My First “Real” Job Had (Almost) Nothing to Do With Writing

Everyone has to start somewhere.

I was so excited to have a job lined up after graduation.

Most of my family and friends assumed I’d gotten some kind of writing job, though. No one really understood why I was choosing to commute an hour into the city and back every day to sit at a desk and enter information into databases for eight hours straight.

But it really wasn’t a choice. When you’re desperate and in debt, you take any job you can get.

I was a little frustrated that I wasn’t getting to do the kind of work I’d been training for years to do. But as you can probably imagine, I needed the funds, I needed some kind of work experience, and I hadn’t been writing in the “real world” long enough to get any freelancing clients.

So in a way, I settled for something temporary and not totally related to my preferred career path. But I wasn’t the first or only writer who has ever done this.

Unfortunately, so many aspiring writers think just because they’ve been writing on their own for a long time, they’ll have no problems settling into their “dream jobs.”

That’s not how it works.

I’m not saying you’ll never get to where you want to be. But it probably won’t happen right away.

It didn’t for me. I was a “data entry specialist.” There were numbers involved.

But it was a job that didn’t force me to take work home.

Which meant I could spend my entire commute — and my evenings and weekends — working on my own writing projects and building up my freelancing portfolio.

And that meant that when that job ended, I wasn’t totally lost. I had things to fall back on. Almost like I’d been building something up in the background intended for later use.

I don’t use many skills from that job now. But those paychecks helped me pay for a large chunk of graduate school. And my graduate degree is the reason I earned my first full-time writing job — a job that, YES, actually involved writing!

It’s a process. Not everyone gets a good job as a writer straight out of college, or straight out of little experience. If you go into it knowing that, you’ll face a lot less disappointment and frustration. Some people have day jobs that don’t utilize their passions, but nights and weekends are all theirs. There’s nothing wrong with that. Especially if you find you don’t have any other choice.

Don’t get discouraged if your dream job isn’t achievable quite yet. You’ll get there. Having a full-time job while figuring out exactly what I wanted to do with my passion for writing ended up being one of the best accidental decisions I ever made. Actually, I highly recommend it.

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 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

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6 thoughts on “My First “Real” Job Had (Almost) Nothing to Do With Writing

  1. Hi Meg,
    I can relate to every.single.word. you’ve written in this post. I have been working during day in an IT firm, but trust me, this is not what I’ve wanted from my life. After all the tiresome day, when I get back to home, I simply switch off my IT life and turn on My World of Words. And it feels so great to be connected with this world.I do feel, what if I can get a job or so in any of the writing career. Weekends are all about books and write-ups! Nothing else is allowed to interrupt in between, Thank you so much for this post. Now I am feeling as I do have to get myself out of the life about which I am not feeling proud at all. I will need some words from your end to help me out !
    Waiting for your another post :)

  2. Hey. I comment on your blogs a LOT but of course, I have to again because I’d really love your opinion about graduate school for writers. You say here it helped you land your first writing job, but I’m always getting mixed reviews about returning to grad school. Some have told me “well you haven’t gotten a writing job with your BA, why put yourself in more debt for the same type of education? It may not get you anything either.” I’ve been told to go to grad school for something else if I go at all while other experienced professors say that if I don’t feel the need, to not bother with grad school entirely. I guess to sum it up point blank: does grad school make a huge difference for writers/authors?

    1. I obviously can’t speak for everyone, but I can clarify my circumstances and justify my experience. I wanted to write for health publications. I had two bachelor’s degrees (in English and nutrition) which might have been fine. But writing about health is tricky if you don’t have some kind of professional credential, so literally the only reason I went for my MS was to boost my credibility as a health/nutrition writer (I have a masters in health communications). I don’t think grad school is for everyone. I personally think writing experience is just as valuable, if not more so, but it does depend on the kind of writing career you’re pursuing. I don’t think I’d ever go for a masters in creative writing. I personally learn so much better working independently with less “graded” pressure. But that’s just my POV.

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