Who’s A Writer Anyway?

A Career Where Everything is Made Up and the Degree Doesn’t Matter

By Olivia Behan

Photo credit: Olivia Behan

So, you want to become a writer? Have you considered other alternatives, like… possibly anything else but? If you still want to be a writer, here’s what you need to know—and seeing as though I am a writer myself I can assure you that everything I say is the absolute truth.
Let’s break it down:

  1. Start off by going to college for creative writing. It’s better to start out young because that way you’ll have rejection imbedded in you early on. Later though, it will still sting but, you’ll be used to it.
  2. Next, to make sure you will be completely unemployable, try minoring in something like art history or anthropology. Those students are a hoot.
  3. When it’s time to buckle down and socialize with people on campus, it’s best to remember to stay within your group. Meaning, only make friends with other writers. Struggle together. Drink excessive coffee together. Take smoke breaks together. Write together. Struggle together. I meant to write that twice. Struggle together… Struggle. These guys will be your best friends in college, and hopefully these guys will help open doors for you later on. Probably not. Be hopeful.
    1. And when you’re forced outside your realm of comfort, the theater kids are always an easy alternative to turn to. They may start reciting Hamlet Act 3 Scene 2 Page 5 to you but it’s best to just snap fingers for them afterwards and tell them you really felt the emotion this time. Really.
    2. Or there is plan C. Don’t make friends. Stay inside and write. Write about sad things.
  4. Wear lots of dark colors. Maybe some oversized plaid shirts from your dad’s closet or some oversized sweaters that you claim you got from a thrift shop. Wear glasses. It doesn’t matter if you have a prescription or not. It looks cool. The uglier the better. If long hair is your thing, throw that mess up into a bun! It’s super trendy and apparently it makes you look like you weren’t trying to be.
  5. Do really well in your classes. This isn’t optional. Actually, it totally is because no one became a famous writer based off of how well they did in school. With that being said, drop out of college! Who needs to start out life in debt? Actually… being a writer will prepare you for that life anyway. Never mind. Stay in school. It’s important… for some reason.
  6. Don’t get intimidated by other writers. If there is ever a written piece you don’t understand, just talk about how strong the imagery is and hope for the best. When all else fails, talk about imagery. And if you ever find yourself struggling with writing a piece (which you will; don’t shy away from this concept), just throw in a whole bunch of abstract descriptions and turn the tables on those writers.
  7. When it doubt, use the phrase, “It’s a metaphor,” in a very knowing way and watch someone’s self-esteem drop instantly. Watch their life crumble. Watch them cry. Eat their tears for breakfast. Drink chai tea with your breakfast. It’s a very writer thing to do.
  8. Use whatever you feel comfortable with as your tool, regardless if that is a computer or note pad and pen. But whatever it may be, always make sure you have access to this tool at all times. If a story idea or plot line comes to mind, write that baby down. Don’t play that game with yourself of “remembering it later on” because we all know you won’t remember it later on. You never will.
  9. Drink wine. It’s classy. Have your fake IDs prepared. Or wait until you’re twenty-one… Yeah, you should wait until you’re twenty-one.
  10. If you’re dating, don’t let your partner know you are collecting those minuscule descriptions about their daily lives. It’s off-putting. Don’t let them know their embarrassing childhood story made it into the character development history of your main character. Don’t let them know you used their car as inspiration for a death scene in your story. And definitely don’t let them know they weren’t the inspiration when it came to writing one of many steamy scenes, as well all know celebrity crushes are the real inspiration for those. If they ask, simply say, “It just came to me.”
  11. While adjusting to your life in college, it’s important to remember to not get too over-whelmed. Managing your time isn’t easy but it’s always nice to do things for the greater good. Expand your horizons, make efforts to really feel your way through those four to six years.
    1. Throw out big words into conversations (and prepare to get those question mark faces because they don’t understand the Allen Ginsberg references).
    2. Endlessly edit people’s essay drafts because there aren’t people on campus who get paid to do that.
    3. Do freelance articles even though you still will not get paid.
    4. Write a poem about that quirky guy in line at Starbucks and share it on your personal blog. Situate your desk in front of the window as you write this poem because casually looking out windows sparks the juices of the brain. Imagine a movie soundtrack playing in the background; even better.
    5. Mentally make shopping lists of all the things you need and want as you trash your dozens of rejection letters from literary agents. And mentally prepare yourself when the time comes to fawn over your fans—er, readers—when you’ve made it into your college’s newspaper. But tone it down a bit when the time comes. Don’t become that guy.
  12. You will experience different professors in your time at college. They will say things like, “Write from experience,” and, “Why is this character important?” and, “This seems a bit cliché,” and, “Is there enough imagery here?” and, “What is really at stake here?” and it is your job to answer all of it. Yes. Answer all of it, even though it may not make sense or you feel that this character is important because it’s simply written out on page seven but the professor is ignoring your subtle metaphors. Just doing what they say is half of your time spent at college, but the other half will be appreciating what they are teaching you. Because maybe you didn’t know what was a stake. Let them ask you. Let them into your writing.
  13. At sophisticated parties, the ones you’re not sure how you got invited to, make sure to talk about “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T.S. Eliot; this will make you seem intelligent. At college parties, if someone says, “Oh you write; what do you write about?” suggest that you are not limited to just one genre. This makes you seem aloof, go-with-the-flow, mysterious, and sexy. Keep the writer stigma alive! No one wants to hear about your breakups or tree similes.
  14. Realize that sometimes, the vaguer your work seems to be (abstract and all that darn good imagery) the further away from it you are personally. Some of the best writing is raw, relatable, and simple.
  15. Don’t be afraid to change your major. If you have come this far with writing, it doesn’t seem likely that you aren’t in it for the long run. Law school might sound nice, but don’t go to law school. But quit college if you want. Nothing is set in stone. Writing isn’t even set in stone; that’s what editors are for.
  16. So every night dwindles down, just let the last thing to occupy your mind be the $25,000 of debt you’ll be in and have to pay back with a writer’s career. Master’s degree may or may not be included. Ah, bed time stories.

But listen here! The most important thing to remember is this: writing is not just a preference, it’s a culture. You either breathe it or don’t. We writers live nine lives like felines because we write. So write about the moon, purchase a pair of loafers, stick a pencil behind your ear, and know that no one is going to be able to do this better than you can.

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