Writing In College | Some Projects I’m Working On During The 2016-2017 School Year

Writing is a difficult, though not impossible, hobby to maintain while in college. At least, that’s what I keep telling myself. Day in and day out. I think more than anything it requires stubbornness: A determination to keep going, an obstinate refusal to give up. And I have plenty of stubbornness which sometimes, admittedly, gets me into trouble… but other times it comes in handy! Like now!

I am determined to write FUN STUFF (e.g. not papers or short answers on quizzes!) throughout my college years. Over the past year or so I’ve encountered quite  a few people who seem flabbergasted that after spending so much time reading and writing for school – I’m double-majoring in English & Creative Writing and Journalism, just to give you an idea of the sheer volume of words words WORDS I deal with every day – my idea of unwinding is to spend yet more time reading and writing.

My most recent conversation along those lines was just a few days ago and it got me thinking again about how busy and tired I am all the time, but I keep stubbornly trying to squeeze in as much writing as I possibly can in my free time.

With that in mind, here are some of the writerly things that I do in college. (I mean, besides, blogging. You already know about that.) This post was originally envisioned as a list of my top ten writing goals for the 2016-2017 school year, but I don’t think that format makes much sense anymore: Since I’m publishing this post several months into the school year most of these goals are already in progress, which means making a top ten list would be cheating! So as much as I love lists (YOU KNOW I DO), this post won’t be one.

First things first: I’m so proud of myself for attending Iowa Writers’ House meetings on a regular basis! The IWH is one of the reasons I love living in Iowa City a nonprofit organization that hosts write-ins, literary walking tours, genre-based writing groups, special workshops on writing and literature, and more.

I belong to three writing groups there: The Violet Realm (fantasy & science fiction), the Great Green Room (for writers and illustrators of children’s books & middle grade & YA), and the Rainbow Room (LGBTQ+ fiction). Each of these groups meets once a month on Tuesdays evenings – with the exception of the Violet Realm, which meets twice a month.

This helps me to not only carve out some time to write in my busy, busy schedule, but make new writer friends as well. Up until this fall I mostly did my own thing, writing-wise, so I really appreciate having such a strong network of IRL support.

Also, I might start working for the IWH soon! They had some organizational changes lately that led to desperately needing people to lead the Great Green Room and the Rainbow Room, so I may end up co-leading one or both of those groups. (It’ll look great on my resume, too!)

Wow, 553 words into the post and I’ve only scratched the surface of this year’s writing pursuits. Hmmm. OK. Next up is NaNoWriMo, which has been on my mind almost constantly these past few weeks. (You can check out my posts about the planning I’ve done for my 2016 novel here and here, if you’re interested!)

As I’ve assured my mom multiple times via text message and phone calls, I will not hesitate to drop out of NaNo at the first sign of being overwhelmed. I need good grades, sleep, a reasonably low amount of stress, et cetera… but if at all possible I want to attempt NaNo again, since I didn’t do it last year. Between the IWH’s write-ins and the ones hosted by the Iowa City NaNoWriMo group, I should have more than enough time and support.

Yet another project involves reading books about writing! I haven’t been able to do this as often as I would like, but I will continue to try. The Haunted Bookshop (AKA my FAVORITE place in Iowa City) has quite a few shelves devoted to all sorts of different writing guides so I found a bunch to check out, including:

  • On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
  • Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott
  • Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg
  • The Half-Known World: On Writing Fiction by Robert Boswell
  • Writing Magic: Creating Stories that Fly by Gail Carson Levine
  • Spilling Ink: A Young Writer’s Handbook by Ellen Potter and Anne Mazer
  • Use Your Words: A Myth-Busting, No-Fear Approach to Writing by Catherine Deveny

Lately I read No Plot? No Problem!: A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days by Chris Baty, as well as Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke. I read the first to help me prepare for THE BEST, MORE SUCCESSFUL NANO EVER (I hope) and the second one because my Travel Writing professor read some beautiful excerpts from it on our last day of class.

While I’m on the subject of writing guides, I should add that another project of mine involves doing the activities and/or prompts suggested in each book. This is very much still a goal and not a reality because I haven’t had time to do it yet, but I thought it would be a fun, constructive, methodical way to grow my writing skills. Also, since I have soooo many empty notebooks I’m going to use one of them for this project!

Yet more projects involve writing for various publications. I’m writing for Her Campus at Iowa again this semester! I missed the first few pitch deadlines, but thankfully they were very understanding of how overwhelming school can be. So I have two articles due in a couple of weeks. Now that midterms are over and I’ve got my life more under control I hope to keep up that same pace.

I would also like to write for the national Her Campus website, so I’ll have to see what the applications involve.

I want to write for The Daily Iowan, my school’s newspaper. (Bragging time: It’s the largest student newspaper in the country and is apparently considered one of the best?! HAVE I MENTIONED YET THAT I LOVE THE SCHOOL OF JOURNALISM HERE.) I’m not going to say anything more about this project for REASONS, but just know that I AM WORKING ON IT. I applied for it last summer and didn’t get the position, but I’ve since realized that that was actually a good thing because my two ongoing journalism classes constantly remind me how much I still need to learn.

I’d also like to begin submitting some of my work to online publications. If you want to know more, you can read about it in my post about goals for the 2016-17 school year!

Finally, I’m going to think about GRAD SCHOOL. Several of my professors have recommended that I wait five or ten or even fifteen years before applying in order to give my writing skills time to develop, but I want to do a little research starting now. My dream is to earn an MFA in Creative Writing from the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. The oldest and most prestigious creative writing program in the country, it’s located right next door to my dorm, which is very motivating… and also more than a little anxiety-inducing. GAH.

This is a lot to handle, but you should know that I’m not doing it all at once. That would be foolish and I would quickly burn out. Some days, weeks, and months are more productive than others. Some projects fall to the wayside so that I have more time to work on others. I just keep going, making sure that I write for purposes other than homework so that I maintain this passion for writing.

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2 Responses to Writing In College | Some Projects I’m Working On During The 2016-2017 School Year

  1. I love a good list of goals, and you have such a great one! Writing is one of my favorite things ever and I admire you for following your passion so completely!

  2. Miriam Joy says:

    I’m not big on writing guides because I have quite a solid idea of how I work / think, and tend to either agree or disagree with them. (“On Writing” for example, had some things I found really helpful, but others I could tell just wouldn’t work for me at all.) There’s one that I really liked despite it not quite suiting my process, though, which is “Monkeys With Typewriters” by Scarlett Thomas. It’s very much a ‘show don’t tell’ book — she doesn’t just list advice, but actually gives examples. I found it interesting, even though her planning methods etc did nothing for me. So if you come across it, it might be worth checking out. 🙂

    Good luck with all your goals! I struggle to keep up with writing during the year at uni, even though there are tons of opportunities in Cambridge 😦 I’ve written a little bit for one of the student papers, but other than that I’m not really involved in any uni writing stuff. But I’m hoping to do NaNoWriMo this year, to write ‘happy gay magical novel’. It needs a real title, though. And a plot. That would be helpful.

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