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Things I Wish I’d Learnt at Uni as A Young Writer

11th of April 2019

If you’re studying the arts, you’ll frequently be told that your future doesn’t look overly prosperous. You’ll have the scene painted for you of unpaid bills, unread submissions, rejection letters and crippling competition. During my Journalism and Literature degree, I was tasked with multiple assignments that asked me to discuss the notion that print media was dead, the future of journalism is sordid and unless you’re an influencer (and who isn’t), and that the only publication to survive the digital age of information is the TV guide.

Perhaps if we were tasked with fewer essays about ‘The state of journalism’ and more about finding and curating content that was genuinely valuable for the reader, we’d have less of a crisis to worry about.

It’s depressing to be consistently told that you face a choice between selling your soul to clickbait, or ending up in a career that’s completely unrelated to your studies and your passion. It’s also fake news.

Things that I wish I’d paid £9,250 a year to hear instead:

1) Writing is communication

Writing is communication in its most efficient form, and it’s a skill that there’ll always be a demand for. So it’s down to the young creatives to find a platform that will answer questions most efficiently, because the truth is that when people read, they’re mostly looking for answers to these questions:
• What’s going on in the world?
• What does [insert key issue, like Brexit or climate change] mean?
• How can I [Insert goal, like become a copywriter or get fit without going to the gym]?

And if they’re not searching for answers, they’re searching for entertainment.

2) It’s more than newspapers and novels.

Choosing a career as a writer doesn’t necessarily mean making the choice between journalism and novel writing. Consider that most things that are spoken in a professional capacity are written first. There will always be a demand for writers within communications, advertising, scriptwriting, branding…even telecomms require a writer to orchestrate the conversation surrounding a brand.

3) Competition is everywhere.

Whether or not you choose a career that feeds your soul, you’ll be forced to prove that you’re better than the person next to you, so you might as well push to be the best at something you actually enjoy.

4) Exposure important, but know your worth.

You’ll often be asked to write for free, and that’s ok as long as you’re extracting value in some other way. Make sure that you’re being credited in full, you’re covering events that give you an opportunity to meet key people who will help you in your career, and (most importantly) you’re creating content that will add value to your portfolio.

5) Experience is like gold dust, take all of it.

Even if you aren’t being paid, take internships anywhere that offers you the opportunity to be in a creative environment. The people that you’ll meet and the knowledge that you’ll gain on the way holds more value than the paycheck at the end.


6) Write for the reader, not for yourself.

We aren’t all Rupi Kaur. Somehow she made her name by writing about her feelings, but she’s the exception, not the rule. If you want to write exclusively about your mundane life experiences, you should invest in a dairy, not a degree.

And finally

7) Never stop reading.

Read everything. Read novels, read articles, read billboards and leaflets and old magazines in waiting rooms. Read the product description on the back of your shampoo bottle…read anything that somebody has been paid to write, because every good artist is a thief.

And if you’re still in need of some inspiration, have a read about 6 women who changed the digital world. 

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