What Else do Writers do?

If you’re anything like me, you’ve been telling people for most of your life that you want to be a writer (except for that brief time when I was a little girl and wanted to be an Easy, Breezy, Beautiful Cover Girl–it was a phase). Have you ever that had moment when a person looks at you and says, “What are you going to do, teach?” That question use to stall me. Suddenly a waterfall of expectations fell on me, a career choice I had never set out for. I would stammer out an answer, end with a shrugged “maybe.”

But the truth is, I never wanted to teach. Just because a person knows how to do something doesn’t mean they are automatically qualified to teach others how to do it, nor does that mean they are required to teach others how to do it. I know a lot of working writers who also teach–it’s an inevitable outcome (and paycheck) for many writers. But, it simply isn’t for me. I don’t have that kind of wisdom to bestow on people.

The History BoysThis is what teaching looks like, courtesy of The History Boys.

This is where the alternative plan of entering the publishing field has come in. I started graduate school a year and a half ago with the plan of becoming an editor. Since starting school, I’ve discovered that there is a wealth of possibilities for those naturally inclined towards communication. Editing is still a big priority for me, but I’ve also discovered an interest in marketing because of the creative opportunities it gives you. Yes there is a lot research involved and some tedious work, but isn’t that true of most jobs? What is interesting about this field is that it allows for the dreamers to have a little fun. You plan book tours, you create book collateral, and you write the copy that could potentially sell a book to an interested customer. You know that feeling you get when you read something you really enjoy and want to tell people about it? That is part of marketing, telling people what is so great about the book.

I’ve also been working in the development field (fundraising) for various organizations over the last three years. This is another job that allows for a lot of writing. In the same way that marketing attempts to sell a product, development sells an organization. A person who works in development must come up with creative ways to ask people to support their organization–a task that often presents itself through letter writing, creating compelling statements about what the organization does and provides, and finding new ways to present the organization through its website and other promotional materials.

The point I’m trying to make for anyone who worries that the only job for a writer is teaching is that it is simply not true. Writers have a unique skill set in that they can use language to tell stories, argue a point, and present facts in an interesting way. This skill is necessary across many fields; you simply have to look for the opportunities. And don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against teachers (Ms. Petre, Ms. Smart, Mr. Burns, Dr. Chaney–I can still name all my favorites from growing up), but I know I’m not meant to be a teacher. I believe that writers shouldn’t be pigeonholed into one job category because they have the talent to do a lot of things. And if none of those jobs work out for a writer, she can always become a bartender.

  1. So glad I’m not the only one! Everyone expected and wanted me to become a teacher, but that’s just not what I’m passionate about. Editing is definitely my dream job.

    1. No, you are definitely not the only one. I can think of writers who work in marketing, who work in editing, who run their own presses, and who work at bookstores–from cashier up to management jobs. There are a lot of other jobs for us beside teaching. If only the rest of the world realized that!

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