English

Why English Majors Should Pursue Business Careers

As a full-time English major who freelance writes for businesses, I often forget that I am an anomaly. Businesses everywhere are looking for writers and clear communicators; I’m surprised, however, that all my classmates have no idea how desperately they’re needed.

Last week, I was sitting in my creative writing class, killing time before the professor showed, and I overheard a conversation between a few students. They were discussing the frightening realization that college will soon be over, and that their academic security blankets will soon be ripped away, like a determined mother fed up with a binky, et cetera, et cetera.

They talked of the real world:

“What will you do?”

“I have no idea.”

“What will you do?”

“I don’t even know where to begin.”

“What will you do?”

“Me?” I paused, searching. “I’ll be looking in marketing, probably Seattle, San Francisco. Pull from my copy editing, blogging, freelance work. I’d love to find something in digital media, though I would settle for pure technical writing. Ideal, for me,” I continued, in the zone now, “a project manager or business development position within a small to mid-range company.”

I stopped because I sensed the whole room was now listening.

“Wow,” some girl said. “Aren’t you an English major?”

This is a problem.

Private academia can often coddle its college students. English majors, especially, are trapped in this bubble: canons, anthologies, theses. We read the world’s greatest literature spanning from Beowulf to Blood Meridian; we explicate and extrapolate; we read between the lines and find messages that the average reader misses; we communicate clearly, or edit and elucidate incoherent documents into well examined ideas with organization and structure.

English majors have no idea how well their skills translate into business.

I’m an English major and a business major, so I have love for both studies. That said, if I had to pick between hiring two different candidates—all things considered—I would choose the English major. Hands down. Every time.

Let’s make some sweeping statements. 

Here’s what I’ve observed about business majors: (more…)

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Smorgasblog—My 200th Post!

Well, well, well. What do we have here? Blog number 200? Watch out, The Simpsons.

Bloggers who post everyday probably hit 200 in their sleep, but for part-time posters like myself, I like to pause and reflect upon arbitrary three-digit milestones.

(Pausing…)

Mmmm. Nice, isn’t it?

(Still pausing…)

*Checks watch*

I think that’s enough pausing.

When I last hit an arbitrary three-digit milestone, I was living in California, working for a music education company, enjoying citrus off the tree, and smiling a lot. Since then, my wife and I have abandoned familiarity in favor of fundamental, paradigm shifting change. We traveled the country and moved to upstate New York; we were attacked by an evil bat in the middle of the night; my face froze off due to something called Polar Vortex; I wrote a play which won an award; we broke veg to eat haggis. It’s been good and bad.

Forward!

And so life goes. Personally, I’m still figuring out what the hell my life is all about–and further, as an extension, what this blog is all about.  (more…)

Famous Writers in Hell, a recap

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of seeing Famous Writers in Hell, a one-act play I wrote and submitted to the 16th Annual Rochester One-Act Festival. What an experience! I’ve said this so many times now it sounds cliche, but there is no stranger (or awesomer) experience than seeing written characters come to life.

The festival was written, directed, and produced entirely by University of Rochester students. The quality of production and acting was to be a surprise to me, being unfamiliar with UR theater besides one performance. I had no idea what to expect! Just to be safe, in the months prior to the festival, I convinced myself everything would be awful and that I should prepare for the worst.

“Probably be poopy!” I would say. Or, “Oh yeah, that’s coming up?”

Also, I thought it best to stay away from the production team as much as possible. The director seemed both capable and passionate; besides, I wanted to see someone else’s interpretation. Since I’m busier than a vacant badger, it wasn’t very hard to keep my distance. I’m glad I did. The surprise of the performance was an experience I doubt I’ll soon (if ever) forget.  (more…)

5 Lessons for the Workshop Writer

Now, my darlings, a quick lesson on workshopping. Every writer must seek feedback on his or her work. It’s imperative. Thirty minutes in a workshop table can fuel you for an entire week. Don’t accept the adage of “All work and no play make Johnny a dull boy,”—a writer by himself going crazy from the lonely craft. Writing is, or should be, a team effort.

Last semester I had a playwright workshop course; currently, I’m in a short story workshop. Because I’m nice, I thought I’d share what I’ve learned. You’re welcome, America (and possibly Croatia).

Fair Warning: This blog post was not workshopped. I know, I know.

Here’s my top 5 lessons from the workshop table.

1) Prepare for the worst. Sorry, but your first draft wasn’t perfect. Embrace what’s coming. Get into the habit of looking forward to the edits. (Edits are your friends. They take you to new places and introduce you to new things.)  (more…)

The Best Writer in the Room (Give or Take 30 English Students)

As many of you know, I just started my Junior year here at the University of Rochester, NY. I’m studying entrepreneurship but also creative writing, as a minor. I’m a transfer student which means I came from a community college.

