The Best Thing About Being a Writer Is…

The best thing about being a writer is that I get to keep learning things. Yeah, I know, that kind of flies in the face of conventional writing advice which says “Write about what you know.” But here’s the thing, unfortunately, I do not get to write works of fiction very often these days. I’m more likely to be working on a resume for a client, a how-to article or a career exploration article. Those last two require research and resources even when I can write the article off the top of my head.

I never, ever wanted to teach. Regurgitating what I already know just makes me cranky and impatient. I adore my nieces and nephews, but trying to teach them stuff when they were little drove me wild with boredom. But here’s the thing again: writing IS teaching, especially when it comes to writing about careers. And this is what I’ve learned about writing how-to articles — it’s a lot like coming up with a fiction plot. Skip any step in the how-to process, or be obtuse in any of the others, and you’ve lost your audience. And, you have to rewrite the article before you get paid for it.

It’s the same with presenting career workshops. When I started out in career counseling, I thought I’d really hate doing workshops. Many career counselors get nervous when they have to do workshops, but I found that I never did. Even when I knew I would be evaluated on the presentation, I didn’t really care about the workshops. I thought one-on-one counseling sessions were more important, made more of an impact. Actually not caring made my presentations better and got a dialogue going with the participants, something that can be nearly impossible to do with college students and something that just writing a career article usually doesn’t do either. Workshops can also be more time efficient when you have few staff and many students.

I definitely like writing about careers — at least that part is writing about what I know professionally. Yes, I still do have to do the research, but I’ve discovered some really good online resources in the process and continued to learn about career development, especially what happens to a person’s career during an economic downturn and recovery. However, I do not always get to write about careers. Sometimes it’s gardening, other times interior design. There’s always something new to learn even when you already know (or think you know!) a lot about a subject.

Which leads me to the best thing about being a writer in conjunction with getting older is that I also get to fall back on life experiences for my work. The next article I am going to write is about design and decoration of odd-shaped rooms of which I do know something. The sorority house I lived in as an undergraduate was built by a movie producer during the Prohibition era. The bannisters were hollowed out so they could hold fifths of gin. There was a room on the third floor that concealed a tiny speakeasy. One whole odd-shaped room was lined with cedar. My room had an oversized closet which used to hold a still. Now surely one of these rooms HAS to find its way into this article. I guess I will be learning more about the Prohibition era and speakeasies…


4 Responses

  1. How, exactly, did you come to discover that the bannister would hold a fifth of gin??? I’m really hoping there’s an adventure there…maybe you could try your hand at fiction???

  2. The top came off the bannister, and supposedly the original tongs used to fish out the fifth were still there…The closet in my room was very cool-had built in drawers and hidey-holes where the still used to be. Never you fear, my dear, one day there will be a story…

  3. Hmmm…. Hidey holes in the closet??? Great way to keep your roommate from borrowing your clothes, or just a guarantee that you couldn’t find something when you needed it???

  4. Hmmm, I still seem to have that problem. It is frickin’ cold here, and I still can’t find my Free People grey thermal shirt. It seems to have gone AWOL…

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