The Journey is Half the Fun!
When I was young I never imagined I would go to college to pursue a degree in
Professional Writing. I did not even know a Professional Writing major existed.
All children are asked what they want to be when they grow up. The careers that
young children admit to wanting usually only include cowboy, policeman, ballerina
and president. I certainly did not aspire to be a professional writer.
I may not have had definite ideas about what profession I wanted to have as
an adult, but I knew for sure that I would go to college—even if it killed
me. I was raised by a single mother. She would tell me every day when she got
home from a double shift as a waitress that she never wanted me to have to do
what she did. Therefore, I was prepped for college since birth. My mom held high
standards for me. I made sure I got on the honor roll every quarter. When I graduated
in the top 10 percent of my class, my mother was very proud.
I had no idea what college would be like, but I figured that since I had worked
hard enough to merit a scholarship, I might as well try college to see if it was
for me. I realized right away that college really is not for everyone. College
suited me fine, however, because if there is one thing I always excelled at, it
I spent freshman year acclimating myself to new surroundings. My sophomore
year rolled around and suddenly I had to get serious about planning my future.
The first step was ruling out what I did not want to do. I knew I would never
make it in the military, as my athletic abilities are nil. I also ruled out medical
and law school. Just because you are “good” at something does not
mean you should do it for a living. You have to do something that is interesting
and challenging or you will get burnt out quickly. I got an A in Physics, but
does that mean that I should be a physicist? I was not so sure.
Most, if not all, college students change their mind at least once in determining
their educational goals. I was no exception. I was going to major in business
and open the next great nightclub. One day of business statistics and that plan
went awry. Then I was going to be the best senator this state has ever seen—until
the presidential debacle of 2000 completely changed my naïve notions of politics
forever. My hours were racking up and I had to apply to a college soon, but I
still had not decided on a major.
One day I just opened the catalogue and looked at every major offered in the
College of Arts & Sciences. I had always been proficient in English and Language
Arts courses, which is why I procrastinated taking my required English classes.
I had always thought that college was the place you were supposed to take challenging
classes and discover some grand calling that you never thought you would be suited
for. You are not supposed to major in something that you already know how to do
well. You are supposed to learn new skills.
I took English 102 as a second semester sophomore. For my portfolio research
project I redid a paper that I had done as a high school senior. I read it for
the first time since turning it in two years prior and I knew instantly that I
definitely changed as a writer. It was the worst paper I had ever read. I could
not believe that I had received an A the first time around. I did more research
and I gutted that paper until only an outline remained. I got an A+ on my portfolio
and an A+ in the class. I knew then that it was hopeless. English was my grand
calling, even though it was the most obvious one.
So, I intended to major in English. The next step was to decide on a concentration.
What about Literature? Literature and I have a precarious relationship. Literature
classes require mass quantities of reading, writing and analyzing bodies of creative
text. I enjoy reading and critiquing work from an editorial standpoint. However,
I am not an expert on literary theory. I could look at that literature and be
able to tell you how it is lacking in terms of grammar and style, but I am not
the person to draw intellectual inferences from creative works. I also have a
morbid fear of public speaking so discussing literature in front of people is
not my favorite thing. That narrowed my choices down to creative or professional
writing. The decision was simple. I am a grammar fanatic. Most people think I
am crazy because Traditional Grammar was one of my favorite classes. Very often
I am more concerned with grammar and form than content in documents. Therefore,
professional writing was the right choice for me.
It felt good to have a course of action and goals to work towards…finally.
Everyone who hears I am going to college asks what my major is. Everyone who
hears I am majoring in English asks if I want to be a teacher. The answer is,
emphatically, no. I have the highest respect for those individuals who have a
calling to teach America’s youth. I, however, do not have the patience.
I view my writing and language skills as innate, something that comes naturally
to me, and I wouldn’t begin to know how to explain these skills to someone
else. It has been my experience that teachers, not the subject matter, can invoke
students’ interest in a subject or deter them from appreciating the subject
altogether. Language is a skill that everyone needs to develop in order to succeed.
Therefore, teachers of language have a very tough job.
If I am not going to be a teacher, what am I going to do? I might want to be
an editor. I enjoy reading, writing and dissecting text, though I am not sure
if I would like to do it professionally. I think if I had to do it to make a living,
I wouldn’t enjoy it as much. How can you know for sure? Experience.
For the Professional Writing program you have to participate in an internship.
I am currently working in the Arts & Sciences Advisement Center. I get to
work on many writing and editing projects. I am getting professional writing experience
and college credit. It seemed like an unlikely place to take a writing internship.
However, I have helped produced both documents for students to read in their advisement
endeavors and pieces for an in house operations manual. I write, edit, design,
and manipulate documents to fit the needs of students and advisors.
My internship has been very beneficial to me as a professional writer, but
it has also helped me gain access to the policies and procedures of UNM. I may
want to pursue a career in writing or publishing, but I have other options to
consider. I could work in an educational setting as part of a university staff—either
administration or human resources. Internships can help you shape your interests.
The wonderful thing about my major is that writing is a necessary skill in many
vocations. I don’t have to work in a publishing house or in a classroom
for my skills and education to be useful. Now that I chose my major and have my
education plans in play, I can focus on my career aspirations. Hopefully this
internship and my classes will help me to do this.
Although I won’t be the next President of the United States or a firefighter
like I planned in the 2nd grade, I have learned a little something about myself
since then. I have discovered my own interests, strengths, and weaknesses, which
will help me narrow my goals and make decisions. The education I am receiving
in all aspects of humanities and social sciences is priceless. My professional
writing classes give me an opportunity to hone my skills and develop my professional
interests. It would have been nice to have these goals since the 2nd grade, but
sometimes you have to try a few different things before you find the right one.
Morgan is presently working as a technical writing intern in the A&S Advisement