Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Turning Writing into a Career?

And the writer emerges from her thesis cave!
It’s been a while since my last post, but I’m here to celebrate today…



Now all I have to do is pass my board (where I discuss my thesis with three of my professors) and I’ll be completely done. The MFA process has been exhausting, but I’m emerging from it with 135 pages I am really proud of. 

And then? Who knows! The next stage of my writer-dom is yet to be determined, and I know I’m not alone. Today I’m teaming up with The Ladders, a career platform that helps make the job search more efficient, to talk about turning writing into a career. 

Obviously I’m not an expert on this yet, but I’ve learned a lot during my two years in Chatham’s MFA program. Here are my tips for fellow writers (Many of these tips can apply to other career paths as well):

1. Have a backup plan. I’m speaking mostly to those of us who want to focus on creative writing (publishing books, poems, memoirs). Unless you pen the next Harry Potter, you won’t be able to make money off your work immediately. Having another source of income is important, whether it’s an office job or TA-ing at a university or waiting tables. While you technically can write without a roof over your head…the roof always helps.

2. Make sure that backup plan involves writing somehow. I work in administration for a software company, which is not a super-creative field, but sometimes I’m asked to write articles for the company’s internal website (announcements, reports, etc.). It’s a different style of writing, but it keeps my editing skills sharp.

3. Find your community. Writing is solitary. We hunch over our keyboards, not speaking for hours. It’s important to interact with other writers, whether it’s through a writing residency/conference or Twitter or blogs. Maybe you’ll find some critique partners who offer helpful feedback on your work. 

4. In that same vein, keep up with the current events in your field. Write young adult fiction? Check the list of Printz Award honorees each year. Trying to get a short story collection published? Buy a book or two from up-and-coming small presses. Is food writing more your style? Read the article in the paper about the new bistro downtown. The more informed you are about your field, the better you will be able to navigate it.

5. Write for yourself. I know every writer gives this piece of advice, but it’s true. If you select your book ideas solely based on what will fit into the current publishing market, chances are you won’t make it through the first draft. If you try to sound like the other students in your writing workshop instead honoring your own voice, what’s there to get excited about? Write what you want in a style you love.  

Fellow writers, what do you have to add? I'd love to hear your best turn-writing-into-a-career tips in the comments!

And if you're embarking on the career search, be sure to check out the resources offered by The Ladders!  

Also, now that my time in my MFA program is winding down, this blog is going to become more active again. I'm in the process of freshening up the layout and some of my pages. I hope you stop by every once in a while!


  1. HUGE congratulations on finishing your thesis (are you tired of me saying that yet?)! I am so excited for you and can't wait to start reading it. I may have done a happy dance when it arrived in my inbox! :)

    I agree 100% with all your tips. Each one is so important. Hmm, what would I add? I think I'd say to always remind yourself to find the joy in writing. It can be really easy to lose that in the process of trying to get published/turn it into a career, but without the joy, what is there, right?

    1. I will NEVER tire of your congratulations, Shari! :) I smile every time! And I can't wait to hear what you think of the stories. <3

      Finding joy in your writing is so important, you're right. Most writers write because it makes them happy (not to make money), so if you lose that happiness...what are you left with? A super frustrating job. Rejections, word counts...it's so SO important to find the parts that make you smile.


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