The nitty gritty truth about being a writer

“Oh, you’re an English major. So do you want to be a teacher or something?”

This is the question I always receive when I reveal I actively choose to bury my face in novels and literary criticism all day. The answer is no, I don’t want to be surrounded by sticky fingers and pep rallies for the rest of my life.

Instead my response is, “I want to be a writer.”

This is a very allusive answer because we, as human beings, are all writers. We are constantly writing the subject lines in our emails, texting “I love you” to those we care for and tweeting underhanded jabs at snarky politicians.

I think writing is an important skill to acquire. It doesn’t just sit in a garage like those vintage automobiles people only drive on Sundays. It gets taken out for a spin daily, rain or shine.

And arguably, the best thing about being a writer is you’re able to express your own ideas in a creative manner. I could talk about how I believe banana peppers are going to be the new avocados in 2020, or how babies are actually born with this secret baby language where “gagaga” actually means the square root of pi.

In the eyes of its readers, writing can be right, wrong, weird, crazy, absurd, questionable, thought-provoking or all of the above. It’s all very subjective, and that’s where things get dicey.

Personally, I enjoy editorial freedom — the ability to say things I want when I want with the semi-important licensed authority of an almost-baccalaureate student. This is why I enjoy writing for the Indiana Daily Student opinion section.

I have my own voice. Maybe I talk a little bit too much about silly things like the Kardashian-Jenners or weekly doses of millennial technology, but those are the things that interest me. And if they interest you then, hey, let’s throw ourselves a parade because we match and it wasn’t on Tinder.

Although being a writer comes with a few triumphs, it also has its many flounders. While the stereotype of the parched alcoholic writing poetic prose through the early hours of dawn isn’t exactly true, I find all writers become slightly manic due to copious amounts of lukewarm coffee and whatever snack has become a vice over the years. For me, it’s Cheez-Its.

The key to being your best authorial self is to edit, edit, edit. Many times I have lacked this tenacity and have sent in my work unedited, where “public affairs” takes an inappropriate “pubic” turn. Don’t be that guy.

Another thing I’ve learned through writing at the IDS is the editors are not going to be as nice as your mother. They won’t make your eggs just the way you like them or drive you to school as your own personal chauffeur.

Instead, they will coerce you into using fewer commas, more sources and language with less frivolity.

Criticism is good for your bones. It’s like whole milk but for grown-ups — don’t drink it because you have to, drink it because it will make you better.

Lastly, if something gets edited in a way you don’t enjoy, then deal with it. Deadlines are more sensitive than sunburned skin after spring break. Next time, apply some sunscreen and read over your work five more times. It makes a world of a difference.

This article was originally published as a column for the Indiana Daily Student on 24 March 2016.


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