I might be a little fired up about this topic, but it’s near and dear to my heart. And it’s also something I’m a bit frustrated about. I’ve personally been through this and, as I coach other people about writing professionally, I’ve heard similar stories to my own. So, I’m going to come out guns blazing: stop telling teens and young adults that writing isn’t a viable career. Hell, stop telling anyone that writing isn’t a viable career.
I spent nearly three hours speaking to a woman in her early twenties who was going through a career crossroads. She’d gone to school for one thing, worked in something completely different, pivoted to something else, and then pivoted again. Eventually, she realized none of it resonated with her. Why? Because she was passionate about writing, and she kept trying to fit into a career that didn’t match what she valued.
Sounded really familiar.
Years ago, when I was in high school, I thought I wanted to go to college for creative writing. Every time I expressed this interest, I was met with statements like “that’s not a real career” or “you’ll be a starving artist, choose something more stable.” Of course it was disheartening, especially when I excelled in all of my writing courses. They were the only classes I was actually invested in (although I did well in school, I hated it....as many kids do).
In the end, I got a business degree with an emphasis in human resources. I graduated as the economy was struggling to pull through the recession. You know what doesn’t happen in a recession? Hiring. You know which department hires people? Human resources.
Needless to say, I struggled a lot. After half a year of getting and losing jobs, I finally started writing a blog. It was my last attempt to prove to employers I knew what I was doing despite my resume being a little light on experience. Before I knew it, my blog was shared often, I was building connections through social media chats, and a remote company hired me specifically based on my thought leadership.
Within a few months of working as a recruiter at that company, the CEO told me he saw what I was doing and asked me how the company could leverage my skills. I made a pitch, moonlighted as a marketer, and they eventually created a content development role for me a year later.
Know what content developers do? Write.
From that career switch, I’ve worked as an employer brander, which relies heavily on writing. There’s website copy, collateral copy, blogs, social media posts, emails, internal communications, and more. Although that career switch thankfully happened in my mid-twenties, I think about how much further along I could have been had I gotten involved in writing sooner. It goes back to what I said about joining the writing community last year. I’ve learned so much in a short amount of time just by getting involved and being surrounded by others I could learn from.
At this point, you’re probably like, “Sofia, what the hell does business writing have to do with creative writing? Where are you going with this?”
Glad you asked.
Writing is writing. Whether I’m crafting an employee spotlight blog, an email to drive sales, or a romance novel with a bunch of smooching, it still requires the same skill. Learning voice, structure, grammar, flow, and so on are all skills I could have learned in my teens had I been encouraged to do so. And if that were the case, I could have been further along in my professional career and writing career.
I would have had confidence in my writing, and a community of writers I could turn to. If I had all of that, maybe I would have finished that first novel sooner. Maybe I would have had the nerve to publish sooner. Maybe I would have leaned into my writer identity sooner.
Basically, being told writing isn’t a viable career in my teens only delayed the inevitable. I was going to land here eventually, but I had a whole lot of struggle and unfulfilled days to get to this place. Looking back on it now, it’s almost laughable how people said writing wouldn’t be a good career path. With the growth of the internet, so many businesses are looking for writers. With the popularity of self-publishing, so many authors are growing their careers in ways they couldn’t before.
So, before you discourage kids not to follow their dream, remember this. Technology is changing the world and careers that don’t seem strong now might be in demand later. Hell, there might even be jobs that don’t exist yet (like employer branding) that someone can be perfect for based on their start in writing. You never know.
If you’re a student or even a seasoned professional looking to make a switch to writing but feel discouraged, get involved in the writing communities and see where you’d fit. I only hope this encourages more people to embrace that piece of their identity no matter how many naysayers say it’s impractical. What we do is special, and if you have something to share with the world, get writing!
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