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Having a crisis about future career - need advice


#1

Hey folks,

I’ve been stressing slightly for the past few days, and thought the best place for advice would be you guys. Not really looking for everyone to tell me things are gonna be okay, but I’m trying to find next steps.

Basically I’m leaving uni soon, and planning on moving to Glasgow this summer. I’m going to need a new job, but I’m panicking because I really wantes to be able to find one relating to writing. I know the nature of it is that you make it your side job, but I’m just wondering what you would say is the soundest course of action? I’m terrified of getting stuck in a rut and not being able to pay the bills with my craft just down to the fact I can’t easily find any submissions or oppurtunities.

Anything you guys would have to say about my quandry would be invaluable

Cheers


#2

Hi bud,

I think first off you need to find a job and pay the bills and do the writing as a sideline.

Try find a job that will pay enough money to cover what you need to live and then a bit more so you can afford not to be trapped in your house, struggling to do a shopping etc - but also a job that you can just go in and do, walk out once your shift is over and forget about it until you next shift starts.

Try make it something that you are not going to find stressful and resent - and hopefully actually enjoy.
Maybe even something that you have a lot of interaction with people which you can then use to fuel your writing.

Most of all it needs to be something that you don’t find tiring and that you will have energy to write when you are not working.
Try stay away from jobs that involve sitting at a desk in front of a computer all day, because believe it or not that’s probably the most tiring, particulary mentally.

Even better if you can pick up something part time.

As your writing moves more and more to the situation where you are getting paid enough to financially support yourself with it, you could reduce your hours (bar work would be ideal for this) and better yet, leave the job altogether to write full time.

Best of luck

Chris


#3

Thanks Chris, that’s actually really great advice.

I think my main worry with it all is finding a route, because in terms of writing stuff I want to try everything. I have a writing partner for a TV show we’re working on as a sideline, and I have loads of ideas for comics stories that have been brewing away.

I guess going into the real world was just daunting as hell and I’ve panicked haha


#4

Chris said most of what I was gonna say.

Another thing that has been helpful to me in the past is to gravitate towards work that gives you time to write during free time. When I worked at a comic book store I wrote even more than I did at home because it was an escape from just sitting around waiting for a customer to come in during the weekday morning lull.

A security desk job would be perfect for this; I’m always envious of those guys when I go into a building where there’s one. At my building the evening shift guy is usually watching Netflix on his laptop. :smile:


#5

I don’t know what your degree is in, but there are of course jobs that relate to writing - not the creative kind, but all writing is writing, and you can hone your skill at putting words together in other fields, as well. Basically, I’m saying that going for a “real” job isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

I’m basically talking about PR firms and the like. This isn’t a field you can just apply to without work experience of course; you’d have to start with a work placement or something along those lines. Which once again means money will be an issue, of course…


#6

Even without work experience in a writing capacity, there are jobs out there. There are writing jobs, including journalism, where a bit of relevant experience and education in the right field can be enough to get you a foot in the door even without having previously worked as a writer, as long as you can demonstrate that you can write to a decent standard.

It’s worth having a look at career-specific job websites (they certainly exist for journalists, and I’m presuming other writing occupations too) to see what is out there. Don’t be too disheartened even if positions say they call for previous experience, as it isn’t always essential.


#7

Hey Aaron,

First of all, buddy, it is ok to panic!
It is a bit jump from education to (not in a patronising way) the REAL World.

The great news is that you know what you want to do for a living and that’s the first step.
Now you need to plan how you get there.

You want to find a job in writing, but what is the goal?
Novelist, editor, copy writer…dare I say, comic writer?

Whatever career you want, the harsh truth is that unless you are incredibly lucky.
Or you know someone inside a company that can help you get your foot in the door or spot a job opening and WOW at the interview, more so than others who may have experience, You are going to have to work REALLY hard to get where you want to go.

Bad news.
You are most likely gonna have to take a side job, to fund your passion.
But you know what?
THAT’S NOT A BAD THING!

