With fall comes football and a new job

Michigan State’s season opener was Friday, but more importantly, Friday was my last day working for the Michigan Department of Education. I may take on some very minimal contract work from them in the future (writing stories or test items from the comfort of my home), but I gave my notice, turned in my badge, and left the Hannah building for the last time.

A few weeks before that, you see, I had been hired as an assistant professor at Michigan State University. I now teach two sections of one of the first-year writing courses offered at MSU, and I’m focusing my course on new media literacies.

It’s nothing short of wonderful to once again be part of the MSU community. I have an office in Bessey Hall (the building I spent more time in than any other while I was a student in the professional writing program), a faculty parking pass (which still excites me  beyond reason), and a brand new MSU ID (though I really don’t look like I’ve aged nine years). My colleagues are good, my students are good, and campus is beautiful.

The downside to all of this is that I’m not full time, nor am I eligible for benefits (my contract is only for one semester at the moment; I’ll find out in October if it will be renewed). I also took a slight pay cut. But, at the end of the day, when I come home exhilarated, excited to do some specific lesson planning for the next class, and ready to go back the next day, I know I’m in the right place. I still would love to move to editing some day, but if that day never comes, I have a truly magnificent job and community.

You can’t do that with a writing degree!

When people find out I’m studying fiction writing, one of the first questions they ask me is what I’m going to do for a job. If they hazard a guess, they mention teaching. Strangely, no one mentions being an author. All those books at Barnes and Noble must just appear out of thin air.

When I was in professional writing, the ideas about what I would do for a career were slightly more varied. Sometimes they’d ask about teaching AND journalism, and never mind the fact that then I could have been a journalism major. The thing is, a lot of people see writing as a sort of cop out major, as hobby instead of career choice. When I switched from engineering to writing, a friend whispered behind my back that I just wasn’t smart enough to handle a “real” program. And really, I don’t choose to write fiction because it’s something that will make me money. Instead it’s something that I enjoy, something I’m good at. It might make me some money; I hope it does, but that’s not why I do it.

So back to those two career choices I seem to have: I’m not all that qualified to teach, and I have no desire to be a journalist. What’s a girl to do?

Well, as it turns out, there are countless jobs open to writers. I could go into editing or publishing (the two fields I’m looking at most strongly). I could do PR or communications work, which right there gives me ins to pretty much every company in the world. I could work for a nonprofit, or the government. As a personal assistant. As an office assistant. I could do copy writing, technical writing, web writing. I could write plot and dialogue for video games. I could write famous people’s books. I could freelance resumes and cover letters, writing them for people who don’t know how.

Look around you, at the sheer quantity of the written word. For now we’ll ignore other means of visual communication. There are cookbooks, instruction manuals, advertisements, product labels, blog posts, fine print, emails, bills, magazines, coupons… And that’s not even counting all those books (they magically appear, remember?). All of that, by writers.

If you can’t tell, I’m starting my job hunt, and each day I’m astounded by the sheer number of opportunities before me. So you tell me, how has your career used the written word?