Sunday, December 20, 2009

Young Writers...ROCK ON!!

I'm not trying to call anyone out. I'm really not. But I recently stumbled across a blog with a post written about college students and why they shouldn't try so hard to get published while in college--because they'll miss too much of the "college" experience. I've read a few similar posts in the past few months. And I disagree.

Yes, college was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Dance team. Sorority. Bartending at one of the BEST bars (at the time) downtown. I wouldn't trade it in for anything! But my absolute biggest regret was that I DIDN'T focus enough on writing. I pushed it to the backburner. And you know what happened? It stayed there.

After college I got a job in marketing. And then in Government consulting. And then in teaching (math, of all things). And my dreams of publication were just pushed farther and farther away. It took me five years--FIVE--to realize that I wouldn't be satisfied at any other job because to write was my calling.

I wasted those five years, nine actually, if you count the four while in school. If I'd focused on writing during that time, maybe I'd already have a few books in the stores. I so wish that was the case.

So if you're in college and you're driven to write--DO IT. If you miss a Friday night party because you're completely ensconced in the novel you're writing? So what? There are parties every Friday night in college. (Or, if your university is anything like mine - there are parties every night in college... even Tuesdays!) Find a balance, and don't miss out on everything of course, but if you know what you want, you're already a HUGE step ahead of many other students. And I'm jealous of you, believe me. Not in a "completely green I secretly hope you fail" kind of way, but in an "I'm happy for you and wish I could go back and do what you're doing" kind of way.

The only caveat I'll add is to make sure you do get out and live beyond your computer (or notebooks) at least sometimes. The richer your life experiences, the better writer you'll be! But don't hold off on that publication dream just because other writers/people tell you not to take it so seriously while you're young.

So, to all of you young(er than me) writers out there - rock on, my friends! And make sure you keep us all updated with your fabulous success!

♥ me


  1. I like the new blog layout! Very pretty :)

    I think you've made a good point - if your heart is calling you to write, just do it!

  2. I'm with you on this. Of course, a part of me is Grinch green with envy. I wish I'd felt confident enough to write a novel in college (I was even a creative writing major), but everything else got in the way...so many excuses. But I don't think you're ever too young to write (or to publish!). If your heart leads you there, then so be it. If some fifteen year old puts out a book before me, well, that's the way it goes--and it doesn't mean they've necessarily lost out on some essential aspect of growing up. Passion is passion, no matter the age. I would never presume to tell someone to abandon their passion to live someone else's idea of what they should be doing at any given age. Great post, Sara. I'm glad you put it out there.

  3. Youth should never be a reason not to pursue a dream of any kind, especially if the reason given is that you'll have time for it later. Maybe you won't. No one knows what your life will bring even tomorrow, the proverbial bus running you over could happen any time, so don't wait for tomorrow what you can be doing today. In college, I was always too busy to have the "college experience", for a brief period I worked 3 jobs plus carrying a full class schedule and managed to be nominated for the woman of the year award by my history teacher of all people (didn't win, but didn't care). So I have a difficult time in identifying with the whole "college experience" thing. I'm sure it would be wonderful, but at the back of my head I think I might feel a little guilty for slacking. I did write both in college and during the times when I had to take time off to work full time so I could take more classes. I also managed to get an agent during that time, which is an experience that I wouldn't trade for a million "college experiences". Sara, you are so right, if you want something, regardless of your age, pursue it for all you are worth.

  4. First off, I adore your new layout. It is absolutely gorgeous!

    And I love this post. You're right about everything you said. I have come across that kind of blog entry, too, and I find them a little discouraging. I understand where the authors are coming from in that it would be bad to miss out on life experiences, but I've missed out on dreams before because I concentrated on what other people told me to, and I will forever regret that. I know that I'd regret not trying my absolute HARDEST to be published when I know that it's what I want. They say to wait until after college, but life won't get any less busy, and there will always be a sacrifice if you have a passion.

    Anyway, it's so nice that you're encouraging, and that you wrote this. I will be directing all young writers to this post if they ever feel like they can't do the balance or feel discouraged from outside (or even internal) forces.

    <3 you!

