Category Archives: Advice

Tools of the Trade – Paper vs Screen

This is the first in a three part mini-series where I discuss the different tools of the trade when it comes to writing.

First off: paper vs screen (aka, computer).

As it stands, many people back in the ancient days (really, it was only like 35 years ago when the first home computers came about) didn’t have the technology to write on a computer, and so they could only write by hand on pieces of paper or parchment. These methods were often long and time consuming, and maybe sometimes the person would run out of ink and would have to find more or stop writing.

But what is the difference between writing on a page versus writing on a computer screen? Is there any sort of difference in the sort of emotional attachment to the words, or are they just different modes on communication?

Do you remember the good ol’ days in school when you would pass notes to your friends in secret messages on folded up paper? Nowadays, if a kid is spoiled, they have a phone that they can just text their friends with. But there was a sort of magic to the way paper holds the letters and how it is folded when it is handed across the room.

Aside from that, note taking by hand is a great form of memorization. Writing something down helps us to be able to remember the information later. It is a better way to memorize than by watching (visual) or listening (auditory) because there are certain neurons in your brain that connect writing to memorization.

But is writing on a screen any different? You’re still writing things down and memorizing them, right? Well, sort of.

Writing on a screen is faster and more efficient, and it’s a lot more legible if you have really bad handwriting. You can choose from many different fonts, colors, highlighting, big type, little type, and more. There’s also many different types of writing programs, such as Microsoft Word, Google Docs, Scrivener, among others, that you can use to write whatever you need to down.

Writing by hand takes longer because you need to form each letter, curve after curve, while typing on a computer does that for you.

In reality, though, it is up to personal preference and what you write on is really up to you. But if you want to look at it in black and white: writing on paper takes more time, but is better for memorization, while writing on a computer takes less time and you can get more words written down.

What’s your preferred method of writing? Let me know in the comments below!

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Make Good Art

I wanted to take a moment to write about Neil Gaiman’s “Make Good Art” speech at the University of Arts, Philadelphia in 2012.

I’ve heard this speech before, probably when it first came out, or maybe in a classroom, but I didn’t really get it then. I mean, I understood what he was saying, but I didn’t fully grasp the concept that Gaiman was talking about.

As I listened to the speech again, I realized something: everything he said is true.

As someone who recently graduated with a Bachelor of Science in English Studies, my options for jobs in my field are limited. Many jobs, in many fields, require you to have previous experience before you can get experience, or they require something else of you before you can really start. It’s a tough world right now for certain degree majors, but it’s not impossible.

Gaiman’s speech was one to inspire, for sure, but it hit something within me that rings truest of all: Make. Good. Art.

It doesn’t matter if the work doesn’t get published or never leaves home, it doesn’t matter if you make money or not from what you do, but what does matter is that you make it and that you enjoy it.

Reflecting back on my college career I went through three majors before landing on English: biology, earth science, pre-major (no major), and then English. I was thinking of going into education to have a more solid foundation for which I could lay my work, but I didn’t want to be in school the rest of my life, so I went for the next best thing, something I knew I was really good at: English.

I love to write; I have since I was a child and since I started writing stories as part of classroom assignments or for fun. I once wrote over 100 pages on the computer when I was just eleven or twelve, something that many people may not even fathom to do when they’re twenty or thirty. I was immersed in story and I had such a vivid imagination that it always came naturally to me.

But I still wanted to be a veterinarian. I still wanted to study dinosaurs. Don’t get me wrong, those pursuits are amazing and if I had had the ambition and drive to continue my studies, I would have, but as someone who struggles majorly in math (minus a few select subjects), I couldn’t do it. I was constantly disappointed in myself, and I knew my parents were, too, even if they didn’t want to admit it.

When I started pursuing English Studies with a focus on Professional Writing, and then later adding Art as my minor, I knew that it should have been my first choice going into college. I had found the passion that had been dormant for so long in me spark once again, I found the will and drive to be creative again. When it came to my writing classes (not the ones that focused on literature) I told stories that moved, confused, astounded, and amazed my fellow peers and professors.

