Not the Next Joyce: Writing Careers for the Rest of Us

I had a conversation the other day about the stereotypes of different “majors’” behaviors. We worked our way from Business and Accounting students to the humanities. We got to Creative Writing. I said, “a literature teacher told me that creative writing majors differ from English majors because they ‘actually care about the literature.’” I wasn’t sure if this was true. The immediate response to this defense of my studies was, “the real difference between English and Creative Writing majors is that Creative Writing majors really don’t know what the hell they want to do after graduating.”

Although degrees in the liberal arts have been getting flack for years for being unrealistic or feel-good, the “creative” majors in this field may get the least respect (excluding philosophy, of course). Perhaps this isn’t totally undeserved. Undergraduate dreams of becoming a famous writer work similarly to tee-ball players (and their parents, for that matter) expecting to play in the major leagues; in every local baseball program, there may be two kids who are good enough to play past college, let alone the major leagues. However, we can’t forget about the minor league players who do manage to make playing baseball their job. Creative writing students have many career options besides becoming a Nobel laureate.

Many writers may want a way to stay connected to the art that got them interested in schoolwork to begin with. One option is to become a literary consultant. A consultant takes up authors as clients and gives them advice on all aspects of their writing and often acts as an editor and literary agent for smaller authors. This job is a bit more involved than being an editor, however, since a consultant also provides their clients with connections to other people like publishers, editors, advertisers, and local promoters (Inside Jobs). This kind of job works well for creative writing majors because it’s not far from writing for yourself. It requires a close attention to detail, willingness to work with new and inexperienced authors, and continued excitement for the written word. The needs this profession fulfills involve aspects of teaching, counseling, and business advising. It would fit a writer who enjoys talking to people and seeing solid results of their hard work.

Some writers may simply enjoy the process of editing and typing and may not need to stay connected to literature after graduating. One of the more lucrative options for writers is to become a business writer. These writers work for firms and offer the invaluable service of writing reports about sales proposals or internal projects, among other things. Often, they’ll research topics related to their assignment both within the company and outside the company, and compile relevant information for various audiences who need to learn about a business’s plans quickly and thoroughly ( This position requires good research skills and offers satisfaction to those who get enjoyment from completing specific tasks and working on projects that value precise language. Even though creative writing is commonly associated with fiction and poetry, academia, and best-seller lists, business writing offers a different kind of creative outlet to explore with the writing skills developed in college.

If business work seems soulless and empty, without a real connection to others, the total opposite side of the writing spectrum is a career in art therapy. This kind of job often requires more schooling and experience with visual arts and psychology, but is attainable for those willing to work hard for it. Since many writers are interested in exploring different personalities and individual stories in literature, therapy is often appealing to them. Talking to friends, I’ve found it’s common that those who study literature originally considered studying psychology. Part of writing creatively is being able to empathize with the subject of the piece and to emote through the art of writing. Art therapy is used to help those suffering from mental health issues, or those in the process of getting through trauma or grief, learn to express themselves through art to reduce stress, come to terms with the challenges they face, and better manage their behaviors and feelings (Art Therapy Blog). If working with visual arts, this career requires a number of hours spent in art classes, studio time, and a portfolio. Creative writing is used less in art therapy than visual arts, but it is also a great tool for therapy. After earning a bachelor’s degree, one must seek out a master’s program for art therapy to be certified (Archer). Some students will work much better with writing than with other arts like sculpting or painting. The most important thing, regardless of specialization, is appreciation of all art and willingness to help others with their work.

Written words are all around us, and in most cases, someone was paid to write them. Writing jobs exist everywhere for every kind of writer. Experience in creative writing is sometimes limited in college, but in the real world, you’re more likely to prove yourself with your writing than your specific degree. A good writer can learn any style necessary to get a job, whether it’s business reports, editing notes, propositions to clients and publishers, or workshop notes for a struggling patient. The idea that liberal arts degrees are flimsy and don’t hold up outside of graduate school applications simply isn’t true. Katherine Brooks explains that, “Your major is not your end goal; it’s a series of classes that will help you accomplish your goal” (Brooks 83). As long as a writer is willing to learn the rules of a new genre, work well with others, and be willing to help whoever needs them, plenty of jobs will be available.


Archer, Jan. “What Are the College Requirements for a Creative Arts Therapist?” Houston Chronicle, n.d. Web. 23 February 2016.

Brooks, Katherine. You Majored in What? Mapping Your Path from Chaos to Career. New York: Penguin, 2010. Print.

“Business Writer: Job Description, Duties and Salary”, n.d. Web. 23 February 2016.

“Literary Consultant.” Inside Jobs. Inside Jobs LLC, n.d. Web. 23 February 2016.

“What is Art Therapy?” Art Therapy Blog. Art Therapy, n.d. Web. 25 February 2016.


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