  5. Oh, the new layout is gorgeous!

    This post is full of wisdom. I wish someone had told me the same thing when I was in college. Instead, I majored in something practical and spent eight years in a career that I wasn't passionate about. Overall, I have wasted 10+ years not writing. Yeah, I wish I could do it over again. But at least I'm on the right path now and I've met some great friends since I've started blogging. Awesome post, Sara:)

  6. I love the new layout.

    That said, I agree with you. I'd also argue that when, how and why someone chooses to write is no one else's concern. I mean, yeah, I certainly wish I'd written more in college, but I had.... negligible drive.

  7. I love the new look, too!

    And it sounds like you and I went to similar universities... ha...

    I think people should write whenever they want to, regardless of where they may be in life. And if that means missing a few parties, then so be it, like you said. There will always be a "reason" to put off writing for a while, until things "calm down"... but the thing is, there will never be a time in life when you have ABSOLUTELY NOTHING ELSE to do except write. That's part of the process: You have to live your life in order to have something to write about.

  8. So I'm pretty sure that my post is the one that you're referring to, and I wanted to clear something up: it is one thing to be a writer in college, but it is a completely different beast to be a published or soon-to-be-published author. What I was trying to say in that post wasn't that college students shouldn't focus on writing or shouldn't stay in on the weekends, it was that they should really weigh and consider the disadvantages that come with being published while still in school. Writing because you love it and writing because you want to improve your craft so that one day you will be published is COMPLETELY different from actually being published. The closest thing I can relate it to is having a full time job in addition to school, or taking two extra courses on top of your already full course load. It's not just staying in a weekend here and there, it often means staying in EVERY day of EVERY weekend, eating quick meals by yourself, not being able to participate in a lot of sorority events because you have deadlines, etc. Writing itself is an isolating occupation--and when you're contractually obliged to meet deadlines and see revisions through, it's incredibly stressful and often disheartening and your school work and personal life can suffer.

    That's obviously a very negative spin on being published as a college student, but that was my truth, and for many of my friends who were agented or had sold a project, it was also their truth. That's why, in my post, I said to focus on your WRITING and enjoy it just because you love it. College is such an interesting and great time to hone your craft because you have free time and you're inundated with new ideas and experiences. But being published inevitably changes the way you feel about writing because it shifts from being something you do for love to something that you do to try to support yourself/a job.

    I try to be very realistic about the finances of it, because despite the huge advances you see floating around on PM, many college students who are published (myself included) cannot graduate and support themselves simply off of their writing just because they managed to sell something before graduation day.

    Sorry to hijack your post! Everyone is definitely entitled to their own opinion on this, but the reason I wrote that post to give college students and high schoolers a very honest idea of how much work actually goes into seeing a manuscript through to publication while still in school.

    xx Alex

  9. Here's my take: If you're driven to write, write. Do it whether you're in school or out, write to your heart's content. Make time to write. The thing I DON'T think college students need to kill themselves over is getting PUBLISHED. I think you have to find a balance. Do what makes you happy, but also don't think that if you DON'T get published while in school, you're past your prime.

    And to be honest, there's not this hard line where you either attack writing for publication in college or find yourself putting your dreams aside for years only to come back later brimming with regret. Not everyone *means* to write young, only to be sidetracked.

    I FULLY encourage writers to write at ANY age. And if they want to shoot for publication at any age, I'm fine with that too. But it IS a very difficult thing to balance with school.
    I'm 22. I wrote in college. I signed with my agent in college. I was on submission during my senior thesis. It was a major stress factor in my life. My book sold a couple months after I graduated. Even still, I know that I was extremely caught up in the publication process DURING school. We all make sacrifices for our passions. That's part of life. But it's important to find balance. To know that if you sell a book when you're 25 as compared to 20 that's fine too.

    And I agree with Alex that there's this strange delusion aspiring writers have about the money aspect, that they can get into writing early and it will sustain them financially. For the vast vast majority, that's simply not true.

    I have always encouraged writers to write. The truth of it is, for most, it's not a choice. Writers need to write. But I have to encourage young writers to make sure that they're not turning their backs on a really exciting time in their life as well. School goes by in a blur. It's already hard enough to catch hold and hang on.

  10. I'm going X-post what I wrote over on Alex's blog, since this is a very interesting discussion.

    Jumping into this discussion here, since I'm a senior at The Evergreen State College with a 2-book deal with Flux... I wouldn't discourage OR encourage a college student to aim for publiciation. Rather, I would encourage anyone, of any age, to aim for publication if they're truly serious about making the plunge, with the warning that it's definitely a lot of work--often, a full-time job--that doesn't pay much at first.