It is a great way of getting experience in the big wide world and dealing with people on a day to day basis, from all walks of life…as a writer, that’s GOLD!
You are gonna meet so many people, hear stories, be inspired by the lives of others!
Some are gonna be nice, indifferent and some are gonna be downright buttholes….but, its great!
I’m paraphrasing (I could google it, but I’m being lazy), but there is that line in To Kill a Mocking Bird that goes something like:
"you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them"
So, if you do have to take that side job, just work hard and pretend that you are doing research!
The other good thing is that you are gonna make new friends…

But, you are also, afraid that you are gonna get stuck in a rut!
I get that.
Again, not trying to sound patronising…you have youth on your side.
Leaving uni, I’m gonna assume that you are 20-21ish?
Dude, I’m 35, I didn’t even know I could write until I was around 27….to be honest I am still not sure I can! :smiley:

So, I’ve been writing my own comics for nearly 8 years and I’m not exactly what you would call “successful” I write and make comics, because I love it.
For me it is a hobby….some people, play golf, some people send thousands of pounds on season ticket to watch their favourite team…me, I spend “disposable” income on paying artists collaborators to make comics.
If I never “break in” I’m cool with that, I’m just making the stories I would wanna read myself…but if your goal is to be a comic writer, the biggest piece of advice I can give you that I have heard through the years…is just make comics…hone your craft…and make a body of work.
THEN BE YOUR OWN BIGGEST CHEERLEADER and get them out into the world.
If you are good at it, the industry will hopefully find you…

To do this, you are gonna have to fund it and that comes back to the job again. Sorry….
But, it is gonna allow you to make comics!
That’s not a bad thing!!!

The other thing you are gonna have to do is, sacrifice….and I am not talking about going to the nearest comic con and rounding them up (there is a plethora of them there…not knocking geeks…I am one, myself…was nearly 19 before I touched my first boob…moobs, don’t count either) for some kind of crazy ancient Mayan ritual.
I mean, you are going to have to sacrifice time to go after your passion on the side…I did.
Sorry to turn this one-sided conversation on to me, but if I can give you an example of what I have had to do, at least you know I am not just trying to give you advice for advices sake like I have all the answers! :smiley:

How I wrote me first comic was, I would get up and leave for work really REALLY early. Then on route I would stop of at Westfield in Stratford…go get a black coffee from Starbucks…that would be closely followed by a trip to the toilet…then I would go sit in the EMPTY food court on the top floor for 1-2 hours before work and write!
No distractions, just me, my pad and my ipod (as big as iron fist’s)
So, don’t waste time, you need to write when and where you can.
It’s a hard discipline to learn…but once you have it…you are on the right route.

Athletes are exactly the same….which as you have guessed, I am one…not really!
But they sacrifice, time with their friends, families, even give up eating fatty food that we all take for granted!
Chicken McNuggets and endorsements aside, Usain Bolt, yes has natural talent, but has trained and sacrificed thousands and thousands of hours to compete for a competition that lasts for 9.58 seconds!

My last piece of advice is on rejection.
Dude, you are gonna get rejected sooooooooooo many times.
What you need to remember is:
IT IS BUSINESS, IT IS NOT PERSONAL!
If you get a no, do not let it break your spirit.
It does not mean that you are not a great writer and your story/comic/art/whatever was bad, it just means that what you pitched, wasn’t right for them…nothing more.
It only takes one person to say “yes!” and you are not gonna get that yes if you just give up at the first hurdle.

When all is said and done Aaron, you can do this, buddy!
I have no doubt about that…you just gotta work hard….and if you do “make it” live it for the rest of us!

NOW GO AND DO IT!

now, if you’ll excuse me…i got some comics of my own to write! :wink:


#8

Thanks so much for this Matt. I just sweat things like my career because I care about it a lot, but giving me such a cool response is invaluable. Thank you for that.


#9

Awwww, shut up!
Just get out there, you plonker!

As you have seen from the other lovely responses you’ve had too, we are all here for you, buddy.

:+1:


#10

This is what I basically did. After spending my whole childhood telling everyone I was going to be a writer, I basically didn’t have a clue how to do that. So I studied a technical field, and then drifted by complete accident into technical writing in that field (I didn’t even realise there was such a thing as “technical writing”!)

I was lucky in that the first editor I worked with had a proper education (I had no idea that what they teach you about writing in an English state secondary school is woefully inadequate) and basically taught me how to write. (Full disclosure: that editor and I are still together 25 years later and she still knows more than me about everything, including writing.)

There’s nothing at all creative about the writing I do, but I write every single day, and doing the job has taught me a ridiculous amount about the nuts and bolts of writing – I mean the basics of grammar, structuring a sentence, and so on. Not wanting to sound arrogant, but after being a professional writer for 25 years I think I know more about how to write than most people, including an awful lot of published novellists. And everything I ever write is peer-reviewed, edited, and proof-read within an inch of its life. Good luck getting that level of professional feedback for improving the fiction you’re writing in the evening.

Has it improved my fiction? I like to think so. I read stories I wrote 25 ago and they read like they were written by a child. Those I write now might still be childish :wink: but at least I think they read like they were written by an educated person.

The downside is something Chris (I think?) has already mentioned: after doing job all day, there are evenings when I don’t even want to turn the computer on, let alone open Word and start writing again.


