College is supposed to be that time in our early young adult life where we start figuring things out: how to balance extracurricular activities with school, friends and sleeping; how to do laundry; even how to act like a responsible human being (sort of).
With responsibility comes thoughts of the future, and if you’ve known for a while that you want to be a writer when you grow up, let’s be honest: it’s about to get much harder to find time to write while also figuring out how to keep your dorm room reasonably clean enough to live in.
There are a few things you can do to keep your college lifestyle choices in alignment with your overall goal of becoming a professional writer (yes, it is possible, if you work hard). Here are five things all aspiring writers should do before college graduation.
1. Study subjects you like, not just English or creative writing
Studying English is a great way to refine your analytical skills and give you some practice writing in different styles, but there’s a reason you’ll have a set of core courses to take as graduation requirements as well. Learning a wide variety of topics gives you more baseline knowledge to work with when you sit down to work on a new writing project.
You don’t even have to declare English or creative writing as your major, though: study whatever you want, whatever interests you the most. There are plenty of ways to learn about things you’re interested in and apply those topics to your writing.
2. Pitch story ideas to real-world publications
When it comes to pitching, no publication is too big. In your lifetime, as an aspiring writer, you’re going to get rejected more times than you’ll be able to count. Aiming high, even if you think it’s too high, will help you gain confidence in pitching story ideas (creative or more journalistic/academic) and get used to that pre-written rejection email—or never hearing back at all.
If you do aim high, though, don’t forget to aim a little lower in-between the big pitches, too. You’re probably much more likely to start small and work your way up, so your best bet is probably to pitch ideas anywhere you can, as long as you pitch within that publication’s guidelines and in alignment with their brand.
3. Write for your student newspaper or literary magazine
This might not sound very appealing to you if you’re a creative writer to the core, but you’d be surprised how much creative writing and journalism compliment each other.
Learning how to fine-tune your work and narrow down the focus of your pieces can really help you in your own writing, too. Plus, gaining experience interviewing people you don’t know won’t hurt, and the more you can prove to future employers you did all you could to get any kind of writing experience while you had the chance, the better.
4. Form a peer review circle
If you’re not enrolled in a writing course that has a peer review component built into it, or even if you are and want more practice outside the classroom, form your own. Find fellow students who might be interested in having their work critiqued, and giving feedback on others’ work, in a group setting.
It doesn’t even have to be an official campus group or club: you can meet up informally once or twice a month at a local coffee shop to check up on each others’ progress and help hold each other accountable.
5. Apply to work for your campus’s writing lab
Learning how to critique someone else’s grammar, structure and writing style can be an effective way to track down and improve on weaknesses in your own writing. Even helping students with their academic papers and other projects will keep your mind focused on writing even when you aren’t.
Besides, it will look good on your resume, and if there’s a small salary attached, even better.
You don’t have to wait until you have that degree to start your writing career. Gaining pub cred and networking with other writers and editors will serve as a major asset to you somewhere down the road. You won’t regret taking the extra time to make college all about writing, even if it’s a small part of everything you do as a student on and off campus.
Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.