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6 Crucial Things Every Aspiring Writer Should Do in College

English majors, whether you are one or know one, are among some of the most belittled and questioned students (right next to art and theater majors), facing a massive amount of competition. English majors may think they are at a disadvantage, but there are a lot of steps that they can take in college to build themselves as a writer. With all the online exposure to articles today, there is a need for English majors to practice their creativity and style. They should take full advantage of opportunities to improve their skills if they want to overcome the hardships of being a writer. Below are opportunities, inside and outside of college, that all English majors should strive to partake in.

Join an online platform for writers

It will not only help you express your creativity with writing, but it will help you practice it overall. Writing essays for classes certainly helps, but not always being able to pick a topic and having to write with an often harsh set of rules doesn’t allow for much freedom. Writing something because you have to is what we’ve all been doing throughout school, but the difference in your thoughts, style, and imagination when you write something you want to is amazing. Every English major has been used to writing because they have to, and although they enjoy it, it’s nothing compared to freely writing on your own schedule. Even if you don’t intend to have it published, and it’s just for fun, every English major needs to try to do this when they can. Additionally, writing for multiple websites can help you adapt to taking on different kinds of writing and developing a better feel for how to write for an audience.

Study literature

Many writers don’t pay attention to or consider how important the history of English was. It will help you appreciate English’s meaning and potential once you look at how it has changed over time. Many feminist writers, for example, had to work ten times harder than female writers today to get known, and some even had to pretend they were men to get their work really well recognized. Learning about the differences of making it as a writer back then and today will make you appreciate the new opportunities us writers have today and you will know to take advantage of them more. Shakespeare might seem redundant to most people, since none of us today will ever be writing in that form, let alone writing plays. However, Shakespeare goes to show that writing can be impactful for hundreds of years. Many of his works are relatable today, despite the fact that the writing is extremely outdated.

Don’t sell yourself short

Every English major will hear “What are you going to do with your degree?” or “Don’t you know how hard it is to make it as an English major?” at least a few dozen times throughout college. You may feel, at times, discouraged, but research all the different careers English majors go into, and you will feel a lot more hopeful. Many English majors go to law school, and many get jobs completely outside of the typical English specific workplaces. You might be thinking in terms of simply writing for magazines or online publications. Many English majors have been conditioned to think they will be working solely among other writers, whether by society or their classes, without thinking how useful an English degree can be in many other branches of work. Many writers work alongside engineers, scientists, and software developers, so don’t think you’re not capable of doing beyond what you thought you’d do.

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“Writing for multiple websites can help you adapt to taking on different kinds of writing and developing a better feel for how to write for an audience.” Photo from: https://0.s3.envato.com/files/134116777/Writing%20Lines%20Preview.jpg

Be as opened minded as you can

When they are first starting out, a lot of writers unintentionally write for themselves, when they should be writing for their audience. What this means is that you’re focusing too much on what you want in your article, rather than considering what a reader would want. Our perspective on our own writing is completely different from a reader’s point of view. While you might like using fancy words to make your text look more sophisticated, your readers might get distracted or annoyed by the unnecessary amount of SAT words. Practice figuring out who your audience is going to be, and look at it from their perspective as you write what could either change lives or merely look good in your eyes.

Read everything you can get your hands on

Reading is obviously important for virtually anyone who wants to broaden their knowledge. For English majors, it’s also important for that, but even more important in helping them develop as writers. It’s incredibly important to expand your vocabulary, no matter what kind of writing you want to do. It’s optimal to read the writing that you aspire to do one day, but it is also beneficial to read all kinds of other styles. The New York Times, The New Yorker, and The Washington Post are all great examples of legible sources that display unique and concise styles of writing. It’s also important to look at what the popular news sources focus on, how they deal with controversy, and how they (sometimes) organize such complex thoughts. Similar to writing outside of school, reading outside of school is important in the way that your view on it is different. As writers, we need to consider all types of writing, what we want to be as a writer, and how we can be unique among other writers.

