The Life and Times of a Struggling Writer

Another great post from RHP intern Melanie Whithaus:

As a creative writing student, I am always asked what I want to do with my degree. Well, teaching isn’t an option for me unless it’s at the college level, and working as a journalist has nothing to do with my degree. People assume that when you say you’re a creative writing major, all you want to do is teach. “Oh, you like to write? So are you going to teach,” they ask. The answer to the first question is yes. The latter: no. They then ask why I don’t want to be a teacher. It’s not my thing, I reply. Nothing about teaching a bunch of snot-nosed little kids how to read appeals to me. I’m not studying to be a teacher, and many of my professors have told me how much of a demand there is in the world for good writers.

But the list of questions continues and my list of pathetic answers continues: I honestly don’t know what I want to do with my degree. Not because I am lost, but because I have so many options. Maybe I could work at some random company writing newsletters, or maybe write instructions on how to save yourself from a plane crash. But over the past year, I’ve realized that I want to work in a publishing house and write on the side. I want to be surrounded by the literary world and not just some corporate office. So I have my future decided on. Score! But what about my own writing on the side?

I don’t want it to be an “on the side” sort of thing, but life tends to throw you a curve ball and doing the things you love gets pushed aside until further notice. Between school, work, internships, and life in general, there’s always something to use as an excuse to why I’m not writing.

But my favorite excuse: I have a terrible writer’s block. Which is true, but also I’m incredibly lazy. I have so many ideas and ways to keep myself writing, but of course I find some excuse to not do them. As a struggling writer, one of my favorite things to do to keep myself writing is fan fiction. For those of you who don’t know, fan fiction is when you write a story about your favorite novel, movie, celebrity (the list goes on forever) living in a world that you’ve created. Now, it can be the same “universe” in which the original story is written, but the new plot is yours. People have been writing fan fiction for centuries, but it didn’t get the name until recently.

But why fan fiction? It’s easy writing, I already have the characters and universe developed, all I have to do is create an intriguing plot. It’s a simple way to keep myself writing and more importantly, it keeps writing fun. But now the problem is this:  I’m coming up with excuses to why I’m not writing fan fiction!

As a struggling writer and hopefully soon to be a publisher, and for those who assume I’ll only be teaching with an English degree, teaching isn’t my passion: it’s writing. Life gets in the way a lot, but if it’s really something you love, you’ll find time for it. So  ten years from now, when I’m working at a publishing house in New York and writing on the side, fan fiction will still be a part of my life. But hopefully, I’ll have my own “universe” to keep me busy.


2 comments on “The Life and Times of a Struggling Writer

  1. rmactsc says:

    I have two kids in college now and I always tell them enjoy your college experiences but make sure your degree is in something that is in high demand when it comes to employment.


  2. Wow, Melanie, great article! You write well and have your career ahead of you. Don’t give it up, don’t accept anything less than your dream. As an author myself, I know that it takes perseverance. Remember, life is what happens while you’re heading for your goal.
    In your case, you’ll get there with smarts, a great skill set already– and knowing yourself. Hm….it certainly cannot hurt to work with Robin at RHP too….”:) Good for you!


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