Writing well is a privilege. Studying writing doubly so.
Sometimes writing is blissful. Something you do before looking up a recipe for coq au vin or meandering through the park with your terrier. Other times, every single word needs to be coaxed onto the page and even then they refuse to cooperate. There’s no doubt writing is work, and all you can do is fill up on leftover Thai food or finish picking up after your dog so you can return to your keyboard. But if you write well, in the end you will have something meaningful, and that is a privilege. It’s a privilege I think I can understand and accept. But studying writing, that’s something different.
I never thought I would study writing. There are the less significant reasons: I’m not the type of student praised for her natural writing ability; I don’t have that lifelong passion for writing I admire in others; I can’t identify parts of speech, a skilled mastered by many elementary school students. But the biggest reason is that for a long time, I misunderstood what it means to study writing. This caused the pragmatic, working-class background part of me to feel that studying writing is a privilege beyond my grasp.
I don’t fully blame myself. I think professional writing programs have an image problem. Sometimes I worry people think I spend my weekdays in a well-manicured courtyard, with a drum circle and a hacky sack game nearby, discussing the philosophy of writing.
After all, isn’t studying writing something you do when you have endless time for yourself and don’t worry about paying bills? I know that’s not true, but I worry what my friends think about me—friends who plotted their career paths and life goals years ago—when I tell them I’m spending a year studying writing.
Even now that I’m in the third month of the program, I’m a little embarrassed to tell people that I’m completing a graduate certificate named Communications – Professional Writing. When I do, I immediately launch into an explanation that begins: “It’s probably not what you think…”. And then I explain.
Professional Writing is career oriented.
The program includes project management and instructional design.
It’s not journalism. It’s not creative writing.
I’m learning coding!
I’m building a well-rounded portfolio!!
The instructors share their real world experience!!!
Sometimes I blur the line between telling people I’m a student and selling the program. I need people to see the value of the program so they can help me see my future. I need them to know that I didn’t make the decision to study writing lightly. That it will lead me where I want to go. I need this so much because the truth is, I’m still trying to sell myself on being a student in the program. I understand studying writing is practical, I believe in the program, but I still think studying writing is an extraordinary privilege.
To study professional writing as a graduate student requires you to have access to financial resources, a support system that allows you to alter your personal obligations for one year, and the knowledge you can succeed in higher education. It’s also an admission that you believe in your aptitude for content creation and you appreciate your writing in a world with 313 million active Twitter users and 69.5 million WordPress posts per month. To have these things in this world is an extraordinary privilege.
Studying writing is like that song you hear over and over without thinking too much about the meaning. Then one day, you learn the meaning and it’s a complete surprise. I use to think studying writing was the type of privilege I would never experience. Now, after a little research, here I am. I still think it’s an extraordinary privilege, but now I know I can take advantage of this privilege. After all, privilege isn’t a bad thing, not even extraordinary ones, it’s just a good thing to be aware of it.