How do I get into writing with no experience? Simple, with a creative writing internship.
There’s a catch-22 that must be overcome when starting a career in creative writing: you can’t get a job without a portfolio and you can’t build your portfolio without a job. Alas, depending on what context you wish to work in, internships for writing can be hard to come by. So rare is the creative writing internship, the term seems almost oxymoronic.
The thing to remember is that a way with words is a very transferable skill. Regardless of industry, the ability to construct snappy sentences, clear copy, and persuasive arguments is a valuable asset. This is why a great way to start off is by writing for nonprofits. You can earn your stripes whilst helping to make the world a better place.
In this blog, I’ll run through why Creative Writing Internship with nonprofits are a great option, how to apply, what you’ll do as a writing intern, and how you’ll benefit from it. To put things in context, I’ll be adding a few of my experiences as a creative writing intern with Roots.
(Full disclaimer: my internship was great and I’m a little biased.)
– Text by Tom Rusbridge, images by Anna Lusty
Can You Intern As a Writer?
Yes, there are internship opportunities where you can gain experience as a writer in a number of different capacities. However, in some industries there aren’t many internships for creative writing majors, so they tend to be oversubscribed and highly competitive. This is why it’s worthwhile considering writing for nonprofits.
Within the creative industries (film, publishing, and entertainment), internships are not the norm and difficult to find. Within journalism, there are opportunities to gain work experience, however, often you won’t start as a writer, but work up to it — gradually and painstakingly.
One way to find internships for writing where you immediately start gaining experience as a writer — the best one I found — is through nonprofits. Here, you’re able to see what it’s like to write for a living. What’s more, working as part of small, grassroots organizations, you’ll have the chance to take on assignments you wouldn’t be able to in larger, more corporate environments.
My Creative Writing Internship
I found Roots Interns at the end of my degree in Creative Writing and English Literature.
As I approached the job market, wondering where my academic knowledge of poetry and plays would get me, a chance Google search presented an idea I had so far overlooked: writing for nonprofits.
Like many fellow graduates, I had considered journalism, publishing, or academia as the only ways of writing for a living. It was only when discovering Roots and browsing through their programs that I began to think about marketing and the role it could play within a nonprofit context.
Writing with Roots, I’ve learnt how much nonprofits and do-good organizations rely on word of their work being spread. Without far-reaching marketing schemes, people simply wouldn’t know about the vital work being done by these organizations. Ultimately, marketing, awareness drives, and donor outreach, are how these organizations gain support.
For me, interning with Roots was the ideal opportunity to combine my passion for travel and grassroots work whilst learning how my passion for writing could be used to make a living.
How to get an internship in writing for nonprofits
My internship aside, a creative writing degree is by no means necessary to apply for internships for writing with nonprofits.
In fact, there are creative writing internships for highschool students, for studying college students, and for those with no prior experience in writing. Moreover, there are a number of part-time online writing internships, so you can find one that fits around your commitments.
Really, there are so many ways where creative writing can make a difference for nonprofits (from marketing to grant-writing to communications), the best advice is to simply start looking.
What do you say when asking for an internship?
The exact requirements for each internship can vary quite a bit, so there’s no one size fits all. One thing to keep in mind though, there are people to help with this. With Roots, you’ll have tailored support to help match you with the right organization.
Whatever your level of experience, wherever your interests lie, whichever cause you’d like to contribute to, there are creative writing internships for you to pick from. So when preparing for an application, all you’ll need is an example of your writing skills, a willingness to learn, and ideally a passion for the cause you’ll be writing for.
What does a writing intern do?
Similarly, this can vary depending on your program, but as a rule, your time will be spent researching, writing, editing, and learning the strategy and theory of your chosen field.
My creative writing internship was in SEO content writing, so I wrote copy for websites, blogs, and info guides, whilst learning about the marketing strategy and goals of search engine optimisation. Not only was this a tremendously valuable learning experience, all the work I did could immediately be added to my portfolio.
What’s more, I got to write for a number of Roots’ partner organizations. This meant I got an idea of what it was like to write for different organizations, and a deeper, more varied portfolio.
What does writing for nonprofits look like?
Your internship can take all kinds of forms.
First of all, you can take one on at any age. As mentioned, there are creative writing internships for college students, high school students, creative writing majors, and those just starting off.
