I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I’ve kept a journal since I was a child, went through the obligatory bad poetry writing phase as a teenager, attempted short stories and even a novel or two. There’s not much that makes me happier than a blank notebook and a brand-new set of pens. The problem is, I have no creativity. None. I get out my notebook, uncap my pen and… nothing. Give me a research topic though, and I’m on fire. I can write essays, letters, manuals, you name it, no problem. Just don’t ask me to come up with my own ideas. My mind goes blank.
Early on I resigned myself to never being a writer because of this lack of creativity and decided that writing would just be one of those things I daydream about. Everyone has a pipe dream. Some dream of acting, or playing in a band, or painting. I dreamed of writing. At the end of the day, most of us don’t get to live those dreams. We have the ambition, but not the talent. Or we have the talent, but not the drive. Some are lucky enough to have both, but are still missing that spark of something intangible that makes our work, our art, compelling. The pragmatic among us accept this and let the dream go.
When I let go of the idea of being a writer, I did so out of a sense of practicality. I had bills to pay, mouths to feed. I fell into a career as a contract administrator for a small government contractor and spent my days arguing with people about rules and money, only using my small amount of writing talent here and there on detailed contract summaries and strongly worded letters to subcontractors and clients. I became the go-to person in my organization when something needed to be written. More than one manager, after reviewing my correspondence or training manuals, said the words that always hurt, just a little, no matter how well-intended they were – “you’re so good at this – you should be a writer!”
It wasn’t until my late thirties that I discovered that this writing, what I privately just referred to as “work writing” could be a career. When my second child was born and I took a few years off to stay at home with her, I was intrigued to learn about UCO’s technical writing degree program. I was facing the very real issue of what affect taking years off from my career was going to have on my resume, and I was also not sure I wanted to spend the next 20 years until retirement in a career that was only occasionally fulfilling. I had decided to go back to school and earn a degree to show that even though I had been out of the workforce for a few years, I hadn’t spent the time sitting around. Retraining as a technical writer and formalizing the skills I already had seemed like the answer.
Technical writing caught my attention because it seemed like the best of both worlds – the challenge and pleasure of writing, of finding the best way to explain or communicate– without that pesky need for coming up with my own ideas. It’s both creative and practical in a way that suits my personality perfectly. Not to mention it’s a growing industry. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the field is projected to grow 12 percent over the next decade. For a wannabe writer like me, it’s perfect.
So here I am, in my junior year of my third attempt at getting a college degree. The oldest student in most of my classes (at times even older than my professors), but I’m making it happen. I’m going to be a writer. I’m going to live my (modified) dream.