As we begin to gear up for the new school year, I’m thinking about studies and majors and careers. I’ve encountered quite a few wonderful young people recently who share my interest in language.
Say you are in high school or just starting out on a professional path post high school, and you really enjoy English and writing, and like the idea that you might be a writer some day. Obviously, if you want to be a novelist or a poet, the best thing for you to do is read everything you can get your hands on, and just start writing.
And if college is in the plans (and I think it is an experience not to be missed, whether you do it right away, with a brief delay- as I did, or as a returning* student), I have a proposal to ensure your financial comfort: Study something in addition to English and writing, so you can have something to write about.
Famously, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Michael Crichton were both physicians. Alice Walker was a civil rights activist; Haruki Murakami, a bar owner; Raymond Carver, a textbook editor. John Grisham, a lawyer; Sue Grafton, a screenwriter; William S. Burroughs was an exterminator; Harper Lee, a ticket agent for Eastern airlines, but this was a job, not a career, and the same can be said of many other writers whom I admire or whom I don’t admire but who sell a lot of books.
A diversity of life experiences and also subject-area knowledge provides you with a broader base from which to draw as you compose your novel. You meet more kinds of people (not just English majors).
And as another bonus, all fields, all trades, all professions need writers, if you think about it. So if you are a scientist-writer, or a physician-writer, or a psychologist-writer, or a computer tech writer, or a game theorist writer, or a veterinarian-writer, then you have an amazing niche market and can write or edit a variety of materials in a field you enjoy while you are shopping your novel.
My two cents.