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Should I write my novel or become a qualified teacher first?

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by LucyTupp, Jul 17, 2019.


Which step should I take next?

  1. Write my novel & find a side job

    21 vote(s)
  2. Become a qualified teacher

    10 vote(s)
  1. LucyTupp

    LucyTupp New commenter

    Hi everyone, please bear with me! Since I was a child my dream has been to become an author. I won prizes as a teenager then when I was in my early 20s I had three short stories published in collections. It was a really exciting time and made me feel I could achieve what I wanted! But after that I went through some hard times and lost the will a bit. I also moved to Spain teaching english and have moved temporarily back to the UK THREE times because I have been so indecisive about where I want to end up (but I also prefer to work in the UK during summer because it's so hot!). Right now I am writing a novel (very slowly/infrequently because I am so busy hustling through teaching English to make money) and some journalism for a magazine.

    But now I'm at a crossroads. I applied to uni and now potentially have the opportunity to get my teaching qualification over the next year. The year after that would be my 'NQT' year. I have spoken to other qualified teachers who say I would have to say goodbye to having any energy to devote to writing my novel. The upside is I would be qualified and be more employable in schools/more money. The downside is we'd be talking about spending at least two years of my life not having any energy to write which is what I really love doing and living in the UK when I would rather not. I'm not sure I can live my life like that but also know I need to have a stable job.

    The last issue is that I am now 27 and fed up completely with moving back and forward between 2 countries. I would like to settle down in one place and meet someone along the way. I do love Spain and I'm afraid leaving would mean after Brexit I can't get back in. I don't think I will want to uproot my life years from now to do the teaching qualification

    I feel like I have to choose between having a stable career and doing what I love. It's so hard and I'd love some support! [​IMG]
    welshwoman likes this.
  2. rouxx

    rouxx Lead commenter

    Doing the teacher training is a good plan, if you know you enjoy teaching. It will give you something to fall back on if not earning from writing. There are many countries other than Spain where you can find opportunities. I have taught overseas for most of my career and while it’s not a stable lifestyle choice, it’s been a great one for me. Go to the teaching overseas forum.

    HOWEVER, no one is sure how things will work out after Brexit, if you have a residencia in Spain, I would hang on there one more year to see how the land is lying. Do the teacher training starting in 2020.

    27 isn’t that old. Still got time to play with...just don’t leave it too long. Put a date on making the decision.
  3. sbkrobson

    sbkrobson Star commenter

    There is little in your post that speaks of you being a novelist.
    You told of some prizes you got, and you told of how you are only writing infrequently because of having to support yourself, and you told of your desire to meet someone, to settle, to have a career.
    However novel writing is very much about process and very little actually about result. You just sit down and do it. Whether you have a a part time job, a full time job, no job, whether you travel a lot of whether you stay in the same place all the time. You just sit down and get on with it. You persevere, you don't let up, you determine that the process is important enough to dedicate yourself to it.
    That's not what I see you doing or wanting to do when I read your post. No mention of the process.
  4. mothorchid

    mothorchid Star commenter

    You may be a Great Novelist inside. (In my opinion, the language in your post is accurate but slightly pedestrian, since you raise the thought of writing for a living)
    However, If this is the case, then you will reach the point of completing your novel anyhow. You will be very lucky to get an agent. Then you will be even luckier if your novel is published. Then you will be beyond lucky to make more than a few thousand pounds for your years' work. Whatever you do, don't rely on The Great Novel to make you money. Get a job. What kind of job is your choice.
  5. Lara mfl 05

    Lara mfl 05 Star commenter

    Being able to have the luxury of 'doing what you want to do', usually relies on having 'private means', as most of us just have to get on and earn to pay the bills. Even that is difficult enough for so many these days.

    All I can say is the advice I gave to my son, when he said he wanted to be a writer.
    Most great writers took many years to get published and become successful enough to be able to do it full-time. Most writers just have to earn a living, probably until their 30s, to establish themselves.

    So I would go for the training and keep up the writing when you can. As @sbkrobson says, most writers are driven to write and will find the time, even if it's only in small spurts when they can and that gives you time to develop your skills.
    towncryer, pepper5, foxtail3 and 2 others like this.
  6. princesslegend

    princesslegend Occasional commenter

    Please only go for your PGCE if you really WANT to teach. If education and learning is your passion then go for it. Our profession is such that we need DEDICATED professionals - not people who use it as a stop-gap until they decide what they want to do, or because they're fed up or the uncertainty of life.

    The kids deserve more.
  7. CWadd

    CWadd Star commenter

    If you want to be a published writer, you need to get on and do it.

    If you want to teach - and I mean actually teach, not just do the PGCE to keep the money coming in- then do it.
  8. A_Million_Posts

    A_Million_Posts Star commenter

    I suspect even Dickens wouldn't have produced polished prose if writing a message on an internet forum. It's very harsh to critique someone's writing based on a post here!

    To the OP, if you want to write a novel, write it. Make the time. Very few novelists have the luxury of writing full time, even relatively successful published writers.
  9. sabrinakat

    sabrinakat Star commenter

    It is possible to do both at the same time....;):eek:
  10. FrankWolley

    FrankWolley Star commenter

    Hmm...Speaking of the parent of a child who studied creative writing at Uni, got a 1st, won prizes etc and who has written a novel and tried to get it published, I really wouldn't recommend putting all your eggs in the 'write the novel and the world is my oyster' bag. You may have to write 2, or 3 |(or 10) before you get one published...let alone before one is published and is a success!

