Tuesday, April 04, 2006

I had sort of an epiphany about my job today, and I need to sort of ramble and write it down before it gets lost in my head.

I don't remember when I first started wanting to be a writer. It must have been in late junior high sometime, because before that, I remember I wanted to be an actress. Eventually I realized that I didn't have the talent, although I did have fun being the third tree from the left in the high school musicals. But I'd always been praised for my writing, even very early on in school.

It's odd, though--I started to say here that in most cases, writing comes naturally to me, but in many ways that's not true. Writing here, for example. I used to keep a different blog, more of a general journal, when blogging first got popular - but I gave up because the blogs I liked to read were more of the "funny essays" type, and I just wasn't good at that. I do better with this blog, but only because it has a focus the other one never had. I've never, ever been able to write decent fiction. Every time I tried, the dialogue sounded stilted and fake, and I've never been able to come up with imaginitive plots. (And don't even ask about poetry.)

I did much better with critical writing for my English classes and with journalism, so eventually, my ambition became to be a journalist. I was good at it--when I got to college and started writing for the student paper, the editors immediately noticed me and groomed me for an editorial position. I was features editor for a few years and then business editor. I got an internship with a business magazine in New York, which led to my first post-graduation job as an associate editor/reporter there.

I loved that job, and I really was good at it. I don't want to sound like I'm patting myself on the back, but that kind of feature writing suited me well. However, I had one major flaw: I wasn't good at coming up with story ideas. Once a week, we'd have a staff meeting at which we'd throw out ideas and then assign them. I DREADED those meetings. I usually had one or two really minor things to throw out there, but never anything big. But give me an assignment, and I'd be all over it, and I'd do a good job.

That pattern held up in my next job as head of a small college's alumni magazine. I even went to graduate school for a journalism degree, and I did well, but it didn't make me any better at coming up with my own ideas. My third job, at the place I'm at now, seemed well suited to me-- it was writing correspondence and marketing copy for a university. I did well for three years, because my boss and her superiors set the marketing strategy. They'd decide what publications we were going to create, and I'd write them.

Now, my boss is gone and I'm in her place. The payoff for all those years of hard work...right? Except that so far, it's not going so hot. I mean, everyone seems to think I'm doing fine, but I don't feel like I am. I'm struggling to just stay afloat within the parameters my old boss set. But I know that eventually, that's not going to be good enough. I'm going to have to come up with ideas, set marketing strategy, all of that--and I don't know if I can.

I feel that I'm a good writer (and now I'm cringing that I put that out there, knowing that this blog definitely isn't representative of what I can do). Writing can be technically perfect and still just not have "it," but I think that most of the time, as long as it's the right type of writing, I do have "it." I'm also a great editor; there's nothing I love more than taking a mediocre piece of someone else's writing and making it better--I find it soothing in a weird way. However, I realized today that I am not the least bit creative. I have no sense of strategy. (I was never any good at checkers as a kid, either.) I'm a pleaser-- every boss I've had has loved me, because I don't complain; I do what I'm told and I do it well. I'm a soldier, not a general. I think that all this time, I've been trying to fit myself into this "creative" mold--I've sought out jobs with more creative control and responsibility, only to find when I actually got here that that's not what I'm suited for at all.

In some ways I think this sounds incredibly depressing, like I'm doomed to life as a small-time clock-puncher. Universities are great places for small-time clock-punchers--I could probably stay here forever and even be praised for my work without having to take any real initiative at all, but that's not what I want, either. I want to figure out exactly what kind of job would play to my strengths the most, and do that. I don't even need to be the boss.

I just have no idea what that job would be, or how to get there. And it is hard, after all this time, to admit that I've been chasing the wrong dream. I feel like a failure, and I don't want to feel that way.


At Tuesday, April 04, 2006 4:48:00 PM, Blogger Bronwyn said...

Every job that feels wrong or like a misfit brings you closer to figuring out what you really want to do. (Mind you, I'm in the same boat and don't feel anywhere near to figuring it all out.) At least you're appreciated and bringing home a paycheck, which are both very good things!

At Tuesday, April 04, 2006 6:00:00 PM, Blogger Clownstyle said...

Have you ever BEEN in the Private Sector? Well I have. They expect results.

At Tuesday, April 04, 2006 8:19:00 PM, Blogger NervousKitty said...

Hee, C! "The University gave us money and facilities! We didn't have to PRODUCE anything!"

At Thursday, April 06, 2006 9:34:00 AM, Blogger Josefina said...

Maybe you are just a little terrified of your new responsabilities, I think you will able to do it just fine!!!!!!
Best wishes!!


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