Can Anyone Be JUST a Writer?

Because I would love to be.

You don’t realize you’re making a mistake, until suddenly you do.

Just like that time you accidentally waited six hours in line to ride Space Mountain at Disney World only to realize you were actually instead in the ticket line for Universal Studios, so long that it stretches across Orlando and through Disney World as well. Standing at the counter, you realize that you’ve wasted a lot of time fighting for something you never wanted.

"This isn't DisneyLand anymore?" "WAIT! We're not in line to buy the new Harry Potter book?"

Maybe that to me is what a law degree is. Or any sort of degree other than one in… English.

No law degree hides in my possession at the age of 17, but the possibility for one does. At 17, everything seems possible. I could still drop this writing gig and became a neurosurgeon. I find me asking myself, why not? Why not a doctor? Or a lawyer? Or a politician? I could make a difference, couldn’t I?

But I don’t want to. At least, not that way.

The only real problem with wanting to be a writer is needing to be a writer. Once you start, it’s not something you can just stop. It’s sort of a very healthy addiction. Maybe not for your wallet, but…

Not many people can make it just as a writer. Especially not at first.

Even armed with creative writing MFA’s and publishing connections, a writer still has to worry about surviving off the money he or she makes. And what can you buy with dough except maybe the flour to make more dough for bread and maybe water, scarcely? Sounds harsh, right?

But besides the hundreds of exceptions you can spill out, think on the thousands, nay, millions of writers making not diddly squat. Unless you write about boy wizards or in-love vampires, you need another career.

Which is something I have always battled with, since I only want to be a writer. Not that everyone really WANTS to do their jobs, only… I figured by now I’d be famous and rich enough not to work another day in my life. And if I am that disappointed by what I haven’t achieved by the age of 17, then maybe I’m shooting too high.

So what now? What am I to do for the rest of my life while pursuing a literary career? Becoming an English professor sounds cool, maybe first a high school English teacher? The country needs more, better teachers, right? I can TOTES do that.

What sort of jobs have literary men held in the past? Well, let us take a peek…

Dickens worked in a blacking factory at the age of eleven. (I think I’ll pass)

Shakespeare worked as a schoolmaster.

Oscar Wilde, before writing much, was a perpetual college student.

Katherine Dunn, author of Geek Love, worked as a boxing stringer for the Associated Press.

Chuck Palahniuk worked as an intern at a radio station before writing his first novel at the age of 30.

Many writers don’t start out writers. They don’t grow into adults already established and published. That takes years. So, yes, writers must also have real jobs. I know….. it disappoints me too.

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About Derek Berry

Derek Berry is a novelist and spoken word poet. Derek is the author of Heathens and Liars of Lickskillet County (PRA Publishing, 2016). He co-founded and organizes The Unspoken Word, a literary non-profit based out of Charleston, SC, which provides an intendent home for the poetic arts through regular readings, workshops, and community fundraisers. He is on the Executive Board of the Charleston Poetry Festival, the inaugural production of which will be Fall 2017. His work has appeared in The Southern Tablet, Cattywampus, Charleston Currents, Illuminations, RiverSedge, and other journals.He has performed in venues across the United States and Germany. He has worked as a photographer’s assistant, busboy, and bookseller. He currently works at a curation facility for Cold War History.

Posted on October 25, 2011, in Blogging, books, Education, Poetry, publishing, Teenagers, Word Salad, writer, Writing, Young Poets for Change and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. i wanted to be a writer, it took me many years to realize I was.. I wrote every day. Published books and novels, made more than a few dollars doing it. But I did not get to join that exclusive club of writers that make so much money at writing that I could quit my day job.
    But still, I am a writer.
    see? ^^^^ words

  2. One of my best friends got an English degree. He now answers phones for a place that makes and packages chicken salad. Writing, is one of those side things, like being a rock star by night. Sure its fun, but you still gotta pay the bills.

    • Yeah, I’m planning on getting a real job. Just… don’t know what that will be yet. Right now, it’s either law school or a teaching degree. I know it’s a huge difference in money, but I want to do something that I’ll enjoy.
      And I DO enjoy chicken salad…

  3. Here’s how I think of it: writing is an avocation that you make time for while you pay the bills at your vocation (that sometimes allows you to take a vacation). Shoot for the college professor route. You’ll have time to write when you’re not grading the too many abysmal student essays (and you’ll get inspired by the few outstanding student essays, too). Take it from someone who knows. 😉

  4. I live off of my writing as a freelancer. Of course, my living standards are no where near high. I’m shooting for the college professor route as mentioned above.

    • That’s super inspiring though. I would love to do that, perhaps. And yeah, I’ll shoot to do the professor gig too, but to just write and be able to live (at all) would be incredible.

  5. Just wanna comment on few basic details, The website design and style is excellent, the niche matter is rattling good

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