Ah, the life of a writer!
There are some great points buried in all those words above, so I'll keep it simple with a few writers’ rules and some food for thought:
Rule 1: Write, write, write.
Writing is like singing, we ALL think we can do it. So not true. To be a writer you must write - every single day. You must set goals for your daily writing. For example, some days I'm just can't get my book pages written; so instead, I reset my daily goal to something like, "Write five, 200 word comments on blogs I've never read before." More often than not, this can get me back on track with my actual work! If you can't write for a solid couple of hours now, making a living from 10-12 hour writing days may be too big of a challenge.
Rule 2: Grammar counts!
Always. Every day. And in association with everything your future holds. It doesn't matter if the "voice" for your personal writing doesn't use perfect grammar (and seriously, IRL who does?), you’ll still need to know it, because at some point you’ll be expected to use it - NO MATTER WHAT ANYONE SAYS! Added bonus: good grammar will serve you well throughout your entire life - regardless of your profession.
Rule 3: Test-drive your options
You may or may not know what sort of writing you’d like to do, so try anything that interests you. Some may seem super-easy, and others, perhaps one you really thought you wanted, could turn out to be not what you thought. Choosing more than one as a profession is definitely an option, as long as you can dedicate the appropriate amount of time to each. If you haven’t already, create a blog – or several! Test your different voices and interests on these blogs, and then post them on StumbleUpon.com so you can get worldwide, non-biased feedback.
Rule 4: Learn how to take criticism.
You are going to be rejected. Over and over, and over again. But guess what? It’s all part of honing your craft. Toughen up. I know how personal it feels when someone writes something ugly on your blog, or your pile of rejection letters contains more pages than you’ve ever written, but just breathe. Read, understand, and accept the feedback. “If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen.”
Rule 5: Get out of your own head, get out of your own way
Go outside. See and hear things. REAL THINGS. I sometimes eavesdrop on other people’s conversations. I know it’s rude, but it reminds me that the world is bigger than just me; bigger than just my wants, needs, and thoughts. If you’re too self-involved, self-doubt can creep in and destroy your motivation. Step away from FaceBook, Twitter, Instagram, and anything else with the capability to make you feel badly about yourself. That bit is sort of a “whole life rule,” though.
That’s it. That’s all you really need to mull over. Well, those things and your college major/minor. There’s a lot of competition for writing jobs (again, because everyone thinks they can do it!), so think about how you’d like to make a living while you’re working toward your Big Break! A writer needs to eat!
Hope this was helpful!
Hi Alyssa, great question! I had a similar feeling about writing when I was younger - I wanted to write books, but thought that was unrealistic, so I gave up on that career path.
What kind of writing are you interested in? There are lots of different kinds of writing jobs! For example, I work as a grant writer, creating proposals in which I ask for money to support a literacy program. I like my job because the writing is very direct and factual; I'm personally not a fan of flowery description and fluff. Many nonprofits also have other writing jobs. For example, a friend of mine is a Writer/Editor for a human rights nonprofit, so she spends time speaking with program staff about the human rights work and then writing website content, blog posts, and marketing materials like newsletters and emails.
You might also consider reporting jobs. As you probably know, many newspapers are having financial challenges right now, but there are plenty of opportunities with online publications and with social media work that involves writing. Those are just a few examples - there are many other kinds of writing jobs out there, including I'm sure some that I haven't heard of yet!
Finally, if you are most interested in writing books or other projects that may be difficult to publish, you can always work one job and write in your spare time. A friend of mine worked as a server in restaurants for many years before finally recently publishing his first book! He also works as a writer for a magazine. I wouldn't advise you to jump into full-time novel writing, but you can certainly work on that while supporting yourself in other ways.
I agree with everything Kate said above! She's listed a lot of good ideas of different types of writing. And she's right - it's very hard to make a living as a novelist (even Stephen King was a teacher for MANY years before he could make a living off his writing), so many of the authors whose books you see on book shelves are also working other jobs, often times as professors of writing and English Lit. Teaching a literary arts subject is a good job because it keeps you reading and thinking about writing. Another career that involves a lot of writing is being a lawyer. My dad is one, and he loves the writing and critical thinking aspect of it. I work as a TV writer, which is a fun career, but you have to really love TV, be willing to move to LA or NY, and work a lot. And I still dream of writing a novel someday. :)
As Kate pointed out, it's very possible to be a writer AND something else (preferably something with an emphasis in writing), especially if you feel - like a lot of writers do - that you just HAVE TO WRITE, however impractical or unrealistic it might be. And if that's how you feel, you shouldn't ever stop. I'd encourage you to think about what else you might want to do in addition to being a writer.
Yes, there are several avenues writing can take you...magazines, newspapers, blogs, travel sites, resume writing and more. Check dice.com, careerbuilder, newspaper listing and more. You can do full or part time, local or abroad! You can even write PowerPoint presentations. Have you vacationed anywhere? See if you can write about it, as an ad! The possibilities are endless, but build clients now!
Not at all!!! Content marketing is huge right now.
I just made $2100+ last month from writing 10 blog posts (that I enjoyed writing) for a client.
Don't give up on writing. It's hard, but it's so rewarding.
Writing is the essence of producing in the media world.
Creating content, editing it, shaping it for an audience. Then delegating it to the production and post-production teams.
All of that comes down to being able to think like a writer.
And outside of my industry, it's also the essence of many other jobs that require great communication skills--from being a teacher to being an executive assistant, to being an executive.
Even if you aren't making a living as a "writer," you will make a better living by knowing how to write well and apply it to whatever job you find yourself in.
And writing is a logical extension of a love for reading. So if you find that you love to read, you can translate that into writing.
One last thing: I always considered myself a writer, but then also fell in love with film/video editing, because I found it was multi-layer "writing."
Picture, sound, movement within the frame, pace of shots and cuts, etc. It affects the viewer as much as a book does a reader, but using different elements.
I find as I get older that it's all about "the story," no matter the form or medium.
And that taught me how to become a great producer, able to tell my clients' stories in the manner best suited for each of them. Which returned me to writing on a daily basis.
So if you love writing you will find a way to apply it to your path--whether or not that path is called "writer."
The previous answers are excellent and worthwhile. There are many, many ways in which to forge a career as a writer and you don't need to be limited to any one.
I've supported myself solely as a professional writer for thirty years, but many writers do have day jobs and there's nothing wrong with that. I've written for film, TV, animation, comics, graphic novels, videogames, non-fiction books and assorted other types of projects.
There are basic skills you need to pursue any writing path, which can be learned in creative writing or screenwriting classes. The key thing is to decide on a path and go after it with determination. Educate yourself in every aspect of that particular form of writing. And of course, you must write and write and write and write and rewrite and rewrite ad infinitum to learn your craft and find your personal writing "voice".
To learn more about visual storytelling forms of writing, you may want to get hold my book: Writing for Animation, Comics and Games. It will give you a sense of what is required for those fields.
None of these fields are easy to break into. It isn't easy making a career as a writer. You have to want it. WANT it, deep down in your bones. If you don't feel driven to write, save yourself a lot of pain and find something else to do. But if writing is a true passion, you'll find a way to make that expression a reality.