I used to think that a career in writing meant I had to be a traditionally published author.
I joined the NaNoWriMo scene, started a blog, and made sure all my high school teachers knew I had a goal of publishing a novel — all with the full intention of actually doing so.
It’s been about 10 years since I realized for the first time that I might actually be able to make this happen — and I still technically haven’t yet.
Not because I couldn’t. I just discovered a different path and chose that over my original course when the opportunity came along.
I never gave up on that dream. I just prioritized one ambition over another. Because I finally realized that the best path for me at the time wasn’t writing novels full-time.
No one had really ever told me I could choose a different path. I think I just assumed because I was good at it, it was my only option.
So many younger writers are told creative writing isn’t the right career to pursue. Yet I don’t think they’re ever steered in a direction that allows them to embrace their love of writing while entering a different field. I’m assuming, like myself, most of them just somehow figure it out on their own … or don’t.
The reality is, there’s more than one way to be a writer. Every field needs writers. Just because you’re not the only writer in your niche doesn’t mean your skills aren’t needed somewhere professionally.
Until I started studying science, the possibility of becoming a science communicator never even occurred to me. No one ever bothered to mention how desperately science needed people who could write.
I found my way, somehow. But I have a feeling there are too many who never will.
Do you know what else this means?
It means you can do more than one thing. If you want to.
So many people have asked me what kind of writing I do. That’s a very difficult question to answer when I couldn’t possibly sit still just writing on a single subject or channeling my creativity through just one medium.
You can have a day job writing press releases, go home, and write future pilots for TV shows — whether anyone that matters ever reads them or not.
You can spend half your days freelancing for a host of clients and half working on a novel you may or may not publish someday.
You can work in a field that doesn’t have anything to do with creative writing at all. Or you can find one job that relies only on that skill.
It doesn’t matter how you end up structuring your professional life. If you really want writing to be a part of it, there’s a way to make that happen — whether big or small. And you’re going to find it.
It might take awhile to figure out. But you will get there.
Don’t spend all your time worrying how to make writing fit. It will. It’s a skill as much as it’s often a career. It does not have to be your job title in order to make it count.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.
Hey! I’m vlogging my way through NaNoWriMo. Here’s yesterday’s video.