I had found where I belonged.

Now, as a graduate, that passion is dwindling yet again. I started writing my first novel, just two sections of it: the end and a middle-to-end section, but two sections nonetheless. I have ideas written down of several other novels and I realized something: I have so many passions, but I am so afraid of what might happen, or not happen, next.

I am worried about helping to support my fiance and I as we come closer to our marriage date and his return to school, I am worried about not being able to find a job in my field that I will enjoy, I am afraid of the future, of what’s to come. I am just afraid.

But listening to Neil Gaiman’s speech sparked something in me that I should have never let go of: just keep writing.

I have put this blog on the back burner because life keeps happening, and I don’t want to do that because I enjoy seeing people actually enjoying my voice and opinions. I have stopped writing because I am afraid and worried that I won’t get anything published eventually or, even more presently, unable to finish a single story. I have put what I love on hold because of “life.”

Well, life can suck it.

I love to write, I love to read, I love to be creative to the point where I am more passionate about it than anything in the world.

So why not just keep making good art?

Blogging vs Vlogging

We all know what blogging is – heck, what is it that I’m doing right here?

But what about vlogging? Have you heard the term before? Essentially it’s blogging but in video form. Some vlogs are really short, just the span of a minute or a few, or really long, over fifteen minutes.

Blogging holds a special place in many people’s hearts because of the fact that it’s been around for so long and they might be bloggers themselves.

Vlogging is relatively new, especially in the last few years since YouTube came into being. Many people vlog about whatever is their heart’s desire, just like blogging. Some vlog about health and fitness, others vlog about books, while others vlog about personal daily lives. It really all depends on the individual.

A great example of a popular vlog community is the vlogbrothers, which the two main “hosts” of the vlog are author John Green and his brother, Hank. They post funny, witty, serious, historical, interesting videos and call their community audience “nerdfighters.” They’re engaging and oftentimes positive, making them successful at vlogging.

Blogging, on the other hand, is more about the written word and how you can grab people’s attention through that. Blogging, like vlogging, can come in many forms from informational, to fun, to personal, and beyond.

I personally have two active blogs, this one and a new one I just started after I began book vlogging called Reader Rayna. I find it to be a great way to get my own personal thoughts and opinions on something that I’m passionate about out there, plus it’s much easier for me to get my words out in writing than verbally.

So, here are some pros and cons to vlogging:

  • Pro: You’re able to be more interactive and silly on camera if you choose to be.
  • Con: Some people might not understand your humor.
  • Pro: You can talk about whatever you please as long as it’s within YouTube’s ToS guidelines.
  • Con: Some people might not appreciate what you have to say, therefore “disliking” your video or saying hurtful/mean things in the comments.
  • Pro: Many people are doing it, so it’s always good to be able to do some research and get ideas for how you want to run your own vlog.
  • Con: Plagiarism can still happen via camera, so you have to make sure you really make your vlogs your own.

And here are some pros and cons about blogging:

  • Pro: You’re able to get your thoughts and opinions out to a large audience, like vlogging.
  • Con: Some people might not be interested because your topic might be too similar to others, or yours might not have the same “spark” as other blogs.
  • Pro: Many people are doing it, so you can always do some research and get ideas for how you want to run your own blog.
  • Con: Plagiarism can happen, so you have to be careful of what you put out there.

The lists can go on and on, but those are some of the major pros and cons for both blogging and vlogging. It really all depends on how you want to reach your audience and how you want to express yourself, whether that be through words, camera, or both. Take the time to consider each and do some research ahead of time to see which would be better suited for you.

Here’s the link to my own vlog: Reader Rayna vlog

 

What about you? Do you have a personal preference as to how you blog/vlog? Which do you prefer and recommend? Let me know in the comments!

Preparing a Blog Post

You’re probably wondering why I’m doing a post on blog posting, but I figured this could be a good guide for beginners and oldies alike as there are many different ways to make blog posts looking their best.

Each post can have its own identifiers and styles, this is just my own personal preference.