In the first week of school, my playwright professor led the class in a writing “Impulse” exercise. Basically, it goes like this:

You close your eyes and relax. A detailed scene is spoken before you and after a few quiet moments, you write non-stop for fifteen-minutes.

I’ve done these exercises before but have never really appreciated them. Often, other writers tell me the importance of writing a first draft non-stop without editing. Personally, I hate doing that. I don’t know why. I stop and read and edit. I’m positive it’s why my blog posts take so damn long.

Regardless, I did the impulse-exercise and the results came out as expected: a jumbled mess of words and a decent start. Nothing to write home about.

I was ignorant because I assumed everyone around me had a similar situation. A complete mess. But I was wrong. The professor asked students to read their work. Out-loud. Yes. I was wrong.

I listened to my classmates read their work, and it was absolutely amazing. I’m surrounded by wonderful, talented writers. In the fifteen minutes of writing, most (if not all) managed wonderful characters, detailed settings, and accomplished word-usage. I looked down at my work:

The cat go meow. Dog chase it on park. Cow go moo. 

Crap. I have some work to do.

Chicken Scratch

For most of my academic career, I’ve been the best writer in the room. That reads kind of cocky, but it’s true. Students in community college just don’t care. I put actual effort into my papers and found it really easy to impress my instructors and fellow students. Scholarships, literary journals, 4.0, etc.

At Rochester, the tables have turned. I’m no longer the best writer in the room. It turns out, everybody in the room is a good writer and often better.

Wait. Don’t Go! I’m not fishing for compliments (I promise).

As tempted as I was to drop-out and reenroll in community-chicken-college to satisfy my comfort zone, I know it would do me no good. It hurts when you learn you’re not the best at what you thought you were. I’m a decent writer; I know that, but I need to grow. That’s okay. I can always get better.

Despite the gross sense of intimidation and inadequacy I’ve faced this last week, I’m absolutely positive I’m in the right place. Every writer needs a push, and I’ve been pushed. In fact, since that first class, I’ve been working on my writing more than I ever have. Thank God for that. 

(I know it’s healthy because it stings).

Ever find yourself in a similar situation? Any advice? How do you write a first draft?

Stop Blogging! Before You Get Hurt!

Joining the blogosphere is an interesting business. Sooner or later, you’re going to get hurt. Sometimes people write blogs that makes you feel sick. Other times, you may get personally attacked. It happens.

Here, anyone can say anything. There’s no filter, no editor in chief.

origin_2879955156Sometimes popular blogs say weird things. Writers earn their soapbox but forget to stay grounded. They say things that make the reader go… I’m sorry, what? 

I read a blog yesterday like this. I loved the writer’s topic: being authentic and genuine with your readers. I can roll with that. To give a context, it’s a spiritual blog.

Then it got weird. The writer claimed that if bloggers craft “exciting titles” and cover popular topics that they are improperly manipulating their readers, and that by using writing formulas and word intentionality, bloggers are being in-authentic.

My favorite part was this:

My blogs and books will probably be riddled with improper grammar and syntax – but really, they’re just riddled with me. They’re honest.

Now I don’t want to pick apart this person’s blog, nor do I wish to unfairly scrutinize this person who had a bad blog in a bunch of good ones.

This blogger doesn’t appreciate good writing, and that’s fine. What upset me was his claim about those who DO practice good writing techniques. His claim that people like me, and many of my good friends here on WordPress, foster improper manipulation towards our readers.

In the past, I’ve claimed expertise in topics I wasn’t accomplished in; I’ve painted others I disagree with in bad lights. I’ve made these mistakes.

Here’s what I’ve learned: Write what you know, and explore what you don’t. Never assume you’re a whiz just because you have a keyboard.

Catchy Mid-Title

This topic did make me think about the future of writing. Digital platforms are taking us to a place where thoughts like these are championed, a place where everyone has a publisher and the need for polished craft is a distant second.

I wonder if we’re seeing the beginning of the end to accomplished technique.

Maybe we should all come to terms. After all, we live in a new world now. Does grammar, syntax, and stylistic intentionality really matter these days?

Let me know your thoughts!

Photo Credit: [http://www.flickr.com/photos/kwerfeldein/2879955156/]

Post Script

I didn’t want to post a link to this person’s blog. But without doing that, I fear I’m not allowing YOU to come to your own decision. Also, I don’t want to present an argument without giving my sources. So HERE. I’ve framed the blog in a pretty negative light. Read it for yourself, you may find it’s alright.