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Starting A Writing Career In Your Teens

young writerBy Lucy Smith

I sowed the seeds of my future writing career while I still had braces on my teeth.

Of course it’s never too late to get into writing, but it’s also never too early.

I got my first clips in our local newspaper when I was 16; back then, it ran a fortnightly teen issues page called Overload that was written by high school students from all over our region. The editor (whose name was – I jest not – Jane Eyre) had come to our school and given a little talk about how good it looked on your resume, and since at the time I was a star English student and considering a career in journalism I didn’t have to think twice.

For about a year, I wrote about things like student exchanges and ball dresses, and endured the (mostly good-natured) ribbing from other kids at school. When I started university and went for a job as news editor at our campus paper, I already had a decent portfolio to show them, and it snowballed from there.

So why was it good?

I found out early what I liked and what I didn’t.

Not long after I started writing news, I decided I didn’t want to be a news reporter. It was a totally sweet student job, but I couldn’t face a working life of constantly phoning people who didn’t want to talk to me while I was on deadline. But I did like the writing itself – and eventually realised that copywriting ticked most of the boxes for me.

I got a head start on getting used to criticism and rejection.

As all writers know, the hardest lesson to learn is how to deal with criticism and rejection. I thought my first piece for Overload was sheer genius; the editor sent it straight back and told me to rewrite the weak last sentence. Getting a head start on not taking that personally meant I was able to learn more, and learn it quickly, from future bosses and clients.

It’s easier to get relevant employment.

These days, if you’re looking for that first job after school or university, you need all the experience you can get. Being able to show relevant experience outside school gives you the edge over those who can’t. And it always looks good to have done extra-curricular activities.

Being young, yet experienced, looks good.

Even though I’m only 26, I can now boast that I have 10 years’ writing experience. Over the last decade, I’ve had a variety of writing roles. I’ve been a professional writer for 10 years. However you phrase it, it sounds impressive.

So if you’re a teen thinking of getting into writing, it’s well worth a go. Hunt for opportunities. There’s teenink.com, a magazine written by teens and for teens. Or maybe your local paper has a teen page, like mine did. Or maybe they’d like to start one. Or maybe you have a community paper that accepts submissions for columns.

What other ways are there for teens to get a jump on their writing career?

Lucy Smith lives and writes in New Zealand. She is the owner of Butterfly Copywriting – www.butterflycopywriting.com

Two newsletters:
Abundant Freelance Writing – a resource for freelance writers including 3x a week job postings.
Writing With Vision – for those who want to get a book written.

Image from http://www.sxc.hu

{ 6 comments… add one }
  • I’m turning 17 tomorrow, marking the year anniversary of my first writing gig. I’ve written around 300 articles for a technology journalism site, alongside about 40 on topics ranging from politics to culture.

    I couldn’t be happier to have a head start!

    • Happy birthday Jack…if you’d like to do a guest post about your head start here I’d welcome it… 500-800 words give or take, no pay, a bit of glory maybe and links back to you.

  • I’ve got my 12-year old daughter blogging. I think it’s great for her. She writes. She learns technology. And she learns marketing. So, I’m all for writing in your teens. I wish I had been turned on to the fact that writers can actually make very good livings when I was a teen. I always loved to write, but I never thought of it as a profession until a few years ago, when I was in my late 40’s.

    • My granddaughter one $1000 in a writing contest when she was 16… couldn’t get her to write for me ;(

    • That’s such a cool idea! Especially since writing is one of those things you get better at with practice – bet she’ll be on fire in a few years.
      Lucy Smith recently posted..A new year- a new challengeMy Profile

  • Great post —

    Since I figured out I wanted to be a prose writer pretty late in the game, I’m always impressed with people who start early! You can’t position yourself as a hot young wunderkind writer without it…
    Carol Tice | Make a Living Writing recently posted..Mailbag- How Much Can Freelance Writers Charge for BloggingMy Profile

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