He left the university in 1807, and the following year went to St. Petersburg to take up government service, for which he was also poorly prepared. Again, he spent considerable time at the theater, and his acquaintance with the conservative Admiral Shishkov strengthened his preference for classical Russian literature and introduced him to the Lovers of the Russian Word. He resigned from the civil service in 1811 and moved to Moscow, where he was active as an amateur in literary and theatrical life and published his first verse anonymously in 1812.
Aksakov enlisted in the militia and took part in the Campaign of 1812; afterwards he settled for the quiet life of a sporting country squire at his estate of Aksakovo in Orenburg guberniya, where he stayed from 1816 until 1826, after which he was usually in Moscow. In 1816 he married Olga Semenovna Zaplatina, and the couple had six sons and eight daughters. He began publishing translations, reviews, and articles in the early 1820s, though his important work came much later. In 1827 he was appointed to the Moscow Censorship Committee, from which he was dismissed in 1832 for allowing the publication of a "scurrilous" pamphlet on drunken policemen; in 1833 he became an inspector at the Grand Duke Constantine School of Surveying, and in 1835 the first director of the Constantine Geodetic Institute (Konstantinovsky mezhevoi institut).He retired from the civil service in 1838.
In 1832 he met Gogol "and recognized in him what he had failed to see in Púshkin or any other man—a purely Russian genius. Aksákov's house, a stronghold of pure Russianism in Moscow society, became the temple of the cult of Gógol, and Aksákov its high priest." It was Gogol who revealed to Aksakov the possibility of creating literature based directly on life, without forcing it into the mold of classical forms. In 1834 Aksakov published his first realistic story, "A Blizzard." Around 1840, encouraged by Gogol, he began writing the book that would make him famous, A Family Chronicle. While he was working on that, he published books about two of his favorite activities since his youth, Notes on Fishing (1847) and Notes of a Hunter in Orenburg Province (1852). Their "limpid style and concrete content," which were "almost unique in Russian literature," were appreciated by contemporaries; Turgenev reviewed them enthusiastically, and Gogol wrote Aksakov, "Your birds and fishes are more alive than my men and women."