In my last post, I discussed the value of regular writing throughout the school year. And if you want to produce any sort of reasonable quantity—especially necessary if you’re creating a portfolio for college scholarships or supplementary materials (more in a later post)—you need to be regularly producing material.
The problem with this method, however, is that it doesn’t speak to quality.
It would be nice if improving at writing was a linear process, with each hour of effort yielding a proportional return in quality. Instead, however, it is a jerky ride, one alternating between quick, intense leaps and plateaus.
Productivity guru Scott Young describes it like this:
In chemistry, there’s the idea of an activation cost. This is the threshold of energy you need to surpass to start a chemical reaction. Dynamite, for example, contains a lot of energy. But unless a spark or lit fuse pays the activation cost it won’t explode.
This explains why, for all of your routinized effort, you aren’t seeing meaningful improvements in the quality of your work: You haven’t paid your activation cost. This doesn’t mean that your regular effort is meaningless; it just means it’s not enough.
What, then, can get you over these writing slumps? Read the rest of this entry »
From the day you enter high school, clutching your bookbag in homeroom, all anyone can talk about is college admissions. Guidance counselors, teachers, that annoying teacher’s pet—everyone is obsessed with getting into the best college and the all-powerful resume you need to get there.
Most students panic and immediately run for student council, join the Debate team, and sacrifice their Saturdays to Habitat builds. Whenever they can spare a free moment, they’re tutoring underprivileged ESL students or squeezing in French Club meetings. The kids who like to write might add to this list the school paper or literary magazine. And they end up being remarkable at none of these things.
Take my disastrous freshman year, for example. I ran for student council and spent every Tuesday listening to the student body president, a pretty pageant-girl type, talk about her weekends; I tutored local elementary school students for fewer hours a week than it took to get to the tutoring center; I jumped onto my class’s Relay for Life team and, in a desperate time crunch, donated $100 of my own money. None of that is particularly impressive, none of that mattered on my college applications, but it managed to suck away almost all of my time and energy from writing. In fact, all I wrote at the time was terrible, post-midnight poetry—the kind of stuff I cringe reading now.
See, here’s the thing about writing: Read the rest of this entry »
Note: This is a work-in-progress, as these are just the ways I’ve gotten my work out there. I’d love to hear what other opportunities exist!
youngARTS: Sponsored by the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts, this program selects up to 20 creative writers in the genres of poetry, short fiction, novel, script, and nonfiction to attend an all-expenses paid week in Miami (no, really—and in January, no less). All attendees will earn anywhere between $1,000 and $10,000 for their work, and those winners who receive the $10,000 or the $5,000 awards will also get a free week in New York City.
This program is also the selection process for Presidential Scholar in the Arts,
Nominating up to 60 artists out of the 150 invited to Miami. 20 are ultimately selected for an all-expenses paid trip to DC. (It seems like most years 4 or 5 writers are nominated; my year had 10. And for whatever reason, we do better than other art forms at making our nominees Presidential Scholars.)
OPEN TO: Read the rest of this entry »