The Profession of Piety

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By Megan Byron

Many student writers would confirm that when their choice of major was expressed to the typical curious acquaintance, the reaction of said person was predictable. It is not the same reaction one receives when they are majoring in the medical field: a lit-up face, a congratulatory tone, and a sense of general acceptance that you chose the right path. Creative writing receives a more skeptical response, somewhere between a polite grin and a slapping critical tone. It is an unpleasant feeling when your decision is not given the respect that other, more “preferred” life paths receive. Yet you will have something to say to the ill informed when you happily boast about your path with an enthusiasm only matched by a mother whose child is student of the month.

Most people worry about money when it comes to a future career in creative writing. The Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH) is a government-run website that catalogues important information like average base salary, state resources of employment, and job duties/descriptions; the OOH is a geode of general knowledge.

According to the OOH, the median pay for writers and authors is $28.30 per hour. This adds up to a median annual salary of $58,850. While it may not seem like a lot of money, most writers don’t become writers to make millions, even though that would really be nice.

If writers wanted to make a lot of money, they would have chosen to be doctors, or technicians. Writing is a profession of piety. We are the proud parents of paperback children; we will happily display the Student of the Month bumper sticker on our minivans.

However, this is not to say that one cannot make stable money working in the field of writing. Publishing houses, newspapers, and magazines offer plenty of positions and internships where student writers are welcome to study the gears of the industry. This is where you tell that curious acquaintance that books do not just happen. Their birth is a highly choreographed dance where hundreds of people must all be in synchronized step.

It starts with one person with one idea written on a few pages, but that one idea has put millions of people to work. From editors, to lawyers who represent the intellectual property of the authors, to lumber mill workers collecting the trees that it will be printed on it takes a village to bring a book into the world.

It is humbling to think that you had a hand in helping strangers with the power of your imagination. Even though writing students are told to change their majors now, that they can still become the doctors their parents always hoped they would be, they smile at the curious acquaintance knowingly, and turn away.

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