When blogging you should think about some very important things: word count, if you want to use headlines, bullet points, color, etc. Each of these entities make a blog post look unique and different and can help make them stand out from the rest.

I often use bullet points in my own posts because…

  • They look sleek.
  • They keep everything organized.
  • It looks pleasing to the eye because it breaks up chunks of paragraphs.

You also have to know when to use bullet points or numbers because if you’re constantly using them in sequence you should have a logical reason for doing so. It may confuse your reader if you include too many bullets or numbers in a single post.

Which brings me to word count. Word count for blog posts is a personal preference that’s entirely up to you, but as a rule of thumb you want to keep blog posts short and to the point because it’s been proven time and again through studies and statistics that the longer the blog post is, the better results you get in search engines, but the attention span of the average reader is about the equivalent of a goldfish. Ouch. But it’s true: the longer the post, the less likely you are to have someone read all the information, but the shorter the post the more likely you are to have missed something.

In reality, though, it’s entirely up to you. Whether you write 200 words or 2,000, word count for a post is entirely up to you as long as you get your point across.

Headlines

Headings are great ways to separate important sections of your  blog post for easy searching for your reader and even for you! If you use headings, make sure you choose a style that’s appropriate for your post and be consistent throughout. If you use different types of headings throughout your post it can confuse the reader into thinking one section is way more important than another.

Using color in your posts is entirely up to you. Some templates that you can choose for your blog give you automatic color swatches to choose from for your posts while others may just give you the traditional black and white, but if you do choose a color, be sure to use ones that people can read that aren’t going to blind them.

Also, don’t make a rainbow out of your words. It’s distracting and annoying, so be sure that when you do use color that it’s deliberate and serves a purpose.

Underlining in blog posts is usually to signify that there’s a link in that area. Sometimes if you do underline a word, though, it might confuse the reader into thinking there’s a link – don’t worry, though, as it won’t be clickable. Keep any type of formatting to either bold or italics so that when you do link something that there is no confusion.

Finally, when you format a post, be sure to keep it either all to the left or all to the right. As a general rule of thumb you want to keep your paragraphs all aligned to the left as that’s how the majority of the world reads (left to right), but if you are using it for a specific purpose, aligning your paragraphs to the right are entirely okay.

When preparing a blog post, there are many things to consider, but it’s always entirely up to you on how you utilize the tools given to you and how efficiently you use them. Be sure to do some research ahead of time if you’re a new blogger – it may help you in the long run!

Seek, Ask, Tell

If you’re considering writing as a career or as an extra side job to your daily grind, you have a few things to consider before you set off into your new adventure:

  1. Who do you want to write for? (This can be viewed in terms of both audience and publishing company.)
  2. What do you want to write about?
  3. How often do you plan on writing?
  4. Are you expecting to make a career out of it and what is the market like out there for writers?

These are just a few questions to consider when you’re about to start writing. Starting a blog, such as this one, is an easy task because it’s free, you can write about whatever you want, and you don’t have to really worry about making money off of it, unless you want to.

So what if you are considering writing as a career option? What should you start to look at when you’re in your beginning planning stages? I’m going to break down each section to help you better understand what to look for, though I do want to put the disclaimer here that I am an amateur and that these are explicitly my opinions based on classes and other research.

Seek

Who do you want to write for? There are many large publishing companies out there, such as Random House, Penguin, Harper Collins, Simon & Schuster, and more. But there are also smaller publishing companies, including magazines, that are just itching to get their hands on new material such as Jersey Devil Press, Orion, as well as local newpapers looking for stories from outside sources. Yes, some of these companies may not be able to compensate you for your work, but you’re still able to get yourself out there and build your portfolio.

So what are you looking to write? Are you currently working on your first novel consisting over over 50,000 words with chapters and a very active plot? Or are you looking at writing a poetic prose piece that barely fits a full page and can easily be posted online? These are a few questions to think about when looking for companies to publish your work to.

Also, don’t forget that many companies don’t take previously published work, so make sure it’s original!

