Monday, January 31, 2011

Guest Post- Writing Student Jeremy Harbottle

Today's guest post is actually an interview I did with my very good friend, Jeremy Harbottle.

I met Jeremy through my best friend, Tonya. They were married almost eleven years ago. As you all know, when your best friend marries someone, he might not have a choice but to become your best friend too...and that is what has happened between me and Jer. I love him!

Jeremy is in his mid-thirties and currently a student at Columbia University in Chicago working on his degree in Fiction Writing. He has had quite the round about way of coming to this career choice, much like many of us who are finding that we love writing.

Here is Jeremy's story:

Me: When did you decide that you love to write?

Jeremy: I think I knew I loved to write when I was in my early twenties, but didn’t really think anything of it. I just thought writing was a hobby and I couldn’t really go anywhere with it. Then when I went back to school a few years ago for film I realized how much enjoyment and satisfaction I got when I wrote and decided to switch majors to Fiction Writing and loved that decision ever since.

Me: How/when did you decide you wanted writing as a career instead of just a hobby?

I realized I could make a career out of writing and wanted to when I was attending college and saw the possibilities and had teachers telling me I should look into writing because I had a great writing voice and when I found out you could find jobs that allowed you to write I knew I wanted to find a career in writing.

Me: Tell us a bit about your journey as a student of writing.

Jeremy: My journey as a writing student has been fun and frustrated all at the same time. It was a little weird and awkward because going into the classes I was about 15 years older than most of the other students, so of course I struggled with trying to figure out if I had made the right choice and belonged, but once I started getting into the flow of classes it didn’t bother me that I was with a bunch of kids. What’s been great is how I’ve found something that makes me happy when I am doing it. I love to write and studying writing has really helped me figure that out. Another thing I’ve had come about during my time in school is an idea for a novel that I have been developing in my classes for the last two semesters. What’s great is that I am allowed to bring this material into my class and work on it and get the feedback that helps me push it further. Overall I would say without having gone to school I wouldn’t have found my passion for writing and would have missed out on such a great activity.

Me: What sort of career are you hoping for once you get your degree?
Jeremy: My ideas for a career are still up in the air. I’ve thought about becoming a teacher to pass on my passion for writing to younger generations and to be able to stay in the academic surroundings because of how much I love learning, but I’m not sure if I have the patience to teach. Another area I have thought about is working for a publishing company in some capacity. I am not sure what I would do in a publishing company, but I think it would be fun to work with authors and getting their stories out to the public. Marketing is another area where a writing degree could be useful and is an option right now as well.

Me: What role does reading play in your process of writing?
Jeremy: Without reading I wouldn’t know what I like and I wouldn’t realize what it takes to write a great story. Reading is probably the best educator when it comes to learning how to be a better writer. If you really study what your favorite author does to create his or her story you can learn how to utilize those tools to enhance your own writing. You need to read to be a better writer. I’ve heard from a few sources that in order to be a great writer you need to read between 50 and 80 books a year and use that knowledge to push yourself. I think reading is one of the most overlooked things a writer could do to help their writing and it’s definitely something I notice in my own writing. When I don’t read much I struggle to get my ideas down on paper.

Me: What advice would you give for an aspiring writer?
Jeremy: Read and read a lot. Don’t limit yourself to only stuff you like either. Read things you wouldn’t normally read because you never know where inspiration will come from and sometimes it comes from stories you struggle to read. Don’t filter yourself. Don’t allow yourself to question what you’re doing. If you let your mind question the words you’re putting down on the paper you’ll never put anything down. Another thing to think about when writing is to think about your audience. You’re writing to them and you want to make sure you keep them entertained. So when you sit down to write picture your audience. It could be a large group, your family or a single person you’re writing to and while you’re writing just think about them every so often to make sure what you are writing still have them in mind. This will help keep your story focused and on track.

Thank you so much, Jeremy for your insight into the life of a writing student! You are awesome!

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