College Graduate Support

This article inspired by a recent initiative from DePauw University. Shared with me by a Ball State English Professor and amazing literary citizen.

So, a few days ago I went looking for something on the #bsuenglish blog. Back in October they were providing this really nifty page on the blog where every Monday they added a new prompt for blog posts. I wasn’t using it every week, but it did spark a couple of articles for me that you can read here and here. It also sparked my motivation to get this blog rolling again after a dozen false starts and a platform change from Blogger to WordPress in the last 4-5 years or so.

To my surprise, I found that the prompts page hadn’t been updated since October 2017. So I sent out a tweet…

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Because, let’s be honest, I’ve committed to a new blog post every Friday at midnight, I HAVE A DEADLINE, and sometimes I just can’t get the writing juices flowing for anything that isn’t supposed to be a short story and turns into another attempt at a novel. So, I was really hoping for a prompt. As you can see from the screenshot above, I got one reply. It was from Professor Cathy Day, an amazing writer and professor in the Ball State English Department. I never had the pleasure of joining one of her classes due to scheduling conflicts, but she was still an amazing help when the insane schedule I had caused me to break down in the library at 1am during my third all-nighter in a row in the second week of my last semester… so, yeah, I LOVE Cathy!

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When I saw this, I read the article and sent a reply.

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And that was the end of the conversation. This happened on Tuesday, today is Thursday. In all of my college education filled intelligence, I didn’t realize until about 9am this morning (It’s 9:21 as I write this part.) that Cathy gave me a prompt the same way the BSUEnglish blog had been doing last year. All I thought about was 2 things:

  1. What did she mean not a lot of participation? That was gold right there. People doing part of the work for you, providing topics and inspiration relative to today’s world! Why wouldn’t anyone want to jump on it and take advantage of the discussion provided right there?!
  2. Why doesn’t Ball State do something like this? I mean, as someone still working at Lowe’s and really in a rut with my art, writing, and really everything, this seems like an amazing opportunity and I wish I had access to it.

So first, let me state again: I LOVE Cathy! She is an awesome and supportive person, even if you didn’t take any of her classes. She is a literary citizen extraordinaire.

This article isn’t really a Cathy Day love fest, though. Maybe I’ll write one of those later this year when I’m strapped for ideas. 😉

Neither is this article entirely about the initiative from DePauw University she told me about, though I’m sure that’s what she thought.

In the link Cathy gave me, DePauw University is announcing to alumni, which Cathy is one, a new commitment they are making to parents and students. If after 6 months their graduates have not found employment or entered graduate school DePauw will provide “an entry-level professional opportunity for them (at no less than six months), or give them an additional semester of education tuition free to further hone skills and knowledge.”

One of my first thoughts about this was that parents should keep their noses out of it and if a student wants to pursue a liberal arts education rather than a STEM degree, let them. It’s their choice, their life. But it was the commitment that DePauw is making that really floored me.

As a recent graduate who did not go to grad school right away, if at all – I’m still thinking about it and would probably really love to, and I’m still working a retail job that is trying its best to make me physically incapable of performing the tasks it provides me, I would love it if there was a support like this for me.

I won’t lie, I’ve been really depressed lately, some of it is hormones, but a lot of it is that I’m watching people I consider friends from college publish, get jobs in their field, go to grad school, move to the city, travel, doing amazing things with their lives. Meanwhile I barely have a presence on social media, I’m in constant physical pain because the job I work is a manual labor job with almost no use of my degree outside of the critical thinking skills I learned… and I may soon be unemployed because I don’t think I can continue this job without permanently injuring myself if I can’t get my body to heal. I’m 21, that’s too young for a permanent back injury. I’m still living at my grandparents’ house, and while I pay rent, it just isn’t being independent enough for me to be a person.

And that’s enough of the pity-me-fest… I told you, part of it is hormones, I’m 21 and only just figuring out who I really am outside of the structure of school – what do you expect?

But, without the amazing support of the #bsuenglish community, the Stars to Steer by Facebook group that Cathy has going, and the amazing friends I made at BSU who are encouraging me, recommending books to read, and just generally being awesome people, I’d be lost!

This post is kind of a thank you to them, as well as a way for me to understand what’s been going on in my head lately with all of these topics.

Support after college is one of the most important things any graduate can have. Even if you don’t get the job, just having someone who is constantly sharing job postings, letting you and all the other alumni know that hey, here’s a position/internship/whatever you should qualify for after going through the department programs.

No, BSU doesn’t provide me with an entry-level position. Neither are they giving me an extra semester tuition free to further hone my skills and knowledge to get a job. But, they are all there as a support group.

When I’m feeling down or like I’m a failure. I message a friend that also went through BSU English and has been through the same spot I’m in and I find encouragement, a few laughs, and solidarity.

It all makes me wish I’d done more to get out and be a person in college. I would have loved to hang out with these people, get to know them better in class, and join the clubs and causes they were in. I let my introversion and fear of going outside my belief system keep me from that. It was stupid because these are amazing people. They support amazing causes, and they support each other. I really wish I’d done better to get out there and be more interactive, but these people support me.

Even if it’s just with a book recommendation… or a list of books, in reply to a Facebook post.

So, this is my long-winded and rambling way of saying thank you to the friends I made in BSU English and to the community that is #bsuenglish for being there, for supporting me, and for just being a group of awesome people. Community is so important for everyone, not just writers and post-undergrad students who are feeling more than a little lost.

I love you all, and thank you!


The Irony of the Introverted Writer

There is an irony to my profession.

