Proper Job!

A wise writer once said to me that it’s not so much the pram in the hall that’s the impediment to a writing career, but the bills on the door-mat. Money worries are the bane of creativity. And unless independently wealthy, the emerging writer will have to make a living while waiting for that book/film deal (and probably for a while after that fact too). Writers need to work; the question is what kind of jobs are out there?


Many will consider other (more lucrative) forms of writing to bring home the bucks. Journalism is an obvious choice and is still, probably, the most common second career for many creative writers. Moreover, a journalistic background provides marvellous training re editing and brevity of approach. Copy-writing, particularly website copy, is also a popular income booster for writer but both copy-writing and journalism are less satisfying forms of writing for the creative writer and spending all day writing on the day job can make it difficult to come home and do the same at night.

Teaching English and/or creative writing is another common earner for writers. My TEFL training and experience has given me a sound grip of grammar and the intricacies of the English language – all of which is of great practical use to a writer. A TEFL teacher also (usually) travels and such experiences can feed into your work. Teaching creative writing allows you to deconstruct the tools of creative writing, which may benefit your own writing. However, you usually need a track record of publication before you begin to look for work in this area.

It is not uncommon for writers to work a mundane job such as on a factory line or as a manual labourer. Such tasks sit quite well with a writing career as they give the writer time to think, to let ideas bubble and boil ready to write down after the shift has finished. Also, with a job so utterly removed from writing, you will be fresh and eager to sit at your laptop of an evening. The downside of any brain numbing, repetitive work is that it has no status. This fact should not be important but it is because writers are human, so for a writer to stay in a lowly job, s/he needs determination, focus and confidence in their reason for doing this type of work.

Writers, of course, come from all walks of life and all career backgrounds. For those of you who may be considering giving up your job to write full time, you need to remember that you’ll (most likely) still need to make a living. Maybe the job you have is not glamorous or interesting, but these are often the best complementary jobs for writing. So, if you really want to be a writer, the greatest sacrifice you make may be NOT giving up the day job –  but staying with it.


About suehealy

From Ireland, Sue Healy is Literary Manager at the Finborough Theatre, London, a full-time Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Lincoln. Her book on theatre literary management is published by Routledge, December 2022. Sue is an award-winning writer for stage, TV, and prose writer. TV Her current project, a 6x60minute TV series, is under option. She is under commission with Lone Wolf Media, producers behind PBS’ “Mercy Street”, to co-write the pilot and treatment for a six-part TV series. Stage Her most recent stage-play, Imaginationship (2018), enjoyed a sold out, extended run at the Finborough and later showed at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough. Her previous stage productions include Cow (Etcetera Theatre, 2017) and Brazen (King’s Head Theatre, 2016), funded by Arts Council England. Sue’s short plays have been performed at the Criterion (Criterion New Writing Showcase), Arcola (The Miniaturists) and Hackney Attic (Fizzy Sherbet Shorts). Radio Her radio work includes nine plays broadcast on BBC Radio 4 (Opening Lines winner), WLRfm and KCLR96fm. Prose Sue has won The Molly Keane Award, HISSAC Prize, Escalator Award, Meridian Prize and has been published in nine literary journals and anthologies including: The Moth, Flight, Tainted Innocence, New Writer, Duality, HISSAC, New European Writers. She has been writer-in-residence on Inis Oírr, Aran Islands, and at the Heinrich Boll Cottage on Achill Island. She has also benefitted from annual artist residencies at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, and at Ginestrelle, Assisi in Italy. An academic with a PhD in modern theatre history, specifically the Royal Court Theatre, Sue has presented her research internationally. She spent eleven years in Budapest, editing Hungary A.M. She has a PhD in modern theatre history (Royal Court Theatre) and is a UEA Creative Writing MA alumnus. View all posts by suehealy

8 responses to “Proper Job!

  • Eagle-Eyed Editor

    In the U.S., being a copywriter these days means that you must have much more than just the ability to write. For many companies (but not all), you’ll need SEO, graphic design, web design, and the knowledge to write for print projects or online projects. I love copywriting but I’m also finding that blogging goes a long way towards satisfying my creative instincts as well.

  • Michael Graeme

    “if you really want to be a writer, the greatest sacrifice you make may be NOT giving up the day job – but staying with it”

    This certainly resonates with me, Sue.

  • gillswriting

    Ha Sue how interesting and pertinent! My over two year stint as a volunteer must end in December and my friends and family are all posing the question. What next? MY vague plans are to take a TEFL and earn a small income from the volunteer world and or work in supermarket on the till allowing my brain free rein for the writing. Neither option seems to please family and friends!!! See you in Sainsbury’s perhaps!!

  • writerlyderv

    Interesting and practical post. I also think bar work and waitressing would be good work for writers. Lots of interaction with weird people.

  • hilarycustancegreen

    I found myself writing, without meaning to, a scientific PhD at the same time as my first novel. The contrast made each one a holiday from the other – I only wish I could recreate that level of energy.

  • Roly Andrews

    Great Post – pertinent for me in that I am so lucky to have a job I love – then I get to go home do something in my spare time that I love. Of course even a little bit of recognition and reward would be especially lovely!

  • Nick

    Hi Sue. I do care work to survive ( which society scandalously deems as low status!!) but find that the human contact and the humbling situations and the satisfaction of making a difference to someone all give me a welcome perspective on life. Nick. PS I’ve just signed up with Andrew Mann too

    • suehealy

      Hi Nick, I did care work for a year while I was doing my MA, inspired an award winning short story, as well as being rewarding. Congrats on the sign up !

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