If you are leaving university this summer after a Creative Writing English degree course, you may be looking to find what the best next step is for you and your writing. If you now find yourself amidst the pressure to get jobs and internships or publish a successful debut, it can be difficult to find what to do now that a structure isn’t being provided for you like it was during the last three years. So here are 5 simple tips on what you could do after university:
- Take yourself seriously. This can be misinterpreted as lacking humour, as excessive self-assurance, the overt willingness to recite theoretical influences at a dinner party with people who never asked. What you should do, however, is to remind yourself how much (and why) you care about writing in the first place and why it matters that you should finish your project. It’s important that this comes from within, as the solitary nature of writing means that at the start no one will be acknowledging the quiet victories of a good sentence or a great scene. As Scarlett Thomas mentions on one of our earlier interviews here (http://www.youngwriteraward.com/best-work-always-urgent-mini-interview-scarlett-thomas/), the best work is marked by a sense of urgency.
- The word itself is often terrifying to young writers. Often choosing the writing path comes from a motivation to not participate in circles deemed too social, or too corporate-like. But within these judgements too, is an insecurity about belonging, which is a common feature of writers who may often see themselves as outsiders looking in while they work. This demands a new understanding of what networking is, and how it can benefit you. It doesn’t necessarily mean business cards with imagined titles. Go to reading events, get to know people. Keep in touch with your writing tutors or mentors. You’ll be surprised when you start seeing the same faces. Plus, not all networking is vertical (where you try and meet someone who you perceive has more power than you). Create groups with your friends. Meet other young writers drafting their first projects. If you’ve created magazines at university, then keep in touch with your team and see what you can do now. It’s important to see how literature manifests itself outside of the pen and page too, not only to potentially meet agents or publishers, but for company and motivation.
- Structure your time. Now that you don’t have to go to seminars or produce weekly assignments or work to tight deadlines, you may find yourself producing far less writing, even judging yourself for appearing to procrastinate a little too much. This is absolutely normal. However, soon you’ll have other responsibilities and worries about your future. You may even already have a job lined up and feel like your writing just won’t happen anymore. But try to schedule an hour or two every day that is untouchable and undisturbed. You can do a lot eventually in an hour or two every day. I like to schedule my writing time early in the morning so that I can start my day having done something I enjoy no matter what. However, try not to set very tight deadlines on yourself and be kind to your new life in the ‘real world’.
- Read! You may be stressed that, unlike some of your peers, you don’t have the next big debut planned out. That’s fine! Writing takes time, and sometimes the best ideas take years to form and change as you change too. But reading during this time is essential. Not only will it allow you to form and better your taste, but it will also reinforce a narrative way of thinking, as you incorporate the voices and imagery of your books to think about and express the world around you.
- Invite new experiences. Now that you are not in university, don’t shy away from unexpected possibilities. Sure, you may not be taking the year out you wanted to travel the world (and that’s great too, if you can and want to do that), but you still have options. Socially-minded people may enjoy helping out a local charity in the weekend, or you can pick up a new hobby too. Help your family. I find that most of the actions we take for other people are those that create the most unpredictable results, as their consequences are formed by others. Acknowledging how others shape our lives is crucial to writing, so try to find ways in which to explore other lives and benefit other people.
Gonzalo C. Garcia is a writer and Senior Teaching Fellow in Creative Writing in the Warwick Writing Programme. His recent novel, We Are The End, is heavily influenced by his marked interest in Santiago de Chile, video games, digital culture and everyday constructions of narrative. It was nominated for the Edinburgh Festival First Novel Award 2017 and launched in October with Galley Beggar Press.
Directed by Sarah Moss, the Warwick Writing Programme at University of Warwick prides itself in having writing staff who not only teach but are also published authors involved in the writing industry and literary scenes. It has just opened an exciting PhD programme in Creative Writing (https://goo.gl/3pdiB9) alongside its internationally recognised flagship BA and MA programmes.
For more on the Warwick Writing Programme: http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/arts/english/writingprog/