived around 1500-2000 BCE and satirized Plato?"

*click click clickety click*

"Yes, we have one book with a reference to blue-eyed Greek philosophers who wrote satires between 1000 and 2000 BCE. That book is currently checked out to your professor and is located on the second bookshelf to the right as you enter their office, on the next to the last shelf from the bottom. It is in the stack of papers that also contains the syllabi for a class they last taught three semesters ago, notes for the paper they wrote for a conference in Italy, and the birthday card they forgot to send to their wife two years ago. Your professor has repeatedly told us that they do not have this book, so if you sneak in while they are in the secretary's office getting their mail, you should be able to get it with no problem. Please return it to us when you're finished."

PeeDee
02-16-2007, 03:58 AM
What Lori forgot to mention is, when you go in to ask them about blue-eyed greeks in the first place, the Librarian greets you saying...

I AM UNIVERSITY REFERENCE LIBRARIAN, GREAT AND TERRIBLE! PAY NO HEED TO THE MAN BEHIND THE CURTAIN!

Rich
02-16-2007, 04:01 AM
You also got to have some kind of response when they answer you by saying, "Hey, I'm reading here!"

Birol
02-16-2007, 04:18 AM
Oh, no. When a university reference librarian is reading, you stand respectfully and quietly in front of their desk until they've reached a stopping place and acknowledge your presence. If you can do it without banging around too much, you may sit down in the chair provided while you wait.

PeeDee
02-16-2007, 04:22 AM
And watch all that noisy brownien motion with your molecules, or you'll piss the Librarian right off, and they won't help you, and it will serve you right.

Esopha
02-16-2007, 05:38 PM
Gee, and here my experiences with librarians have consisted mainly of them waving books in my face while I'm trying to do internet research.

I want the librarians you guys are talking about. The ones at my high school...

They scare me. >>;

Teraphim
02-17-2007, 01:32 PM
marriage is really the best career for a writer. go get yourself an MRS degree.

other then that, my experience says stay in school until you sell a couple books. loan debts for an MA or MS are no big deal if you're smart about them, and when people ask you why you've been hiding in college for eight years, you can ask them why they're jealous of your mad credentials.

don't do anything else for a living because you're going to be very unhappy and bored working to build someone else's dreams.

college professors are the closest things to professional writers you can get without actually being a writer full-time. they do lots and lots of writing, after all.

PeeDee
02-18-2007, 01:34 AM
don't do anything else for a living because you're going to be very unhappy and bored working to build someone else's dreams.

college professors are the closest things to professional writers you can get without actually being a writer full-time. they do lots and lots of writing, after all.

That's kind of like saying I'm pretty close to being a pig farmer, because I eat lots and lots of bacon. We both deal with pigs, we're worlds apart.

College professors do a lot of writing, some of them write and publish regularly, but that doesn't make them experts, or close to being full time writers. That makes them close to being professors who publish.

And there are things you can do besides stay in school, which won't leave you miserable. I work in a little dusty used bookstore, which I do not own (so I guess its' not my dream) and I have a blast. You just have to find something that makes you happy...which doesn't hurt to do, even if you are writing full time (which I am, thanks.)

dreamsofnever
02-20-2007, 01:58 AM
[quote=Esopha;1115991]Alright, my days of happy fun childhood are over. I'm a junior in high school next year, and college is glaring at me from three years away. I'd really love to be a novelist - the only problem is that I need to have money so I don't starve to death in the mean time.
[quote]

First of all, your days of happy fun childhood are certainly not over! I'm 25 and have only truly begun to feel like I've grown up. if anything, going off to college will allow you more freedom to be creative.

My advice on careers is this-study what you love. If it's writing, do writing. but think about what else you have a passion for, if anything. If not, go to school for creative writing and if all else fails, you can take it further and get a masters degree and teach it.

But I do give you this advice-as you go off to college, take the chance in meeting people with more diverse personalities and backgrounds than you would meet in your hometown. These people will fuel your understanding of the world and will help to make your characters more colorful.

You may even want to choose a part time job while in college that will allow you to interact with people. I was actually a psych major (hence my love for developing characters) and so I worked in a group home with developmentally disabled adults. This gave me the opportunity to have coworkers in all places in their life and, of course, to interact with people who are going through things I couldn't even begin to fathom when I started my job. It was also good because there was enough downtime when relaxing with the residents to allow my mind to wander.

I also had a job scanning case files into a computer for a courthouse. The case files themselves were pretty interesting, but this also gave me the chance to let my mind wander, and I crafted my best stories then. Man do I miss those days!

Good luck with school though!

Esopha
02-22-2007, 05:30 AM
Wow, dreamsofnever, that post was probably the most helpful to me. Thanks for the advice. I may print it out and pin it to my wall.