    But, as has been said, don't go into teaching unless you REALLY want to...it isn't a career for those who don't know what else to do, for the partially committed.
  11. bonxie

    bonxie Senior commenter

    During the PGCE and NQT year you will have almost no time at all for anything else. After that you'll be able to write during the holidays but will be very busy during term times as job doesn't fit nicely into a 35 hour week. Only go into teaching if is what you really want to do. If not, you may find yourself among the high proportion of people who do the training but decide not to make teaching a long-term career.

    "22% of newly qualified entrants to the sector in 2015 were not recorded as working in the state sector two years later. The five year out-of-service-rate for 2012 entrants was 33%, the ten year rate for 2008 entrants was 40%."

    Data extracted from:
    pepper5, LucyTupp, phlogiston and 2 others like this.
  12. FastEddie2

    FastEddie2 New commenter

    agathamorse likes this.
  13. phlogiston

    phlogiston Star commenter

    I have vague ideas for "great novels" rattling around in my head. I fear that they're mostly doomed to stay there, as other things in my life are more important than turning a vague idea into pages of prose.
    I am not really qualified to comment on how to be successful a novelist. I do know that for every headline making JK Rowling earning millions, there are lots of others who make rather less.
    Well done, I bet you felt great. Did they pay you and give you royalties? My daughter had a picture printed in an art book (along with the rest of her class). It cost quite a lot of money to get the copies for us and her two sets of grandparents. She received no royalties and has received no further commissions for art.

    With life, you make a series of compromises. My daydream occupations have never been quite feasible. Fortunately, for the most part, I enjoyed teaching teenagers, and have managed to support myself well enough to live with a modicum of comfort. I quite like writing - several thousand posts on here give some evidence for this. Most of what I can write is not marketable. Perhaps it could be with tweaking.
    You're not me. If you're going to be good at teaching, that will demand significant sacrifice of time and energy (as you know). If you devote yourself to writing, that will require sacrifices of time and earning capacity.
    Maybe you look on teaching as earning time combined with research time learning about people and what makes them tick. Jot ideas, notions and themes down and save them for later.
    I do work with someone who is a published novelist (under a pseudonym that she hasn't yet told me) and who has published other books under her own name. She isn't a mainstream teacher and has spent most of her working career in a different line of work. It is possible to combine work and writing - it requires discipline and "set aside" time and this will apply even if you get a job as something else.

    . Less than half my age!

    Monetising writing is hard - I've done it a very few times. Scaling it up to support me in the style to which I'm accustomed to live - not sure how.
    Good luck. Only you can decide.
    agathamorse likes this.
  14. sabrinakat

    sabrinakat Star commenter

    I wrote a non-fiction book which is recommended as part of the A-level in Classical Civilisation; the coursebook mentions it quite frequently but I've only made less than a good TLR on it. I do have a few more ideas in progress but even noted authors like Mary Beard do continue to teach......
    caress, agathamorse, DYNAMO67 and 3 others like this.
  15. neddyfonk

    neddyfonk Lead commenter

    I know five people who are published writers. Two that write poetry and three that write science fiction. None of them has made enough money so that they can live off the proceeds but it does give them a great sense of achievement. Most would-be writers hope one day to give up their day job but they are in the minority.If you are convinced you should be a writer you should have a vast amount of ideas, plots, scenarios, characters, storylines etc written down. If you do not, it is likely writing full time will be a bit of a chore.
  16. scienceteachasghost

    scienceteachasghost Lead commenter

    I think some posters have been rather negative here. If YOU want to do it, do it, I would personally do the PGCE and have the novel as a hobby. Surely you can write 300 pages in 6 weeks downtime in the Summer Holidays if you put your mind to it?
  17. LucyTupp

    LucyTupp New commenter

    Yes for me it isn't about the money. I have to purge myself of the novels inside me - I just have to get them out! I have been writing stories since I was 5 and whenever I stop I become quite depressed. The thing is that I have had positive encouragement from authors in my country. An ex journalist for the New York Times said that I was a good writer and gave me a chance as a features writer for his travel magazine for a while. So I KNOW how hard it is to be published and everything else. But even if I fail, I would never forgive myself for not giving my all and trying. A few years ago I interviewed an author who had just published her first book. When I told her I worked full time in marketing she was shocked - said she didn't know how I had the mental energy/time. She was a barista part time and wrote the rest of the time. People say where there's a will there's a way but frankly

    Perhaps I could find a way to write my novels during summertime. But it has to be noted that being novelist is definitely work and hard graft. It couldn't be considered 'downtime' and teachers absolutely need a break at the end of the year. Maybe I would find my groove.

    phlogiston has nailed it:
    If you're going to be good at teaching, that will demand significant sacrifice of time and energy (as you know). If you devote yourself to writing, that will require sacrifices of time and earning capacity. (I always want to give my students the best version of me and take my vocation seriously).

    and well done sabrinakat! That must feel fantastic. I am actually interested in educational journalism and publishing. I have had pieces published in an education magazine. I would like to work at a publishing house perhaps producing educational materials or childrens books - but I wouldn't know where to begin. I used to run my own marketing business creating content for businesses, writing youtube scripts series and editing e-books. I have a decent sized skillset, it's just knowing what to do with it!
  18. meggyd

    meggyd Lead commenter

    Join a writers' group! You will meet people who have published and some who want to be published. You will see the reality of it all then. A lot of them are only once a month.
    Lara mfl 05 likes this.
  19. A_Million_Posts

    A_Million_Posts Star commenter

    That's not a description to entice readers!
  20. Lara mfl 05

    Lara mfl 05 Star commenter

    Then do some research into how to get into this. Being able to be instrumental in education at a distance would enable you to combine
    with your need to write and maintain emotional equilibrium.
    sbkrobson likes this.

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