Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Career Choices

by Anna Jones Buttimore

As unbelievable as this sounds to me, my daughter leaves school next week. It seems only yesterday that I was waiting at the school gate to greet her after her first day in the nursery class, aged 3. But she’s now 15, and from Friday she will be on study leave, returning to school only to take the rest of her GCSEs. She starts at sixth form college in September studying an eclectic variety of A Level subjects - Philosophy, Chemistry, Religious Studies and Geology. (She also has her prom on Friday. I'm very jealous - we didn't have proms when I was at school, or yearbooks, or anything much to mark the end of school.)

Naturally this means she has to start thinking about a career. She originally had her heart set on being an astrophysicist, until a teacher told her (incorrectly as it turns out) that to be accepted to read Astrophysics at any university she would need to get all A grades at GCSE. She was very unhappy to have to abandon her dream, but has quickly come up with an alternative career choice, which she is just as excited about.

I always wanted to be a writer. So when my careers adviser at school asked what I wanted to be when I grew up I didn’t say “I want to work as an administrator for a charity which helps lawyers with problems like stress and alcoholism,” (which is what I actually do for a living now.) But unfortunately writing as a career choice is rarely viable. It's always a good idea to have a second career idea which you are excited about too.

Even for moderately successful writers, there's not a huge amount of money to be made. I've put around 400 hours into my current work in progress which, at my usual rate of pay, would mean that I could expect about £4,500 ($7,250) back, but it's unlikely it will realise that much, even if it is published - and there's no guarantee of that.

So my twopenn'orth would be: however much you long to be a writer, don't burn your bridges. Have a backup career (or a wealthy spouse!) and keep your strengths and qualifications varied. You haven't failed as a writer if you take a part-time job, any more than you have failed as a mother if you find you need to work in order to put food on the table.


Stephanie Black said...

So true, Anna. Very few people actually make a living writing novels, much as we all wish we could all buy mansions and luxury cars with our royalties!

Lynn Gardner said...

Amen, Anna! I know very few people who are "single occupation" people. Most mothers who don't work outside of the home are involved in so many other things - sports for their kids, PTA, volunteering at various charities and spending as much time as if they were employed. We always need a back up plan!