I was dragged into writing kicking and screaming, fighting it the whole way down to the registrar’s office. Okay, well, not literally. But I definitely did not think in a million years that I would be staring down the gaping black hole of my senior year with this crazy idea that I was going to make a living off of writing words, and maybe somebody would be nice enough to pay me for it.
It didn’t start out that way though. In elementary school I was the queen of Accelerated Reader. (Anyone else remember that program?) I actually just cashed in two savings bonds that I won through the AR rewards system in 3rd and 5th grade in order to pay for my Metrocard this month. Thanks, little self!
In 4th grade I wrote a 20-page fiction piece on the Iditarod that left my English teacher speechless. The next year, my parents bought me this book for Christmas called So, You Wanna Be A Writer? and I was like YES.
But then something went weird. In high school I had that quintessential teacher—you know, the one who will leave an impact on you for the rest of your life. She was my English teacher and the advisor for the high school yearbook, which I reigned over during my senior year. She encouraged me, challenged me, and told me that writing was worth pursuing. But it seemed like the more papers I wrote, the more A’s that I got, the higher the pressure was to be some kind of brilliant writing machine.
Self-doubt started to set in. Was I even that good? Who even really “makes it” as a writer anyway? It worried me so much that I ended up getting off that train and entered college as a graphic design major. I still wanted to be in magazines, so I just worked on layouts and decided my end goal was going to be on the art side rather than editorial.
It actually worked out for a little while, until through a series of very odd events, I ended up with an editorial internship the summer after my freshman year. My editor there was only a couple years older than me and it was a small, laid-back trade magazine, so we’d pal around to events together and ended up really getting to know each other. I wrote for the magazine’s blog nearly every day, as well as getting to do some layout work for a feature for the print magazine. By the end of the summer, she sat me down and basically told me to stop this art nonsense and get a journalism degree, because that’s where I belong.
You’d think that would be some sort of aha! moment, and I did end up switching my major, but I still wasn’t entirely convinced. I mean, look at what’s out there! Especially online, people can be vicious to amazing writers. Rachel Seville, this brilliant girl who’s a columnist at this genius new menswear site, Four Pins, gets bagged on weekly in the comments section just because her humor is a little different then some of the other writers. Jessica Pressler wrote a profile on Avicii for GQ that was a little too straightforward for Avicii’s fans (and Avicii himself for that matter) and the backlash was incredible. She even has ‘The most hated person in EDM’ in her Twitter bio.
Thankfully, I didn’t let fear of Disqus control my career path. I’m fully aware that I’m about to start an entertainment internship with a website that gets plenty of readers who all know how to utilize the comment box. But, I do feel that, as a writer, I need to stop looking for validation. I always have this voice in the back of my mind that’s like: Just score this internship, then you’ll feel like you’re on the right track. Then after I get the internship, it’s like: Just get picked to write this feature. Or, Just get this paid freelancing gig. I don’t think there’s an end to that line of thinking, guys.
So, this summer, I’m kind of trying to care a little less (in a good way). I’ll survive if another intern gets picked to cover an entertainment event that I wanted to go to. Well, unless Beyoncé is somehow involved in the event. There will be tears shed if I miss a chance to meet Beyoncé.
But what about you? What made you get into the writing game? Have you had any nasty experiences with responses to your writing? How do you deal with criticism? Would you cry if you missed a chance to meet Beyoncé? Let’s talk about it.
Ed’s Entertainment Intern