Ask

There are probably many questions that you have about the publishing industry and how to get yourself out there, and you can easily look up many places that will give you advice on how to publish and where to go. Knowing the information ahead of time can help you to look better to a potential client as well as advancing your own know-how of a given situation.

One of the ways to do this is to ask those smaller publishing companies what they are specifically looking for, but not before you look at their submission guidelines page for further information (example from damselfly press). Always check around the publishing company’s website before asking questions because there might be a FAQs page or a submissions guideline page.

You can also ask other writers in forums about how they got their start, who they wrote for, what they wrote about, etc. It’s a great way to connect with other people who have the same passion and potentially learn something along the way, as well.

Tell

This is probably the easiest step of all: tell someone of what you’re doing! You never know if it could lead to someone who knows an editor of a magazine or knows someone who is looking for pieces of writing in your area of expertise. Networking is a great way to get know what’s out there, who’s looking, and grab some potential clients if you’re able to.

You don’t have to tell the whole world, though, and you don’t have to say anything about your idea. Let it be something precious to you and take care of it so you can potentially sell it or get it out there someday.

There are many ways in which you can approach publishing and writing, you just need to know where to start. Look at trends for what’s in now, what kinds of characters and stories people are reading, and what kinds of markets are growing and expanding. You’d be surprised with what you can find, just remember the risks and the potential of being rejected, but don’t let it get you down. Keep trying and you may find that you succeed.

 

Have you published anything outside of WordPress? If so, what were your methods and what/where did you get published? Let me know in the comments!

The Magic of Fantasy

Magic and otherworldly beings have been a part of our folklore and tales for as long as anyone can remember – from the unicorn to wizards to witches to whole new worlds, fantasy is part of our culture.

Creating a whole new world can take a lot of time and research as it has to be believable enough to fit into who your characters are, and it also has to be fantastical enough to draw people in to read about it.

The same goes with fantasy characters. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling is a great example of fantasy characters: though her characters are places in a parallel world to our own, the events in which they live through, plus who they are – witches and wizards – put them into the fantasy realm. They are real life characters in that they go through their own trials and triumphs, they have feelings like any other person, and they deal with any typical thing that teenagers do, too (angst, jealousy, anger, love), but they have the ability to use magic, to talk to snakes, and they see fantastical creatures such as griffons and elves.

When you’re creating a fantasy realm, what should you add? How can you form it to fit your needs, your story, your characters? How can you tell the best story possible without going into extreme details as to every little nook and cranny in this world?

  • Start simple. This goes for any story building, really. You don’t need to make it super intricate and elaborate – tell what you know! If you lived in a suburban area, then make the world like that: close-knit families, but different races/species and cultures.
  • If a mythical being already exists somewhere in the world, then do the research beforehand. Yes, it’s okay to change it up a little bit, like with how Stephenie Meyer made her vampires able to withstand sunlight, or how Sophie Jordan used dragons as her mythical creature of choice, but changed it so that they could transform into humans. Think outside the box, but do the research as well.
  • Draw out your world yourself! Yes, I said draw. Why not doodle what you have in mind on some scrap pieces of paper and try to envision what you world looks like from the ground to the trees to the sky. It may help you to envision where you want characters to go.
  • Know the ins and outs of your world before you start writing. This can help with names, culture, determining climate, plot points, and more. Have a general overview to begin with before fleshing it out as you go.

Of course there are many more tips and tricks to making a fantasy world realistic (or at least believable), but I wanted to give my own two cents on some of the aspects I believe are important to creating a fantasy world.

Many fantasy novels hold places in our hearts, and without them there wouldn’t be as much wonder or magic and excitement in thinking outside the box. So take the time to sit down and really think, “How can I make this world come to life?”

 

Have you written any fantasy stories? What tips and advice can you give to making those worlds come to life? Let me know in the comments!

Writing Classes: Pros and Cons

Last time I discussed literature classes and some of the pros and cons associated with them, so today I want to talk about writing classes and some of the various pros and cons regarding them.

Writing has been a passion of mine for as long as I can remember. I’ve always had a knack for it and I always wanted to do something with writing (hence the blog), but when I took writing classes at my university I started to learn much more about writing and just why I chose it for my concentration.

