Seema Bhakta: So you want to be a writer (but don’t have the degree)

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So you want to be a writer (but don't have the degree)

We’re taught from an early age about grammar and semantics—how to eloquently weave words together to paint a picture. Throughout the course of our education, we write reports on everything from what we did last summer to colonial imperialism and later scramble to put pieces together from research for our term papers. But not all of us choose a college major in English Literature, Communications or anything else in the Fine Arts where we can actually refine our writing to be a professional writer.

We are the people who have these initial hopes of reaching other careers, whatever they may be, by choosing another specific major in college—a time when most of us are first navigating the real world, wondering if the mystery meat in the dining hall is edible, and trying to set up a study date with the cute boy in ecology class. Thus, that dream you had at 17 may not be the same dream you have at 25.

When I was in graduate school for a non-fine arts field, I began to explore the potential of serious writing. Although most of my writing was through assignments and reports, I began to write just for myself. I would have deep conversations with passionate friends, I would write down witty titles, and I kept a journal. As I looked back at the imaginative world that was brought before me through the chapters of various books, I stumbled upon that missing piece that I was hungry for: to tell a story.

I had already begun volunteering with a storytelling organization, and I got involved in reproductive justice. I began to read personal narratives, opinion pieces, and stories about things happening around the world. I began to look at storytelling through a journalistic lens, and I knew that one day I wanted to have a career that took that approach.

The summer I graduated, I was lost because I had already dipped my toes in research. Research in my field (or where the jobs were), consisted of analysis of large data sets to produce percentages and statistics that never could tell a story, just a fact. Once I realized I wanted to explore the right side of my brain, I looked at countless job listings that preferred candidates with a degree in creative arts, journalism, communications, or anything of that nature. I thought, “Well, it’s too late.” I didn’t want to go back to school, and I was already drowning in student loans.

I was discouraged at first, but I learned a lot about myself and that I was willing to push through these barriers. You may come across the ideal job that’s perfectly suited for you, but feel discouraged because that piece of paper you got after college highlights your major in a non-writing field. Although these job requirements may seem to emphasize a degree preference, you can do the job just as well as someone who has that desired major of expertise.

Here are a few things you can do to make you stand out and begin a career as a writer:

Find balance

Look for a job in your field in the meantime for steady cash flow. You can find other ways to contribute in your department such as asking your supervisor (if they are super cool) to connect you with the communications director or public relations manager. Show your interest and offer up your skills.

Start a blog

Begin developing your platform online by writing whatever interests you, whether it’s journalism or even fiction storytelling. Follow like-minded bloggers. They can be really good inspiration.

Keep a journal

Document everything you see, hear, or read that inspires you, whether it’s from your own experiences or something you witnessed while riding the train. Keeping a journal can help you come up with topics to write about. Personal narratives or inspirations from outside can one day be used for a memoir, short story ideas, or even a post for an online magazine.

Volunteer/intern

There are a lot of internships and volunteer opportunities for those seeking communications or editorial work. Start by finding something in your field, then look for opportunities in public relations or social media management. This is a good starting point for developing your skills as well as showcasing what you can really do. Who knows, this could even lead to a job!

Contribute to online publications

Find blogs and websites that are looking for contributors and pitch an idea to the editor. This is a good way to build up a portfolio and collect writing samples for future job applications. Start by writing on your own blog or a platform like Medium and then offer contributions to publications you’re interested in and read regularly.

Offer to proofread

Ask your writer friends (or anyone) if you can proofread what they’ve been writing. You’ll sharpen writing and editing skills, and you can add this to your resume (and maybe even get testimonials out of your friends).

Start small. Go big.

Seema BhaktaSeema Bhakta has a photography blog which she rarely updates. She has a degree in Public Health and works as a Data Analyst and volunteers for storytelling organizations for health & human rights. You can follow Seema on Twitter.

 

 

 

Witty Title Here publishes works from emerging, female-identifying writers. Want to submit your short work of fiction, journalism, humor or opinion writing? Send drafts or pitches to wittycassiehere@gmail.com.

Feminist to Follow: Seema from The Subtle Hipster

This month’s Feminist to Follow has made feminism and public health her life’s work.

Seema Bhakta is not only a storyteller and photojournalist, but a researcher and advocate for various organizations and nonprofits that support and promote women’s well-being, including MCH in Action, a student organization centered on maternal, childbirth, sexual and reproductive health.

Seema is the blogger behind The Subtle Hipster, where, in addition to highlighting news in feminism, she writes about books, adventure, food and more. Below, she shares a thoughtful essay on why blogging about feminism is important to her. Read on!

Feminist to Follow: Seema from The Subtle Hipster

Blogging about feminism is important to me because I believe the movement is not only about equal opportunities for women, but increasing the support of diversity, reducing stigma and fighting for the rights of everyone discriminated based on their ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity.

Just like everything else, I don’t think feminism is a black or white topic. It’s a spectrum and there are definitely a lot of gray areas. I’ve read articles and tweets from people who say they don’t think of themselves as feminists because they never faced inequalities in life or work. There are also the misguided folks who say, “I’m not a feminist because I don’t hate men.” Out of respect, we are all entitled to our own opinions but reality is, these stereotypes don’t touch the true meaning of feminism.

As I look back on my life, growing up in a very liberal state but in a more conservative community, I never expressed my own opinions or realized that I even had any. I always thought that these fights are not mine, that I had nothing to worry about. Ignorance, perhaps. I grew up thinking I was not a feminist because like others I never faced (or realized) the discrimination. But now that I am older and wiser, I realize that the challenges women face is universal regardless of whether I have experienced it or not. Even if I feel that I have not had to face unequal opportunities, being a feminist should mean that as a woman, I support other women in their fight for equality.

I read Yes, Please last month and loved this quote from Amy Poehler: “Good for her, not for me.” When I was in graduate school, there would be debates about what is right versus what is wrong for women in childbirth. This really frustrated me. You can give me all the data about healthy birth practices, parenting methods and breastfeeding, but at the end of the day it is the individual’s choice about what is right for them. (I recommend checking this photo campaign out, End the Mommy Wars.)

My maternal and reproductive interests broadened when I read a book in the summer called Golden Boy. It’s about an intersex adolescent who begins to question their sexuality, identity, and how to keep secrets after an incident with a childhood friend. I have always been an LGBT ally, but as the world opens up slowly about being intersex, asexual, and trans, feminism does not just benefit cis women, but anyone who struggles because of their gender and sexual identity.

Not only do gender and sexual identity play a vital role in feminism, but race and ethnicity do, too. Racism is a feminist issue, and so is social justice. Earlier this week, we celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day, so I want to end with this quote:

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

If you want to read more from Seema, check out her blog, The Subtle Hipster, and follow her on Twitter. Here are some recent highlights from her blog:

Reflection on Sex and Gender | The A-Word, Stigma & Storytelling | No More: Together We Can End Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault

Check out other Feminists to Follow here.

Do you have any favorite feminist bloggers?