How I Succeeded and Failed with a B.A. in English

The Bitchy Editor’s post How Your B.A. in English Prepared You for Failure got me thinking about what constitutes failure or success in relation to a degree. I have a B.A. in English. It is my only completed degree so far. I was, by some standards, a success: I actually used it to get a job. It was still a giant mistake.

I was trying to double major in English and wildlife ecology, until I was so burnt-out and broke that I decided to just finish the degree I was closest to and get the hell out. I only needed one more class for English. I was working a string of temp jobs and just beginning what looked like a promising writing career, and I could see myself doing something like writing or editing until I could make a living writing my own stuff. So I took that one class and got out.

I bounced around in temp jobs until I was hired as a copy editor of construction textbooks. I thought, hey, I’m good with words, and I’d like to learn about construction. Perfect!

Not so much. The job killed what little attention span I had, and after staring at a manuscript all day, I found that the last thing I wanted to do when I got home was write. When I did force myself to write, it was not great prose. It was, well, forced.  I’ve never been a heavily stylized writer; I aim for an invisible style. But everything I wrote then was as flat as a plumbing manual for vo-tech students. Continue reading How I Succeeded and Failed with a B.A. in English

Who is this for?

Blogging 101’s Day 4 assignment is to consider my intended audience. The easy thing to do is say, “Whoever wants to read what I want to write,” but let’s get a little more specific.

When I write fiction, my ideal audience is me. I start writing something I’d like to read. (When I edit fiction, the readers I have in mind are my college fiction workshop professors, which is both helpful and terrifying. Those folks pulled no punches.)

But for Overlooked Nature, my ideal audience is not me. At least not the real me. It’s some alternate-universe version, a me who studied archeology or illustration instead of ecology. Perhaps a me who stuck with the fiction writing and actually made a living from it, instead of getting sidetracked right when she was starting to sell stories.

I want to present things I know, the same way I like for others to present things they know to me. Factual, but memorable. Detailed enough to be interesting, without being too detailed for the curious adult or teen to grasp. I want this to be a visual version of the podcasts about psychology and physics and history that I listen to in the car. I have never taken a class in any of those subjects, but the narrators break it down so I never have trouble understanding, without sounding like they’re talking to children.

That’s what I want to do. So, my ideal audience is the curious layperson. Maybe a recent arrival to the South who wants to know what’s in the creek in their backyard. Or someone who wonders why they should care that the sandhills are being developed so quickly — it’s just some pine trees on a lot of sand, right? (Spoiler: No, it’s not.) Or someone from far away who wants to see pictures of exotic-to-them creatures. And, of course, anyone who wants to read what I want to write.