During the week of March 7th I was able to attend the virtual conferences for the writing arts career week, and it was a great opportunity for me to learn more about the department. It was nice to finally see the faces of all the writing arts faculty, many of whom were professors whose classes I took or would likely be taking in the future. The topics that were discussed were robust, and I learned a lot about what it is I could be doing in the future.
I knew going into this that I would be writing my next Writer’s Insider blog on career week before I attended it. I studiously took notes and paid close attention to each of the event’s panelists with the confidence that I would emerge from the first meeting with a solid thesis to work with. Yet as the week progressed and I listened to more of the panelists speak, there was a commonality in nearly all of their presentations that I couldn’t help but find concerning.
Finding a good job after getting a writing arts degree is difficult. This wasn’t a surprise to me, I’ve been aware for some time how the economy of writing relies on the exploitation of writers. What did catch me off guard was just how universal the struggle seemed to be. On Tuesday, when the meeting topic was post-graduation life for WA students, some of the panelists told of how difficult it had been for them to find a meaningful job as a writer. It was easier for some than it was for others, but the struggle was still there all the same.
It made me wonder; does every writing arts student have to deal with searching for somewhere that will appreciate and actually reward their talents? If I wasn’t as intensely passionate about writing and expressing myself I feel like I would be really nervous. It didn’t go so far as to make me doubt my choice of a career, but you can bet that I was stressing for the next couple days about whether or not my resume would be impressive enough once I graduate. Or if having an impressive resume would be enough.
But I’m sure the last thing the writing arts department wants to do is give students anxiety about their life after graduating. In fact, I think they did exactly the opposite. Sure, they talked about going through the slog of a job search, but each of the panelists were already settled into a career they enjoyed and spoke from the perspective of someone who had emerged successfully.
That inspired me to write this article with the purpose of subtracting from the widely conceived notion that being a writing student means a painful job search after graduating, and to provide some comfort to fellow writers. If nothing else, I at least hope to give other students some encouragement.
As with any other career, we start at the very beginning. “Breaking into” writing or publishing as a career may seem intimidating at first, but the secret is that there’s no pressure to start. There isn’t an age limit to writing, you can start whenever you feel ready. You’ll of course do better with more experience.
But “experience” doesn’t always mean sitting behind a computer at a copywriting job. You’re gaining experience simply by writing, since you’ll always finish writing with more than what you started with, so to say. Growing as a writer is just as important as growing your career, and no effort is wasted effort. Most of the panelists recommended keeping up with your own creative writing. You’ll never know what you’re capable of producing until you bring it to fruition yourself.
Don’t worry, there’s more you can do for yourself than typing away at your own creative projects. Rowan offers multiple internships through the writing arts department itself, the Glassworks literary magazine, Singularity Publishing, and the Halftone pop-culture magazine that are open to all writing arts students that meet the requirements. Remember, this is just in the microcosm of Rowan University, and there are countless other external writing internships that students can apply for .
Alright, so let’s say now you’ve gone through all the steps you want to start your career. You’ve filled out numerous applications and sent them to various companies in the hopes of finding a first step. The unfortunate truth, however, is that most of your attempts will be met with rejection.
Rejection is very rarely, if ever, an indication that your writing is bad or that you’re underqualified. A healthy approach is to look at it from a statistical standpoint. Publishers or other officials in the field sometimes take thousands of applications for a few openings, and they’re taking less than 1% of them. The odds can be slim, and being rejected means that this time the odds weren’t in your favor. It means you should keep persevering, because eventually you’ll be that one in a thousand.
I wish I could keep naming off solid patterns of activity that would give clear answers to the questions to buzz around the mind of a nervous writer, but I think the most important thing the panelists tried to emphasize was a certain mindset. First of all, you have to really and truly be passionate about writing to do any of this. Though, since you, dearest reader, are already here that’s obviously true.
Second, you have to stand up for yourself. If you don’t advocate for your voice or believe in your own work, nobody else will. That means building yourself up and presenting yourself as the best you can be. If someone criticizes your work, that means it was important and impactful enough to elicit someone’s response, and very rarely does any writing garner a response if it isn’t meaningful. And promote yourself! Spread yourself around so that as many people as possible will know your name.
Lastly, and most importantly, keep on writing! As stated earlier, you will grow and come to discover more about yourself through your own writing. Read and listen to others’ writing, and balance your inward craft and creativity with external communities. You’re never alone, and that extends to being a writer as well.
To the discouraged writer, or student hesitant to enter writing arts yet describes writing as their passion, know that this article is for you. Finding a career in writing isn’t like trudging through a thick jungle in search of an ill-faded opportunity, it's a clear yet winding path. And you already have the map, it lies in your own writing. It’s up to you how you’ll use it to chart your course.