Secondly, there are a number of different specializations to choose from. You could be grant-writing, developing impact reports and press releases, or producing copy for online content.
Finally, there are so many incredible destinations to pick from. One of the most exciting aspects of writing for nonprofits is the opportunity to travel. Roots has programs based all across Africa (and soon further afield too) meaning you get to see the world and experience new cultures as you work.
Or, perhaps you’re looking for experience alongside your current commitments. In which case, be sure to look through the selection of online creative writing internships available. These can be completed part or full time, over the course of weeks or months, and all from the comfort of your own home.
How my creative writing internship looked
Since I started my internship from home and traveled out to Cape Town for the last month, I’m in a somewhat unique position where I can comment on both remote and in-person internships.
My online writing internship
The first few months of my internship were relaxed and comfortable, but busy. From the sofa in my living room, I connected with interns and hosting organizations around the world, researched humanitarian causes, eco-conservation projects, social enterprises, and I wrote reams of content.
Despite only connecting online, I was warmly welcomed onto the team and quickly made to feel at home. I was also provided a wealth of learning resources and materials to browse through at my own pace. Best of all, my internship was flexible and adaptable, so I could fit it around my other work commitments and save for my trip.
My in-person writing internship
Since coming to Cape Town, things have kicked up a gear. I’ve spent plenty of time enjoying what Cape Town has to offer (everything from book launches to bungee jumps), but also visited projects, met incredible people, and seen the impact of the work Roots’ partners do.
My writing has progressed too. Having got a handle on my duties as an intern, I’ve been able to take on more varied, challenging assignments and enjoyed more independence in my research and planning.
What creative writing internships with nonprofit organizations are available?
If my internship doesn’t sound like your thing, don’t worry, there are a lot of options. Writing is a big part of raising awareness, and so, raising funds too. As such, there are very few organizations that wouldn’t benefit from a writer’s contributions.
Moreover, Roots has an expansive network of connections and a range of placements that will benefit from your writing skills, and, equally important, where you will receive the support and guidance to grow as a writer.
Here’s a few to give you an idea of the kind of things you can do with creative writing internships:
- NGO Storytelling Internship in South Africa – Use your talent for storytelling to help a community development initiative in a rural but stunning community, Coffee Bay.
- Writing and Communications Internship in Zambia – Support an education-focused nonprofit in Livingstone whilst gaining experience in communications and copywriting.
- Communications Internship for Agroforestry Project in Ghana (Remote) – Produce newsletters, reports, and online content for an eco-sustainability project working across Ghana.
- SEO Content Writing in Tourism in Cape Town – This program (the one I chose) is your chance to work with Roots directly and learn the fundamentals of SEO and digital marketing writing.
What does a creative writing intern learn?
As a writing intern you will develop your research and editing abilities, expand your industry-specific knowledge, and, most crucially, continue to hone your writing skills.
Something that mustn’t be overlooked with creative writing internships is the challenge to write outside of your comfort zone.
Shifting and adapting your style to serve its purpose and employing different voices to fit an organization will naturally improve your writing capability. More precise and colorful words will more readily come to mind. Sentences will take on variety and fluidity. Time-consuming tasks will become second nature.
On top of this, Roots places interns with experts in their field and allows them to learn alongside them. Whichever program you pick, you will be working with seasoned professionals and benefiting from their years of experience.
What I gained from my Creative Writing Internship
Over the course of my internship I made my first steps on a new career path in digital marketing, gained valuable, practical skills and knowledge in SEO, and found new avenues of writing to explore.
Even before completing it, my internship helped me secure positions as a freelance writer and having it on my LinkedIn even got me invited to interview for jobs I hadn’t applied for.
Now that I’ve finished, with a newly-equipped arsenal of SEO tricks, I am traveling across Africa as a digital nomad, supporting myself through freelance work whilst volunteering my services with various nonprofits and do-good organizations as I go.
Above all, my Creative Writing Internship gained me confidence as a writer. It provided me the chance to apply my writing skills in real-world situations, to expand my knowledge, and to prove my ability to myself.
What will your creative writing internship be?
There aren’t many ways you can jumpstart your career in creative writing whilst traveling to exotic locations, learning new cultures, and helping to make the world a better place.
So, for any struggling writers out there wondering how their way with words could best be put to use, look no further. There is a world of opportunities where you can write for truly worthwhile causes, in exciting capacities, and on interesting topics. What more needs to be said?