I Have A Degree In Creative Writing, So… What’s Next?

Spring  semester of 2013 I completed my degree in English – Creative Writing at Utah State University.  Initially, I felt thrilled– I essentially had a piece of paper that implied that I could write with a fair degree of proficiency.  Even though I had been given words of warning by every writing professor I had come in contact with, I felt like I was a writer.  I had done it.

But I really hadn’t. 71019119

Reality has a way of punching people.  My degree made me a writer in much the same way a degree in French makes somebody a Frenchman– it doesn’t.  At all.  What my degree meant was I had received a few years of training on the craft, but other than some optional letters– B.S.– to add behind my name, I only warranted a BS (not bachelor of science) sense of achievement.  I wasn’t a writer.  Not really.  Unfortunately, I’m still not.

Yet.

So, what’s the difference between being a writer and a guy that writes?

I’m not going to restrict the use of the term “writer” by any measure of success in the field.  Success means that the wonderful word “professional” can be added before it, but I feel like I can become a writer long before any story or book is published, long before I garner a large blog audience.  To me, being a writer is about decisions and habits– ones that I am trying to teach myself to make and follow.

Simply, a writer writes.  Regularly, persistently.

Life makes it really easy for me to be a guy that writes instead of the alternative that I desire.  I’m married.  I have a job that I have to commute to.  I have friends.  I have an extensive backlog of video games, a Netflix account, a music library.  And these aren’t bad things in any way.  In fact, these are all wonderful– they make my life interesting and fun and worth living.  These things also can help with my writing.  A full, interesting, varied life informs and inspires art in the same way art informs and inspires life.

So, I need to find ways to make writing fit in with all these other things.  I have to make some sacrifices, but I think writing is well worth it.  I’ve started to find ways to adapt my life into one that involves writing more heavily, and I’ve actually been pleasantly surprised by how easy it can be when I don’t let myself to forget how much I love it.  I’ve found ways to remind myself of this simply by thinking about my writing– especially my novel-in-progress– all the time.  It sounds like this goes without saying, but it’s really so much easier to sit down and write when I’ve spent the day coming up with good ideas.  I feel like I’ve had the issue of sitting down and expecting myself to just create, on demand, without much forethought.  Moving away from this, letting myself really stew with fresh ideas for my stories, is really making a world of difference.  I sit down feeling elated to have the chance to write, and it makes the experience magical every time.

The end goal is to write every day, or at very least 4-5 days a week.  With my current schedule, it is admittedly tricky to sit down and crank out material with as much regularity as I’d like.  So, I’ve looked at how my time is divided and spotted sections that I can do something pro-writing with.  For example, I know that I really benefit as a writer when I’m receiving instruction, so I’ve found a way to be instructed– by listening to a writing podcast while commuting.  I actually recommend it to anybody interested in writing– it’s Writing Excuses, and is done by some Utah writers– Howard Tayler (whose webcomic I have not read), Dan Wells (whose first published book, I Am Not A Serial Killer, I have read and enjoyed quite well), Mary Robinette Kowal (whose contributions to the podcast I haven’t yet reached), and Brandon Sanderson (whose writing I am thankful for).  Their discussion of the craft has already helped me a great deal– as I listen I think about specific elements of my book and have accordingly uncovered very critical plot and character details that are really adding a great deal of shape and thematic power to the story.  I can say definitely that listening to Writing Excuses is improving my writing.

I’ve also been carrying around a little pocket notebook with me.  I’ve actually been doing this for a while, originally for the intent of scribbling down ideas when they strike me, but in the past couple of weeks I’ve been trying to do more with it– specifically, to make it useful in terms of prewriting.  When I have a free second at work or the like I’ve been pulling it out and fleshing out plot points, themes, character sketches, et cetera.  I’ve found that by doing so I’ve also been adding more to the fresh ideas aspect of the notebook as well.

I’m also seeking to find employment closer to where I live.  Simply, the less time I spend driving the more time I can potentially spend writing.  I may only end up with a job that pays okay and has only okay hours, but if it works with my writing then I’m going to be content– I’m learning to think more in terms of jobs that are working towards the goal of professional writing and those that do not.  Unfortunately, outside of podcast time and the ability to listen to audiobooks while performing my job tasks (because reading is critical to good writing) it isn’t a job good for my endgame.  So, I’ve also been looking into jobs that build writing skills, but that’s been a bust so far.

So, the habits and self-improvements to become a writer are in the works.  Any other tips for transitioning into becoming a writer?

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Reblogged this on aryalaputa and commented:
    Focus is the key to success. I like this blog.


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