Saturday, March 28, 2015

8 Secrets I Wish I knew About Writing While I Was In High School

  1. Keep writing! Writing is more of a compulsion than a passion. Don't bog yourself down by holding it in. The more you write the better you will get.
  1. Your writing is not perfect especially if no one else has had a chance to critique it. In my teens, I'd spend all my time writing ignoring school, friends, and family For the record, this is not a healthy way to live. While you should definitely carve out time for writing in your life, doing it at the exclusion of all else is going to close off experiences and knowledge. In retrospect, it set me up to feel like my writing had to be at a certain level just because of all the other stuff I moved to the side. No one needs that kind of pressure. Trust me, first attempts are going to flop don’t give up a good Algebra grade for it.
Don’t be more interested in arguing how good what you wrote is than listening to constructive feedback. The person reading your work is only providing input because they see something worth refining. Critiques signal that the reviewer found value in your work. Get out of your own way and be open to what people were suggesting.

The first copy you show people, no matter how polished, is STILL A DRAFT. Entering with that mind set is going to be unspeakably helpful to receiving critique and to improving your work.

  1. Remember all writing is collaborative. I was and am really into Emily Dickenson and she was a hermit! She never had to speak to or be reviewed/corrected by a single soul, surely I could expect the same. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
  • Ms. Dickenson wrote solely for herself. She never had any intention of publishing, it was only after her death that her family wanted that for her writing.
  • When her work was first published someone else edited the living heck out of it so it would conform to poetic standards of the time. We read the original today, but for a long time a stranger, with no input from the author, decided what was meant by the work and how best to present it.
  • Ms. Dickenson wasn't around to see her work thrive.
Dive into the community by:
  • Joining a local writers' group. This will give you a group of objective people to critique your work. It will also give you a chance to be the critic. You may be more able to avoid common writing traps now that you've seen it in others' writing.
  • Get a Blog. This creates a potentially worldwide presence that establishes you as a writer with experience in X style. Weekly posts will show others your discipline and commitment to your craft.
  1. Start building a portfolio. Any peer reviewed, relevant final work can go into a portfolio, but it will carry more weight as a high graded paper, a contest winning work, or a published work. This will increase your community engagement, prepare you to apply for work, and help build your confidence.
  • Submit a piece for publication. Check out if you school has publication opportunities. Look into magazine submissions and online posting opportunities. It is never too early to be published or to learn about the submission process. DO NOT let fear hold you back. Life will go on with either a “yes” or a “no” and there is a lot to learn from both answers.
  • Submit your work to writing contests. Do a little research and make a splash in the writer's community by becoming a contest winning author!
  1. Get some references/testimonials. Talk to your English teacher, writing coach, or even a peer and have them write a review for your work. Even if you are not a contest winner , a reference from a creditable person about your talent can go a long way in helping you get what you want.
It's great practice telling people what your goals are and asking them for help in getting what you want.

  1. Don't let “no” scare you off. I expected everyone to just acknowledge my literary genius. Really? It was conceited. I expected all the doors to be open. Hearing “no” was particularly crushing in this context.

There are going to be a million “No's” to your writing BUT it's not a rejection of you or your talent. “No” is a business decision for that group at that time. It could mean their budget was cut, it could mean your work is right for five or six future things but not this one thing right now, or it could just mean competition was fierce and there's more work for you to do. Nobody automatically thinks an actor, dancer, or singer is bad when the hiring team says “no” to them, writing is very much the same way.

I've found going in and expecting “no” helpful. It makes me look for reasons people would say no and build arguments against it. It also makes hearing “yes” amazing while making “no” just so much background noise.
  1. Be open to a lot of directions with your writing career. Career day showcases a lot of traditional career paths. How to be a police officer or a small business owner is a pretty clear to most people. Even how to be an actor, musician, singer, or novelist, while a hard path, is pretty well understood by the general populace. The options as a writer are a little more obscure.
Freelance work is really a broad and varied world. Do you want to run a blog, do you want to be a technical writer, do you want to pitch creative ads and marketing techniques, do you want to professionally write reviews, do you want to run e-courses and coaching sessions for other writers, or do you want to do something else? There are a lot of options for creative innovative aspiring writers and the formula to get there is pretty fluid.
  1. Consider community college. I'm not going to say college is a waste to the aspiring writer, because it's not. I made my greatest improvements to my writing style in college. If I'd had a greater sense of purpose, I would have made some amazing networking connection in college. I'm pretty sure I have my day job because I hold a degree. College DOES earn you some things. However, what I got out of the experience does not validate the price tag for my four year degree. If I could do it all over again, I would have gone to community college and worked. I would have had less debt and would have taken advantage of more opportunities while I was there. I would have had more time and experience to learn what I needed to do to get the most from a four year degree program.
There is a lot of pressure to go to college and get a traditional 4 year away from home experience. I know the college “experience” has been elevated to an almost mythical status through our cultural narrative. Although the opportunity for education and growth may still be unparalleled by a traditional 4 year college, you have to know and take full advantage of almost every opportunity presented to you to make up for the cost.

Does your opinion differ from mine? Did I leave something out or put something horrible in the list? Leave your own advice and feedback to would be writers below!