Professional Writing class in my senior year of college revealed to me my niche of writing: nonfiction, particularly essays, profiles, and feature articles. I enjoyed indulging peoples’ propensity to talk about themselves, enjoyed feeling chills run down my spine when I heard them give me what I knew would be my concluding quote. But I loved crafting all the quotes, double checking the facts and seeing my subjects' faces when they read the article. Listening to people tell their stories and then retelling them became my passion.
Telling other peoples’ stories was what I wanted to do with my life, though I was unsure of exactly how. The final semester of my senior year, I was offered the position of director of a magazine at a university in my town. But, sigh, one thing led to another and this teaching job was also offered and, well, here I am. And I’m not complaining. It’s been incredible. I mean how many unpublished, unmaster degreed people can put on their resume that they’ve already taught writing in a college?
But here recently, I’ve been restless with my teaching. I teach about writing all day long; I make a living by telling kids what to do and what not to do in order to write well—as if there’s some kind of formula. The other day I began to wonder if one day I will become like a dried up old pen—always talking about writing, but not having any ink in me to produce my own work. There isn’t a day that I don’t walk into the classroom, full of passion, yes, but feeling thoroughly inadequate because I’m inexperienced in what I’m teaching. I’m repeating notes, rather than sharing experience of what it’s really like in the writing world. That wears on you after a while.
Maybe, just maybe, it’s time to launch out and find a job doing what I love. Maybe I should start seeing the potential others see in my writing. But I know that if I want to ever find a job in writing, I’m going to have to hone my skill. I haven’t written an article or profile of anyone in years. I have a list of ideas to write, but as is typical of me, I’ve been too scared to pursue them, scared that the people would refuse, scared that someone would laugh at the notion that I wanted to write a profile without having a place in mind to publish it.
But finally the other day I realized that if I ever want to have a writing job, I have to be aggressive. I have to practice. And the only way to do that is by taking the opportunities that I have in my life right now.
For about 6 months now, I’ve had a person in mind to interview: Miss Johnny, a lady at the USO who has volunteered since the 40s drawing sketches of the servicemen who come in. I thought she would make an interesting person to write about. After several more weeks of waffling, I finally called my manager at the USO this week and asked for the contact information. Rather than getting the patronizing response I expected, the manager was thrilled and thought an article about Miss Johnny would be a great idea.
But I have a list of questions waiting to ask her, a pencil ready to write, and one less regret.
Who knows where this step will lead.