    As for publishing in college... that happened to me by accident. I was aiming for publication BEFORE college, but you know how slow the publishing world can be... I will say that revisions and drafting ate up nearly all my breaks and spare time, but I still managed to schedule fun with friends, time with roommate and boyfriend, and work--I've been employed, mostly as a computer science TA, for nearly every quarter since I started college.

    What saved my butt: Scheduling obsessively. Time management. Sacrifices. But I wouldn't trade any of it for anything. True, I'm less social than some, being nerdy and content to play video games with friends at home rather than going out to a party. And I've definitely limited how many extracurricular activities I do. Moral of this story: you can only do so much if life, in college or not, so you have to decide what you think is important. This is really hard, as Alex pointed out, when you want it all. :)

  11. Wow! I think my comment notification turned off with the new layout!! Thanks everyone so much for the fantastic and thoughtful comments! I'm reeling :-)

    Alex - hijack away :) I have read your post, but this was actually more in response to something someone said on twitter... I just didn't want to make it super obvious! (Though I might just have blown it with this comment, sigh.) Your post (and comment) certainly give an insight to young writers that I can not offer--as you're in the exact position that so many of them aspire to. I'm on the opposite end of the spectrum because I'll always wonder what I missed out on for NOT pushing myself harder to get published during those years.

    I wonder if, perhaps, there will be regrets either way a person goes. Damned if you do (based on your experience) and damned if you don't (based on my experience). But I think it could also be win/win for the inverse of those very reasons...

  12. Karen congratulations on the 2-book deal :) That's awesome! And I absolutely agree with you about time management. I think that no matter what life stage a writer may be in - time managment is KEY.

  13. Love this post! I'm in college and a writer, and I think writers (at any age) should write because they love it. Work at it because you love it.

    And, um, I have lots of other thoughts. Coincidentally, I have a final tomorrow morning that I need to finish studying for so I won't share them *all*, but I love the discussion in the comments. Thank you for starting it, Sara! :D

  14. I say "meh" on this.
    I wrote a ton in college...it all sucked.
    Why is my writing better now? Because I've lived. I knew next to nothing about relationships, about different kinds of people, about everything.
    Those years should be devoted to living. Don't skip parties for writing. Learn about other people, how they think, how they deal with conflict. If you do write, then don't expect miracles.

    Then again if you're going to college to become a writer, that's a different story. But only slightly. Go out and live, then write about it. Love, win, lose, and grieve. All good stuff.

    So I guess I agree with the post you read originally.

  15. Iapetuss999 - I definitely understand why you think that way. Without life experience, nobody, no matter how creative they are, would write to their full potential. How can you develop characters if you haven't met people of the world? (I could go on with examples.)

    But I still believe that if you're driven to write while you're in college, or even younger, that you should. If you skip a party or more than one? There will be plenty of others :-)

    But I will meet you half way and say that no matter what, writers (of all ages) need balance. Nobody should JUST write. Because there's so much more to life :-)

  16. I think writing is a balance at any age. I have a job, two kids, dog, husband and so on and I somehow need to balance all that out with writing. It's not that different from a college student needing to balance it with schoolwork. Wherever you are in life, there's a balance and you learn to find it in your life if writing is your dream. Whenever you want something badly enough you find the time to do it, be it running a marathon or writing a book.

  17. Hey! Thanks for visiting my blog. I read your kissing scene and then saw this one and had to stop by and comment on it as well!! I'm a college aged writer and I can't imagine not writing. I think being in college and writing is very similar to doing anything else and writing, you just have to prioritize sometimes. :) Great post! I'm definitely becoming a follower now :D

  18. On the other side of this...you might feel less like writing when you're in college. I put fiction and creative work nearly on complete hold because I was writing so much other stuff. Academic papers, essays, papers in French, a ginormous research project...and when I picked fiction up again after graduating, it was better than when I left it because of all the seemingly unrelated experience I gained writing for all those classes. I guess that's just there to tell anyone who's feeling like a writer-failure during school that it will still be there when the last final is completed :) Great post and really insightful comments!


Yay! I love when you have things to add :)