Bring Your Passion for Writing into the Light
Jordan Chappell '20
If you’ve been bitten by the writing bug, you might find yourself battered by friends and family members who toss around helpful phrases like ‘starving artist’ and tell you with all their infinite wisdom that there’s no room for your kind in the market, no money to be made, and therefore no reason for you to pursue your writing dream. Randolph-Macon College says otherwise.
With the addition of a new Writing Major to the college curriculum in fall of 2018, R-MC students can now participate in a program dedicated to honing a variety of writing-related skills. The major addresses the persuasive, explanatory, and self-expressive sides of writing, and aims to prepare students not only for a writing-focused career, but also to take on any experience where being well versed in the written word gives you an edge over less proficient workplace competitors.
With more and more employers looking for a writing-savvy workforce, it’s clear that writing as a skill is becoming more valued across all manner of different jobs. According to Thomas Peyser, head of the English Department, the Writing Major "will enhance the repertoire of all writers, whether they're poets, lawyers or copy editors, and lay the foundation for successful careers in fields requiring mastery of lucid prose: law, medicine, screenwriting, and journalism, for example."
So, whether it’s your dream to pick apples or be the CEO of Apple Inc, the Writing Major can help add career changing skills to your toolbox. Degrees in seemingly unrelated disciplines like Environmental Studies, Mathematics, or Archaeology could all benefit from the addition of a writing focused curriculum. Speak to your professors in these areas and ask them how much of their career involves a fluency in the written word. You might be surprised by how many of them actively publish articles, write essays, and draw up field reports in their daily lives.
Too many career paths favor an accomplished writer for the skill to be confined within the more obvious professions like publishing and journalism. For those interested in strengthening their writing abilities, Macon offers outlets that, while few in number, give a wide variety of experience-building environments, the first of which is the Yellow Jacket Newspaper itself. While positions are limited, anyone with an interest in journalism, writing, or editing could learn a lot from a spot on the YJ team. Practice working with other writers, processing materials in a timely fashion, and addressing a variety of topics through the written word are only a few of the boosts you can give to your writing capabilities.
If you’re seeking a more off-campus challenge, an internship might be something to look into. R-MC has connections to publishing companies in the Richmond area, and professors like Jen Cadwallader, who organizes the English-based internships, can help guide you toward the intern experience that will best serve your needs. Macon is also offering a J-Term course called Feature Writing this year. Taught by Professor Clabough, this course will give students a hands-on opportunity to learn how to develop marketable ideas, write feature articles, stories, profiles, and more. The class will include guest speakers and field trips to local magazine publishers.
If you’re leaning more toward creative writing, you will want to check out the college’s third outlet, The Stylus. This literary magazine is published annually and features works of fiction, nonfiction, screenplays, and poetry written by members of the R-MC community. This includes everyone from students and staff to faculty and alumni. According to Maria Navolio, editor in chief of The Stylus, the college literary magazine “serves as an opportunity to look back on the writing accomplishments of our campus, almost like a time capsule.” “It’s a nice piece of R-MC history,” she says and encourages interested students to submit a piece to The Stylus at thestylusrmc@ yahoo.com, or email her directly with questions.
Whether you’re drawn to personal expression, journalism, or any other kind of writing, feel free to remind your naysayers that there is indeed a place for writers in the market. In fact, according to Justin Haynes, English Professor and staff representative of The Stylus, “The rules for a writing career have become so malleable that working writers are choosing to carve their own niches rather than fitting into traditional molds.” His advice to anyone pursuing a career in writing is to “Read a lot, and broadly. Be open to suggestions both from professors and peers. And finally, keep at it.”
To add my own two cents here, another amazing piece of advice someone once gave me was to “stop making excuses.” Unfortunately, those of us who are passionate about writing are often forced to make our passion into more of a hobby that we rarely seem to have time for. The demands of the real world get in the way and our dreams have to take a backseat until we lose track of them in the middle of school, work, and the daily bustle. But if you quit making excuses and instead gradually make time for writing as part of your everyday life, not only will you get to practice your writing more often; you’ll also be well on the way to making your passion a centerpiece of your life. So, stop making excuses and start carving your writing niche today!