Writing is a great way to open doors to new worlds, people, places, smells, and it is a great way to relieve stress if you’re having a rough time. Writing classes can be the same way, and to start off, let me state some of the writing classes I took at my university: Fiction Writing, Creative Non-fiction, Journalism, On-line Magazine, Writing for Business and Technology, and Creative Writing. Each of these classes had their own style of how we would write and different “tools” we could implement into our own writing.

Not every college will offer the same classes, and some will have completely different ones, but these are just a few I took during my time at my college.

So, with that being said, let’s start with some cons, shall we?

  1. If you don’t like writing, don’t take the classes. Kind of self explanatory, but it needs to be said. There’s a difference between being good at writing and not liking it, so make sure you know that difference because you can only improve if you’re not good at it.
  2. They’re writing intensive. Shocker, I know, but it’s true. Depending on the professor and the level of the course you will be writing a lot of material, and frankly, it can get confusing if you have multiple writing classes in one semester.
  3. Sometimes you’ll get reviews that “rip” your paper to shreds. Some professors, and even peers, can take that red pen to a page and find every little thing that’s wrong with it – don’t take it too heart, though, as it’s typically a way to help improve your work.
  4. There’s reading involved. Oh no. Reading really boring books on how to write can be torture, yes, but if you don’t read you won’t be able to improve your writing – keep that in mind!

Okay, now that I’m done with my sarcastic cons, let me move onto the pros (disclaimer: I’m biased):

  1. You learn techniques you might otherwise have never known. I never knew about the “show, don’t tell” technique to apply to writing, or that flash fiction existed. You can learn a great variety of tools and tricks of the trade, which is fantastic to grow in your craft.
  2. You gain a new appreciation for reading. Surprisingly writing is a great gateway into reading new and different works that you might otherwise not have read until further developing your style.
  3. You get to hear others’ styles of writing. It’s always fascinating and fun to hear other people’s stories because not everyone thinks the same, so not everyone is going to write the same.
  4. They help to build your portfolio if you’re planning on doing writing as a career. I know that the many classes I have taken have helped me to grow my own portfolio, which can be a great way to appeal to employers.

Now I’m sure I’m missing other pros and cons for the list, but these are some of the tops reasons why I prefer writing classes. They’re more engaging and enjoyable and they help to develop skills that I might otherwise not have learned. Of course literature classes can do the same thing, but I prefer writing, myself.

If you’re thinking about taking some writing classes, think about what your university might be offering. Though I’m graduating this Saturday, May 17th, I know that the Fall 2014 semester my university is hosting a whole ton of new types of writing classes, such as Environmental Writing, The Short Story, Experimental Writing Workshop, and Digital Journalism, just to name a few. Take the time to look at your university’s catalog and decide if what they’re offering will help you grow as a writer or if it piques your general interest.

 

Have you taken any writing courses? If so, how have they helped, or hindered, you in your own writing? Let me know in the comments!

Literature Classes: Pros and Cons

As I’m nearing the end of my undergraduate career, I figured that I would give my own view and take on how some types of classes are and how they can impact you if you’re thinking of becoming an English major, or are one. Let me first talk about literature classes and the pros and cons behind them.

Literature classes are a major art of being an English major, even if you’re concentration is in Professional Writing. The culture, the texts, and even the classroom discussion are integral parts of what it can mean to truly be an English major.

In my university there are two main types of literature classes available to students: British and American. The classes are broken up into time frame, because there are typically a lot of pieces of literature in a given class, and so to be able to break up the amount of time that has to be covered is actually very useful.

There are other types of literature classes, such as African-American, Women’s, World, Children’s, Jewish American, Caribbean, and, of course, Shakespeare. These are just courses offered at my university, but there’s many different types of literature that can be studied if it fits your fancy.

When taking a literature course know that it’s going to be reading intensive. You often won’t find a literature course, no matter the level, that only has one or two books/stories to read. Typically you may only have to get one textbook, but there are many, many stories that have to be read and interpreted and talked about in the classroom. It’s not an easy task, mind you, it’s actually quite difficult.

