When I tell people that I’m a writer, a surprising reaction that I often get is “I used to write too, but I never have the time anymore,” or “I write too, but I’m too scared to show anyone my work.” Both of these feelings are completely understandable, and a large part of my university career has been navigating those challenges. One way that I’ve found addresses both problems is writing for on-campus publications, which U of T has many of. Having a deadline ensures that I make time to write and passing it through editors makes me more confident about putting my work out there. My writing has gotten infinitely stronger because of this.
Most student newspapers are continuously looking for contributors, and it’s easy to get involved. I’ve written for The Varsity since first year; getting started simply took emailing editors (addresses listed on the website) and either pitching a piece or asking to chat about what they’re looking for. The same applies to college-specific newspapers, such as The Strand.
If creative writing is more your thing, journals are also abundant, such as the Hart House Review. Don’t be discouraged if your work does not get accepted the first time, or the second, or the third (Acta Victoriana has never accepted any of my pieces). Plenty of other options exist. The Goose journal for short fiction makes a point of publishing new writers. Dear Damsels, though not based at U of T, is an online female creative writing collective that I’ve found super easy to submit to.
On a similar vein, I wrote biweekly for the online female magazine Her Campus UToronto in my second year; though this isn’t a creative publication, I found the blogging experience very rewarding and easy to fit into my schedule. Additionally, depending on your interests, many publications also have a theme. The Spectatorial specializes in speculative writing of all kinds — fantasy, science fiction, magic realism. Project Boundless, which I’ve loved writing for, focuses on identity. Recently, Sail Magazine at Vic also launched, with a focus on diasporic perspectives. Though it’s not my favourite form of writing, academic journals also exist for every discipline. This provides a good opportunity to polish or expand on a strong paper.
Course-wise, the Writing and Rhetoric department offers several great classes that I feel everyone could benefit from, such as Written Discourse. Although U of T offers few creative writing classes, they do exist. Seminar in Creative Writing (INI311Y) is a particularly wonderful one for beginners and gives a good overview of fiction writing. I’ve found the weekly exercises fun and a good way of detaching from academic work. Vic also offers several workshops in poetry, creative nonfiction, and short fiction — some of which require applications — but no prerequisites are needed.
All that aside, journalling and blogging have been constants for me for years. Various studies cite the benefits of keeping a daily journal, and I’ve definitely found that it helps me reflect and relax at the end of the day. It’s also a stress-free activity, because I don’t have to show anyone if I don’t want to. If nothing else, writing down a few things that made me happy every day puts me in a better mindset before bed. I’ve never regretted spending the extra time — a few minutes to a few hours — on making the time to write.
And whether you love to write, read, knit, bake, or whatever activity floats your boat, remember to make space for what you love — because U of T seriously has a club for everything!