Reality check: The differences between college and real world writing

Writing in college is almost too fun. You attend classes every week where you compare stories and notes with peers who are on your level and genuinely interested in your work. You have professors who’ve devoted their life to the craft and teaching its intricacies to eager students. An entire class could be devoted on your writing alone, with many people giving you positive and influential feedback on what it takes to beef up your technique. No idea is too far-fetched, no writing style too outrageous to share with the class.

In other words, college offers young writers a rare creative oasis.

But all good things must come to an end. The college experience only lasts so long. Unless you peruse graduate school, you’ll have to enter “the real world” and try to make a crack at writing all on your own. The transition from writing in college to doing so in the real world could not be more stark and drastic. The group mentality that you cultivated among your peers as you worked together goes out the window right after graduation; suddenly you’re expected to market your meager writing experience to land a job so that you can follow your dream.

Needless to say, surviving as a writer in the real world is easier said than done. I think the phrase “starving artist” works best here, as many recently graduated writers (myself included) will find that it’s quite difficult to find a job that allows you to cultivate your skills. It’s far more likely that a writer in this economy will work a job that has little to do with their vocation just so they have enough funds to support themselves when they do find the time to write. Those mythical writing classes will seem like ages ago when you’re working a desk job, trying to figure out how you got from there to here.

But those writing classes, those experiences with your teachers and your peers, are exactly the things that you must bear in mind as you continue to hone your craft and follow your dream. The hardships of writing after college can seem overwhelming and unfair, but that golden age of writing workshops and candid advice should serve as your motivation to do great work, even in the face of adversity. Your writing classes were meant to train you as a better writer; they weren’t meant to coddle you in the fantasyland of academia.

The best thing that you can do is take your experiences in college and use them as a reference guide as you continue to work on your own material. The “real world” experiences that you’re going through right now will only strengthen your skills as a writer, giving you a deeper perspective on the hardships of life and what it takes to truly succeed.

The real world is often referred to as such because it’s the real thing: there are no grades here, nor are there many guiding voices telling you what to do. That might seem intimidating to a new writer, but the truth is that the real world offers endless opportunities, especially when it comes to juicy writing material. All you need to do is keep writing.

Guest post by Katheryn Rivas, a regular contributor to Online University. Like the name suggests, the online universities blog focuses on higher education and trends. She welcomes your comments at


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