Alice Foster’s Answer
Hello, Paola. So glad that you are considering this question early on! It takes a while to find your voice as a writer and to compile a strong body of work, so you are a step ahead in considering how best to do that as you enter college.
I agree with the previous advice to identify what type of writing you would like to do. That will help you determine whether your major should be journalism, communications, creative writing, etc. Many great writers would also echo the advice about reading. Every great writer I know also reads voraciously. Reading the work of others not only helps you identify the markers of engaging writing, it helps you build your own vocabulary and general command of language.
Beyond that, I say: Write! You also need to allow others to read what you write. I know that that sounds basic, but because writing is a very personal process, many novice writers can be very protective of their work. If you are going to make a living as a writer, you have to be willing to put what you do “out there” and be open to feedback on it. Authors have editors, screenwriters must accommodate script change requests, TV writers work as teams…and your writing classes in college will include group critiques. When I worked as a copywriter, every pitch included multiple ideas, so hearing what did not work was as much of the process of developing the project as accepting praise on what did.
You have to develop a bit of a thick skin about what you produce and be willing to accept criticism. To what extent you allow it to actually change your work is something you will work out over time. When I managed editorial for my college and was contributing stories, my proofreader—also a fabulous writer on the side, by the way—often pointed out where she would make phrasing changes (as well as just catching errors), and I knew when the suggestions were spot on and when they were simply style preferences.
Even if you decide at some point to make writing a part of your career but not the main focus of it, strong writers are in demand in every field. Best of luck to you in developing your skill and your style. Have fun with it!
Alice Foster recommends the following next steps:
- Find ways to make your writing available to others: Start a blog, join the staff of your college newspaper or magazine, or post fan lit. Read the comments but don’t take them personally. Some will be helpful and some will just be negative people who do not have as much talent as you do.
- Set aside writing samples of which you are particularly proud. You will need to provide samples when you start looking for internships or a job, and sorting through everything you have written at that point could be overwhelming. Building your portfolio as you go ensures that you are presenting work that represents you well.