So you want to be a writer...
I’ve seen a lot of people answer the Dream Job question with WRITER in the question tag posts going around. It makes sense. Many of us are here, rubbing this fandom all over ourselves, because we love reading. We love to read great writing so we want to contribute more of that to the world. Therefore, writer seems like the obvious dream job. And honestly, no matter how many times people try to talk you out of romanticizing a career as a writer, it’s impossible not to.
“I’m going out to the writing loft, darling! Send a small woodland creature with a note affixed to it’s tail to alert me when it’s time for tea!”
I always wanted to be a writer. I didn’t know how that would happen.
I read the classics, went to college and majored in English literature and learned to be a pretty good writer.
I tried to get into publishing houses after college, but I needed money to live and I didn’t know anyone in the industry, so that was a bust.
I tried to get a job as a caption writer, making minimum wage. Didn’t get it.
Things were not looking good and one morning, in my tiny, ancient apartment, I pulled my pants off the floor and a mouse ran out of the pant leg. It was just me, that mouse, and a bunch of bootleg copies of X-Files episodes on VHS.
Despite my failure to get a job as a writer, I never stopped feeling that I was a writer. And in the midst of this uncertainty and rather bleak existence, I realized that WRITER is not a job. WRITER is a characteristic.
I couldn’t not be a writer.
I got a low-level job at a big corporation. Customer service hell. But I did a good job and had confidence in myself and my superiors recognized I was worth more. They also knew I’d burn out soon and leave. So they created a new job for me. An analyst. Because I’d shown myself to be intelligent and curious.
I cannot stress this enough: even if your job sucks, do it well and once in awhile, do more than your job. People will notice.
So I got this analysis job. I literally made up my own work. I looked at information and tried to notice patterns and things that could be improved. And one of the skills that stood out to people was my writing.
People notice good writers. And they will start coming to you for advice and editing. Soon, I had an entire department coming to me to work on their documents. I had communications people (who literally are professional writers!) coming to me to help them craft messages.
I wasn’t a writer. But I was a writer.
Now, one thing about being a writer is the need for a creative outlet. And sometimes, you need to make your own.
One day, at this corporate job, I spent 3 hours creating a fake newsletter full of my dumb humor, printed out a bunch of copies, and secretly dropped it into the offices of the executives. (I don’t know how I get away with this shit, but I do)
And it was funny enough, that when everyone eventually traced it back to me, we all just had a good laugh. And I got a little creativity in that day.
Fast forward many years to now. I have an amazing job. And if I told you the title, almost no one would know what it was. My title isn’t “writer”. But I write all the time.
Sometimes it’s boring writing. But part of being a good writer is finding ways of making something less boring.
This week, I wrote a book review (NK Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy – it’s awesome) for our newsletter that goes to our friends and clients, some more newsletter content, a post for our blog. I write our Twitter copy. None of this is even my main job, which is about 40% writing. And every morning our team writes “huddles”, emails talking about our lives and stories and what’s making us laugh or inspiring us. That’s a huge creative outlet for me.
I’m a writer. I even get paid to do it.
Novelist is something else entirely, but one great secret is that most novelists have other jobs. Extremely talented, well-known novelists even (see NK Jemisin).
So, if you’re a writer, you’re a writer. You already are living your dream. You’ll have many different jobs over the years. And, if you’re determined, you can find a way to be a writer in that job, even if it doesn’t look like it in your job description.
I’ll end this by saying…