So not to get all Tumblr-braggy (see what I did there?), but um THIS JUST HAPPENED.
This is the best moment of my life and I’m wearing oversized stained sweatpants.
My advice: Write!
Or speak or create or build or organize — do whatever it is that drives you. It sounds like writing is your thing, though, so just start doing it. Don’t wait for someone to offer you an opportunity; don’t assume that you need to write for someone else’s paper / publication / website / blog/ whatever. Create your own space, whether that’s a blog or a zine or a journal, and write every day. If you want to be a professional writer/journalist/blogger, start writing in a public space (like your own blog) so that you can build up a collection of posts and clips.
I’m actually not a professional writer, but I do sometimes get paid to write. I started writing online when I was in college, and I kept writing consistently. I found an online community (as far as the feminist blogosphere is an online community) where my work seemed to fit in, and I made an effort to talk to other feminist writers, to email and chat with them, and sometimes to meet them in person. I used my website to promote the work of other feminist writers, activists and thinkers. I went to conferences and met people in person. I joined feminist and political listserves and engaged in conversations. I interacted with other writers and editors on Twitter, and dropped folks emails to say “Hey I loved what you wrote here.”
Those interactions have led to connections with editors, which have led to more writing opportunities. And I’ve made an effort to tell my editors about other female writers whose work is good and not getting enough attention.
But to get there, you have to write. Write even though writing in public is scary sometimes. Write even though a lot of us — women especially, in my experience — don’t feel entitled to write in public spaces, especially about any topic they aren’t thoroughly versed in. Write even though it can be hard to hit “publish” without editing something 500 times over. Write, and try to write your best every time, and create quality pieces as often as you can. Write, even if you aren’t an expert — do you think any of the dudes on Daily Kos or in Slate or wherever know 100% about every issue they feel entitled to discuss? (No, they absolutely do not). Write with the understanding that you don’t have to be entirely knowledgeable on the front end, but you do have a responsibility to learn — much of the best writing is from the perspective of the writer as student, trying to sort through the available information to find truths and answers. Write pieces that are explorations, not just position statements. Write thoughtfully, and don’t be afraid to be wrong. Just get used to sitting down and writing, even if you aren’t sure what to say.
That’s what everyone says, right? “Just go write!” as if it’s that easy. It’s tough. Sitting down and writing when you aren’t even sure what to say is tough. That’s why it takes practice. There’s no other way to do it.
And there’s no better advice for how to write. There is, though, better advice on how to get your writing published when you’re just starting out. First, publish yourself. Once you have a body of work online (even if it’s a blog or a Tumblr), you’ll have something you can show an editor when you’re pitching pieces. And there’s no reason you can’t pitch pieces while you’re in college. If you have an idea, think through the publications you read, and consider which of them might give your piece an appropriate home. If you’re a new writer, I would start at some smaller publications, since a place like the NYTimes gets a million pitches a day and they tend to rely more heavily on name recognition. So think of a publication that might feature the kind of piece you want to write, but hasn’t yet featured a piece that’s the same or similar to what you have in mind. Best-case scenario is that after a bit of time writing on the internet, you have some connection to the editor of the publication you have in mind, and you can ask a friend or other writer to do an e-intro. If not, you can send in a cold pitch. Write up a brief and punchy one-paragraph description of the piece — what you want to write about, why it’s important, why you are the appropriate person to write about it (if you have a particular background or access to an individual, that’s helpful), what your particular angle is, who you’ll interview for the piece (if it’s the kind of piece that needs quotes), and who you are (no need to say you’re a college student, unless that’s relevant — you’re a writer, so include info on your writing background). Email it to the editor, with a subject line making it clear that it’s a pitch (for example, “Pitch: How to Write While You’re Still in College”). You might have to pitch a piece at twenty different publications before someone bites; you might have to tweak the pitch, or scrap it and pitch something different. That’s ok! I’ve pitched dozens of pieces that never saw life as a real article. So has every working writer out there. Keep trying.
In the meantime, though, just write. If you have something to say, say it — and don’t feel like you’re not entitled to just because you’re in college, or because you’re not an expert, or because there’s a chance you’ll write something imperfect (you will write many things that are imperfect; you will soon realize that it will neither kill you nor tank your career). But writing confidently and well takes practice. The best plan is to start now.
I hope that helps. Good luck! Go write!
(Also, doesn’t she mean “implied” and not “inferred”?)
Jill: So of all the clothes you tried on, what are you going to get?
Anne: I don’t know. I loved that long skirt, but it’s really expensive, even wholesale.
Jill: How expensive?
Jill: Whoa. That is really pricey for a basic skirt. WFT is it made out of? Angel hair?
Anne: No, small Tibetan children’s prayers.