So, with that in mind, let me list some of the cons of literature classes first.

  1. They’re reading intensive. If you don’t like reading, then don’t take a literature class. If it’s required by your college/university, then suck it up. You may just find that you actually like what you read.
  2. The texts are often very complicated to understand. Many of the novels and stories picked for literature courses were written before 1900, so the language, syntax, grammar, even spelling can be different from what you’ve already grown to know.
  3. A lot of the texts will be boring. Depending on if you have a desire to learn more of the time period you’re studying and the stories made by authors of that time, you may find what you’re reading to be boring. It’s okay; a lot of students feel that way.

Those are just the top three cons of a literature class. If you’re not a big reader or aren’t into a certain time period, then make sure your university offers a diverse amount of literature classes.

But that’s not all literature classes are made of. There are some benefits to taking a literature class, such as:

  1. You learn about different cultures, subgroups, and how certain styles of writing were created. If you haven’t read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein then you most certainly will in some form of British literature. I learned that her novel was a turning point in how the “Gothic” themed literature came to be.
  2. You learn how to critically analyze and break down a text. This can be tricky, but as you further advance in different types of literature classes you will be able to better understand how to break down a sentence in a long paragraph or how to interpret what a certain scene represents within the history and context with which it was written.
  3. You gain a new appreciation for writers before our time. There are many, many rich and engaging stories that were written hundreds of years ago that we can still read and discuss and argue about today. There are still topics to discuss – and that’s major.

Those are the top three pros that I personally gained from taking many literature classes. Though most of my classes consist of writing, given my major, I have still taken several literature courses not only to fill requirements for my major, but also because I am purely fascinated by the text, language, and culture that can be learned about from literature.

It takes a lot of time and patience to be able to get through some works of literature, but if you’re able to make it through you will learn many things you might otherwise have not known, and that’s the point of learning, right?

Reaching Your Potential As A Writer

We all have moments of doubt about ourselves, our abilities, our emotions, etc. We all have felt what it’s like to suffer and struggle through times of pressure and stress to either reap the benefits and rewards or the catastrophes that ensue. We don’t all feel 100% like we can do something 100% of the time.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t do something.

Writing is a skill and it is an art. Like all great art forms it takes time and practice to perfect it. I’m not claiming to be a know-it-all or authority about writing, because I’m not, but I still do have my own opinions like any person would.

So cast away your doubts! Cast away all those fears you have about writing your first manuscript or your first poem. You have potential as a writer, just like all of us.

How can you reach your potential as a writer?

  • Just start writing. You may or may not like what you’ve written, but you have to start somewhere. Don’t delete or erase anything and don’t throw it away. Your first “masterpiece” (or attempt thereof) can be something you look back on to see how much you’ve grown as a writer.
  • Read! Yes, reading! You know those magical tomes of information and fantastical stories that can come to life in your imagination? Reading is actually a great tool in helping you write because you can adapt your own form of writing by looking at how authors write their novels.
  • Don’t let the critics get you down – they’re there to help! Sending out work to friends isn’t always a great idea because they may not want to hurt your feelings, so find a professor or a copy editor online who may be able to read and proofread your work. Always ask for their honest opinion!
  • Write every day. It seems like a hard task, but if you write every day for just ten minutes a day, your writing will improve immensely. You don’t have to write intricate and elaborate sentences that stretch on for miles; even making a list of points that you want to improve in your writing will help.
  • Writer’s block is just a myth. You can overcome writer’s block by doing a writing exercise every day. There are a variety of different types of exercises that can work both the left and right sides of your brain, I recommend reading “Your First Novel” by Laura Whitcomb and Ann Rittenberg.
  • Accept that you might fail. This is a tough thing for anyone to accept in any aspect of life. Don’t be afraid that what you’re working on may not fit the requirements or preferences of someone you’re writing for. It’s okay! Remember that you can always improve it.

