Things that will not make you a good writer:
- Being an introvert or an extravert
- Good grades (though passing grades in English class probably help)
- “Better” tastes in literature
- Being a better writer than the people around you/the majority of people who post their writing free on the internet
- Starting at an earlier/later age than everybody else
- The praise of people who would never insult you
Things that will make you a good writer:
- Lots and lots of practice
In my last blog I talked about why I was going to write more personal entries on my tumblr, and most of it had to do with the act of writing. I mentioned that I graduated last December with a Bachelor’s degree in English with a creative writing option. Lately I’ve been somewhat regretting my choice of major.
Like a lot of recent college graduates in their early-20’s I feel directionless. With a humanities degree like English I (allegedly) have a broad spectrum of choices of career paths. The problem is I have no idea which one to pick. Even if I did I have to work extra hard just to get my foot in the door. I was ignorant enough not to apply for any internships or get a part-time job while I was attending college, and as a result I have almost no work experience that I could put on a résumé.
If any English majors or high school students planning on pursuing an English degree happen to read this, please don’t take this as a shot against the degree itself. It’s completely possible to get a job with decent pay with it. A friend of mine who I had a lot of creative writing classes with moved to New England recently and is now working as a content specialist (I’m not sure what that is exactly) for an internet marketing firm. My advice to you is to just be sure to work on how to get that job before you graduate. Apply for summer internships related to the field you’re interested in, work as a temp. at an office, or work at your university’s library. Whatever you do, just don’t expect that people are going to be dying to hire you just because you read a bunch of novels and wrote some good essays on them. Even though you’re one of the rare people that still has a good command of the English language, that in itself isn’t much help to your prospective employers.
Currently I’m working as a substitute special education aide for a local school district. The pay is decent, it’s $13-$15 per hour for 5-6 hours a day depending on what position I’m subbing for that day. Despite wanting to avoid becoming a teacher when I first declared myself as an English major, I’ve contemplated going back to school to get a teaching credential. But I already have doubts about my abilities to become a good teacher. I have a very laid back personality, and I don’t know if I can be strict enough to manage a classroom well.
A week ago I got this crazy idea out of nowhere to start attending the nearby community college to pick up an Associate’s Degree in accounting. It’s the opposite of the English degree in that it gives me a specific path towards employment. If I continue to live at my mom’s house and use public transportation I can probably afford it with the salary I’m getting from my special ed. aide job. With a little re-learning of algebra and other math concepts by myself, I could probably do alright in accounting classes. Hell, if I land a decent paying jobs with that Associate’s degree, I can save up enough money to have another go at getting a Bachelor’s degree but as an accounting major.
I know it was just yesterday that I posted that becoming some type of professional writer was my dream, but maybe selling out on my dreams and passions is what I need to do to grow up.
I think I should start more posting personal blogs…
…because I really need to start writing for the sake of writing.
Jane Yolen — author of many sci-fi, fantasy, and children’s books that I’ve never read — gives this advice:
Exercise the writing muscle every day, even if it is only a letter, notes, a title list, a character sketch, a journal entry. Writers are like dancers, like athletes. Without that exercise, the muscles seize up.
According to this analogy, my writing muscles are very atrophied. I graduated with a B.A. in English with an option in creative writing last December. Since then I haven’t written any essays, short stories or poems. I’m currently employed, but my job doesn’t require any of the writing skills I picked up or improved upon in college.
I didn’t have much of an affinity for writing until my sophomore year in high school. My English 2 teacher was this very smart, witty, and erratically funny man named Mr. Hannigan. At the time he graded some essays by making overhead projector copies of of them, projecting them on to the board, and grading them in front of the class. Some time during that year he graded an essay I wrote about the play Cyrano de Bergerac and gave me a 97 on it. I wish I still had a copy of it today since I don’t remember what the essay was about. Though Hannigan always covered the names on his projector copies, the class as a whole deduced that the essay was mine and gave me a small applause for the high grade I just got.
From that point on I figured I had a knack for writing, and since then my dream has been to make a living out of it in some form. Initially I wanted to get into print journalism, but in a world where even the New York Times is financially struggling I gave up on that idea pretty early in my college career. Today I would gladly take a decent-paying job as a copywriter or content writer for a website. I think the ultimate dream job for me though would be to become a published novelist or a scriptwriter for movies or TV shows. Getting paid to make stuff up doesn’t seem too bad a deal.
Notice how when I talked about wanting to become a professional writer in the last paragraph I used the terms “dream” and “dream job” instead of “goal”. I think those are very appropriate words to use because a goal is something you work towards. To be honest, I haven’t done anything close to setting goals and working towards them to get my foot in the door of a writing career.
I’m going to try to write as much as I can from now on, starting with trying to share what’s going on with my life to my tumblr followers. Hopefully it’s true that writing breeds more writing so one day I’ll finally have the initiative to make that first short story or poem that wasn’t assigned by a professor. Maybe I’ll be even brave enough to send it to literary magazines and try to survive that first wave of rejection letters.