Learn to accept criticism

If you want to be a successful writer, you need to learn not to care what others think of you. Being an English major is similar to an art major, in that you’re expressing yourself to the world, often times to many people you don’t know. You need to expect that there will always be people who disagree with your work or who don’t understand its purpose, all while learning more and more about communicating your thoughts in the most effective way. Knowing your potential, but also being aware of the possibility of criticism is essential when writing. Overcoming this will help you see past this. What you should focus on as a writer is simply the audience that acknowledges and appreciates your work because those are the ones who will help you advance, not slow you down.

With the amount of competition and creativity that comes with being an English major, it’s important to get as much practice outside of school as you do inside school. Being well rounded in different kinds of writing and on a range of topics is essential to becoming a writer. Classes definitely challenge us as writers, but outside of class, we have the opportunity to expand in ways we can’t with school. Following the above steps will get you well on your way to becoming a more confident writer who recognizes the potentials and challenges that every writer will face. Doing all of the above does not guarantee a higher-level job, but it will definitely advance you further into the writing industry.

Change your major, change your life

When I left high school, I was pretty sure about what I wanted. I entered RU with my wonderful boyfriend of two years on my arm and a passion for Psychology. I was positive that I wanted to continue on to grad school, get my Ph.D, and go through my life practicing psychology in a therapy setting.

A lot has changed since then. I’m still with that boyfriend, and he’s still wonderful; but nothing else has stayed the same. After a year of working with Whim, I’ve decided that I want to work in media. I love chasing stories and beating deadlines- it makes me feel alive and happy. I’ve done so much debating about this, but I finally made an important decision. I’m ready to change my major.

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“My fiery passion for psychology burned and then fizzled. I still like reading about psychology, but I don’t feel anywhere as excited about it as I used to.” Photo by: Sydney Crawson

As you can imagine, the feeling of uncertainty about my future was weighing heavy on me for a while. My fiery passion for psychology burned and then fizzled. I still like reading about psychology, but I don’t feel anywhere as excited about it as I used to. At first, I thought that this was just normal. I figured that once I took a class whose content I was most interested in, my flame would be reignited. Try as I might, though, it never was.

Throughout my life, I’ve always held a love for English deep in my heart. During much of my childhood, I didn’t find friends in the children at school. My best friends were my parents and the friends I found in the pages of my favorite books. I visited these friends every day during recess, and every night before I went to sleep. No matter what was going on in my life, these friends could always cheer me up.

During my first year at RU, I took a few English classes for fun. Out of all the classes I’ve taken, these were easily my favorite. I never found it hard to pay attention, and I actually wanted to write my papers. A flame that I had momentarily forgotten existed grew and grew. I felt happy again. Life made sense. This is where I was meant to be, and what I was meant to study.

Never be afraid of change- its inevitable. Sometimes you need to try new things in order to know for sure where you are supposed to be in life. Remember- you’re in college to decide what you’re going to do in YOUR future, not anyone else’s. It may seem selfish, but often you must hold your happiness above the happiness of others or you’ll end up miserable.

Are you smarter than a study-abroad student?

I’ve always worried about new grades and schools. I remember being concerned that third grade would have too much “real” work to do, the SOL tests would be impossibly hard and middle school would be a three-year exercise in getting lost and failing algebra. I was nervous about applying for both of my Governor’s School programs and nervous that I wouldn’t get in. Once I did get in, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to distinguish myself. Continue reading Are you smarter than a study-abroad student?

Literally wrong

Just as genes and viruses change, so do words and word meanings. There are some words that will always stay the same, such as “you” or “I.”  According to Roger Highfield, director of external affairs at the Science Museum Group in London, “these words along with “give,” “water,” and “hand” are likely to persist, [but] there is a 50 percent chance that the word for ‘dirty’ will be different by the year 2750.Continue reading Literally wrong