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Advice to a Young Writer
You've changed your major to English....now what?
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I was recently asked by a young woman in college for some advice on writing. She recently changed her major to English and wanted to know how to get started and what direction to take. Here’s what I said:
I'm really excited to hear you've changed your major to English. I could tell from our conversation [a year ago] that you loved writing and wanted something that would let you do that. The itch to read and write is really the first sign, and if it's real it will never go away. I'm glad you're feeding this feeling!
In my view, the best way to become a writer is to become a voracious reader. Being an English major will be helpful here. Read widely, read for enjoyment, and read curiously. Some writers think that the most important thing in becoming a writer is to work really hard to develop your own "voice." Want to know a secret? Your voice will come to you as you immerse yourself in the writing of the people you love to read. Don't worry too much about "being" a writer. Stoke the love of words through reading, and the writing will eventually just pour out of you naturally.
One thing you could do: get a free Wordpress blog and start blogging about books that you're reading. This might help you discover what kinds of themes/topics you really care about, and that can make you an even better reader and writer.
In terms of career advice, I'm afraid I don't have much. My encouragement is this: Think of reading/writing not as a key to a particular career but as a lifelong habit that will, in some small way, give you joy and comfort for your whole life. Being an attentive reader is a skill that will follow you wherever you go, and being a thoughtful writer will be, if nothing else, a healing and encouraging practice that lets you meditate on the Lord, his promises, and your life a little bit better.
I will tell you this: The biggest mistake I made in college was in choosing to protect my "me time" instead of investing more in friendships. I wish I could have that one back. This season of your life is a very special one, one that's impossible to revisit later, and you've got a lot of people around you who could become lifelong sources of support, help, and encouragement. Invest in them, and you'll be glad you did in every way.
I would love to send you a book by Alan Jacobs called The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction. It's meant a lot to me and I think it might resonate with you. Let me know where I can send you a copy.