As someone who has made an entire living as a writer from the time I was 14 years old, I’m flabbergasted, shocked to the bones and incredibly pleased to tell you there is no better time in my decades-long career to be paid to write. And no, you do not have to be a top novelist nor find a way into the highly competitive field of journalism (which has taken a nasty turn anyway). An excellent fallback career, if you find yourself not–so–pleased with your specific degree, is writer, communicator, social media person, press secretary, web writer, etc. You are much needed in the writing field.
Long form is my favorite, of course, and I happen to be a grammarian, good speller and have my own punctuation philosophy. Watch the old movie “Front Page”, and you’ll know why. I entered the newspaper field in the olden days when you had to be letter perfect or face the soul-rattling wrath of a hard–cussing, Scotch–drinking, cigar–smoking city editor. When I was a mere 18–years–old and working at my first daily newspaper, I would be handed the editorial page to proofread. No photos, only gray, gray type, and articles about subjects from politics to taxes to garbage collection. Ugh! And if I didn’t find at least one mistake, my city editor would give me the side–eye like I hadn’t done my job. Lesson learned. I would search hours until I found some little something.
So, my first piece of advice is to be as good as possible in the basics. Know the rules. They are a bit easier than you think. Just grab up the thin Elements of Style classic by Strunk and White. Otherwise, you have spellcheck, grammar–check, and synonym–finders on your computer. Piece of cake.
All companies today have a web presence, so your interest area is wide open. Being a writer is even a good entrée point if you want to find out what it is you are happiest doing. Get a writing job in the business you’d like to enter someday. Then dive in. As a writer, you have access to everyone, big cheeses to “boots on the ground”. Interviewing is your chance to see if it’s a field you’d like to enter in another capacity.
Maybe you don’t code or know much about websites. You are still of the generation that knows what is read these days. If it is interesting to you, chances are it’s interesting to the humble masses or at least to the folks who are like you.
You can start a business’ Facebook page, Instagram, Twitter, etc. Your boss may even want you to ghostwrite for him or her on LinkedIn or for the intranet. Everyone needs to be hooked up to business networks, so they need to have revolving or new content. A stale page of any kind — web site, FB, etc., will discourage traffic. You can even blog (like this!).
Also, as a writer, you have the field of reports and letters to write. Reporting and letter-writing are no longer perfunctory chores where the boss knows what to say and an administrative assistant recites that information back. All successful leaders today need to communicate well and have a good writer on hand. This may take learning to change the “voice” of your writing to match who you are ghost writing for. Think about it, though; you have this skill if you’re a good listener. How do your friends, your boss, and the folks on television talk? Just get in that mind space and try to be either more or less formal, chattier, more sophisticated with well thought-out vocabulary, or scientific (e.g. repackaging what a scientist presents for layman’s consumption).
I love communication today. It’s an area where we are truly part of the global community and can reach more folks in more places than ever. And, even in those tough fields of novelist and journalist, you can be successful without an official outlet. You can self-publish and blog on your own deadlines and on your own subjects.