#11

Getting a job in writing might not necessarily be the best thing if you want a career in “creative” writing. I’ll give you my background as an example.

I graduated with a Master’s in Advertising. Wanted to write creative copy, commercials, comics, all that jazz… The best job I got was writing and creating offering memorandums for large institutional real estate sales (a $100mm building needs a 75-150 pg brochure written about how great it is, how the tenants always pay, how it’s in the center of everything going on, etc…). I figured this pays well, I can do my creative stuff on the side. But guess what, when you spend 4 days writing about the local industrial market, and then 7 days reading leases I didn’t have much energy to write on my own.

Fast track 5-years and I have a budgeting manager position which is as boring as can be. But now, my personal writing acts like a diversion. Almost like a much needed drug. I produce 10 times the amount of creative work than what I did before and I think not being burned out on it has definitely helped.

Anyway, don’t fret. Shit will work its way out as long as you put in the effort.


#12

At the same time, 99 out of 100 people going into writing or any creative arts end up making that job that pays the bills their careers rather than what they thought they wanted to do when they got out of school.

Obviously, the number one job that most aspiring writers seem to get is teaching English or creative writing or something like that.

A security desk job would be perfect for this; I’m always envious of those guys when I go into a building where there’s one. At my building the evening shift guy is usually watching Netflix on his laptop.

Right, the other jobs - which are harder to come by - are things like night watchmen or security guards who get a lot of time either to actually write while on the job or watching other people.

However, ideally, you would get an assistant’s job (for low pay) for someone who could be and is looking to mentor. Internships are possible but iffy, as well. Even getting an office job for a company producing or publishing what you want or representing the people who are in careers you want will help. Meeting people is important and you won’t meet them in random jobs to pay the bills.

The main thing is to stick to your guns or you will be seen as whatever you’re willing to do. Like in the theater or performing arts of all kinds, let’s say you want to be an actor, playwright or director. If you take a job as a stage manager to get into the door, you will probably end up getting more jobs like that than opportunities with what you want.


#13

It’s a good thing that life is free then isn’t it


#14

There is no easy or safe route to becoming a writer, and it would be dishonest to say that you can both make a good living working at something else and pursue a serious career in writing or any of the arts when there are thousands and thousands of people out there just as talented (or more talented) who are willing to live in poverty to make it.

On top of that, you’re competing against the people who are born into the easy routes or connections for those careers. There is a reason a lot of writers and actors have children who are also successful writers and actors.

However, there are opportunities, but you have to make them happen. But, those careers can be traps as well. You come up with a successful web-magazine promoting something like horror fiction because you want to be a horror writer, but you end up more of an entertainment journalist and never a writer.

On the other hand, maybe that is the writing you end up preferring to do.


#15

There’s plenty of successful writers out there who have juggled a paying job while they make the breakthrough.

He’s already said he’s moving to Glasgow - so I assume he’s going to need to pay for a flat, the bills for the flat and need money to eat - how do you suggest he does this without regular money coming in?


#16

That’s his concern, but my point is that there are a great deal more people who thought they were becoming writers and permanently ended up in the jobs that paid their bills. I’m just not going to sugarcoat the serious challenges.

When you point to one successful writer, think of all the aspiring writers who graduated from the same schools the same year that author did or came to whatever city they started in who were never published or produced. Also, look at how many of the “successful” writers spent much of their careers starting out in jobs that barely paid the bills while they were writing. It was a great motivator for guys like Stephen King and Philip K. Dick (who never really made much money from writing) to write, but at the same time, it’s also going to put a lot of pressure on writers to go into something else more comfortable.

That’s what any brand new aspiring writer is going to face right away - serious pressure, rejection and disappointment, and a nice, secure job is going to look very attractive, very quickly and the desire to write will diminish in comparison.

And you’ll get hit with surprisingly difficult choices to make. Let’s say you have a good job that pays the rent and let you save up some money. Then an opportunity comes along to be an assistant or intern for someone who will further your career in the arts or writing. However, it pays barely enough to cover your expenses. You can do it with your savings, but you could also easily stay with the good paying job where they like you and will probably promote you, BUT it has nothing to do with writing.

Do you take that chance? Opportunities to advance are few and you should take them when you’re young if you are serious about being a writer, but it will hit you hard when you face a choice like that. It won’t just be that you’ll take a paying job until you make money as a writer or sell a screenplay.


#17

Get some postcards printed and send it round web design companies - offering freelance copywriting. Follow it up with call at some point. See what happens…


#18

Maybe you’re onto something - I was reading about Ted Chiang the other day (SF short story writer, one of which got turned into the movie ‘Arrival’) and his day job is technical writer at Microsoft.