There are more ways to reach your potential as a writer, just do a general Google search of how to do it and you’ll get tons of results. There are no specific right or wrong ways because you really have to find what works for you. One way may work for one person but not another.

Just remember that you have to keep your head up and you have to keep on writing. You’re not a writer if you don’t write!

 

What ways have you tried to continue to reach your potential as a writer? How do you keep moving forward? Leave a comment and let me know!

The Pains (and Joys) of Being an English Major

Do you know how much of a struggle it can be to be an English major?

People expect a lot out of you: “can you proofread my paper?” “What’s the definition of ____?” “You’re an English major! I thought you were supposed to know how to do a, b, and c!” And the list goes on and on.

And it’s true. As an English major I feel compelled to correct other’s spelling and grammar mistakes, but even I get it wrong sometimes. And I don’t want to help constantly on every single paper my friends write because I have my own to worry about.

But in all honesty, I do enjoy it. I enjoy being able to say, “It should actually be this!” And to be able to share that knowledge with others and see their joy (or distaste) is rewarding enough.

Also, we’re expected to read everything under the sun, from the Bible, to Shakespeare, to Mary Shelley, to those of modern times. We’re expected to have read epic novels and short little fiction stories. It’s actually really annoying when I talk to fellow English majors and they say, “But haven’t you read ____?” Most of the time I haven’t. My focus is more on writing than literature, but that isn’t to say that I don’t enjoy it.

It can be a pain to be expected to do so much for such a broad major, but at the same time I do feel honored to know that my knowledge in the writing field can be useful to others who need the help.

If you’re thinking of becoming an English major, ask yourself these few questions:

  1. Do you enjoy reading and writing in your spare time? You’ll be doing a lot of this, so make sure you’re prepared to lose your life to writing and literature.
  2. Are you able to write pages of research or creative pieces without much effort? Yes, research is a process and can often be a struggle, but once you get the hang of it it’s actually fairly enjoyable. You will be writing research papers, there’s no avoiding it.
  3. Do you feel this urge to correct people on their spelling and grammar on social media sites or text messages? For some reason, this seems to be a big thing for a lot of the English majors I know. I personally can’t stand text speak or when people use the wrong version of “there,” “their,” or “they’re.” It drives me up a wall.
  4. Do you have an idea of what you want to do once you graduate? Even if you’re starting out as an English major, having an idea of what you want to do once you’ve graduated can be a big thing in order to help lead you in the path you want to go. I’m unsure of what I want to do – and I’m graduating May 17th! You’ll save yourself some stress if you have a general idea of what you want to do.

Now you may be wondering, “what kinds of things can an English major do outside of teaching?” Or “what kinds of concentrations can you focus on within an English major?”

There aren’t a large variety of jobs, as far as I know, but there is a wide range in which many corporations, such as AmeriCorps, look specifically for English majors? Why? As English majors we have use of critical thinking skills, how to use spelling and grammar and punctuation properly (or close to it), we’re literate, and more. We have qualifications that other majors may or may not help to develop.

As far as concentrations go, I know my university offers professional writing, literature, teaching, and drama. Other colleges and universities may offer different ones, but this way you have a broader look into what interests you rather than just English.

My concentration, specifically, is Professional Writing. I have taken a lot of creative writing courses including fiction, non-fiction, and creative writing courses. I have also taken classes in journalism, writing for the web, online magazine, and lots of literature classes. I’ve also had to take a speech class, so don’t think you’re free from public speaking!

Since it’s my concentration I can look for jobs in being a lobbyist, a secretary, author/writer, freelance writer, librarian (with a masters), etc.

It can be scary to think of what might be entailed in being an English major, but it’s a really rewarding major. I have learned to critically think about and analyze literature, I have learned to better my creative writing by showing, not telling, I have learned that there are possibilities at doing what I love and not have to be a teacher for it.

Of course the pains of being an English major can sometimes outweigh the joys, but looking at the bright side of it all is really rewarding, for sure.

Think about what you enjoy doing and if you think this would be an ideal major for you. It’s a hard path, but definitely fun if you allow it to be!