Writing is often seen as the ideal profession for introverts. Hours ALONE at a desk with nothing but the computer and an iPod to keep you company. If you want to feel social, flip the wi-fi back on for a little bit and surf the internet, Facebook, twitter, wherever your little heart desires and you never have to talk to an actual person face to face, or even over the phone. It’s always you and a keyboard, nothing else.

writer-1421099_1920.jpgThing is, that’s the romantic version of being a writer.

One technological step up from Thoreau’s cabin in the woods is turning off all your wi-fi and locking yourself in your apartment or bedroom with a bottle of Merlot and a keurig next to your Macbook.

Writing itself – a totally introverted sport.

Being a writer – So. Much. More.

Being a writer, isn’t just about writing at your desk. That’s the part that makes you a writer. I mean, if you don’t write – you aren’t a writer. It’s like, the only qualification. It’s more than just that, though. Being a writer is about experiencing life. People, places, and activities are a bigger part of that than most of us like to admit, even to ourselves. It’s nice to imagine yourself high up in your tower, writing by the light of a candle in a sound proof room, the entire world shut out.

How can one write about the world, write about the experiences of someone living in the world, when one has not had those experiences for themself?

From experience, I’ve found that when one lets themself give in to introverted tendencies and do little but sit behind the computer and write, things happen.

  1. Our bodies start to fall apart. Have you ever tried writing through a cold? The flu? Pneumonia? If you haven’t, chances are you’re thinking that you could make it work. If you have, I’d lay odds you know it’s just that much harder than it sounds. Our brains tend to find focus hard to obtain when we’re operating on less than 100% capacity. Most of our bodies energies are being spent on trying to get better, trying to heal. They aren’t easily reallocated for writing. When we sit in one place for long periods of time without getting up to do something like exercise or eat right, our bodies don’t like it. Our immune system weakens, and our writing suffers.
  2. Our minds start to wander. There is only so much we can pour into any one project at one time. Eventually, your mind wants to do something else. We end up scrolling through Facebook, Twitter, bingeing Netflix, and doing anything at our computer but writing. We get bored. The human brain is designed to shift from task to task, for survival, if nothing else. More than that, when you pour all of your energy into something at one time, you eventually lose momentum. You lose the fuel to write.
  3. Our writing starts to feel forced and uninspired, it might even be of poorer quality. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done this. I lock myself up for more than one day to write and the first day, everything goes awesome. The words are really flowing and it’s sounding amazing. (Until revision, that is.) The second day, it gets harder. It’s like trying to make a car go on nothing but the ghost of gasoline fumes. It’s not an easy thing. I might make my word count that day, but I’ll look back on what I wrote and it’ll be repetitive, it’ll have redundant words out the wazoo, and be of a quality I haven’t produced since third grade. It’s a result of not having fuel. Experiencing things, getting out and being a person fuels our writing. Even if it’s just a walk around the block, it gets those creative juices flowing like they don’t when you don’t experience anything for a while. The greats will tell you not to wait for inspiration to write, and they’re correct. You should always write something, every day. You can’t edit or revise, and definitely not publish, what isn’t there in the first place. But, you also shouldn’t force yourself to create something out of nothing. There’s a difference between drained writing and writing that takes place with something in the fuel tank, even if that something isn’t for that project. You can feel it. It might all be in your head, but you can feel it all the same.

These are just a few of the things that happen to a writer: drainage, declining health, and even the lack of enjoyment in writing. Getting out and about is essential for even the biggest introverts. The human being is designed to move and to learn, to do things other than stare at a computer all day.

These are the physical ironies of the introverted writer. But, then there’s the rest of it, the professional ironies.

A lot of the professional tasks of being a writer can be done over a computer screen, yes. But if you’re at all successful there may be things you have to do for one reason or another that require face to face contact with your audience.

As an introvert, I’m sometimes terrified to do things as simple as send out a submission to a magazine so that maybe, just maybe, I might get published. What happens if they like it and I have to talk with a person? Or, worse, what if they don’t like it and I put my neck out there only to have my head cut off when they send me a rejection.

If you’re self publishing, you still might have to deal with a designer to make your cover, bloggers who will hopefully review your book(s), people you want to write blurbs for the back cover. All of those things. You might even get fan mail, if you’re good, that you may wish to respond to.

Writing may have been an introverted task, but once you get into this side of things it becomes extrovert oriented very quickly.

You wanted to be a published writer without a typical 9-5 so when you have to make an appearance at a convention and talk on a panel so you can get paid enough to keep the lights on this month… you’re going to have to be an extrovert for a while. Even if you’re only pretending. No one likes a stand-offish panelist.

If you’re a writer of anything but the big FOUR: Fiction, Creative Non-Fiction, Screenplays, and Poetry… it can be extroverted start to finish.

Freelance blog posts? Networking.

Articles for businesses? Networking.

Reviews for books? Networking.

Blogger? Networking.

There is networking everywhere! At Ball State the English department holds “Stars to Steer By” events where they bring in speakers, give presentations, and a dozen other things that prepare English Majors (and others) for a career with a humanities degree, or getting a career with a humanities degree.

I wish I had attended more of these, but I’m an introvert and I don’t get out much.

One of the sections, that I didn’t attend but should have… Networking for Introverts.

Yep, it’s a thing. And it was something helpful to a few of the people I know because let’s face it, a good portion of the people attracted to a humanities degree? Introverts.

We like what we like.

So, yeah, writing is an ironic profession for introverts. You can’t get away from people, especially when people are what you write about. And lets face it, anything with characters, even talking horses, lions, beavers, fauns, and other non-humans… it’s about people. Which introverts, tend to avoid.

I look at it this way, being an introvert is all well and good, but no one is designed to be completely alone. Even hermits keep a dog or a cat. Castaways have a volleyball.

Writing is a sport for introverts. But being a writer… you might have to step out of the comfort circle for a bit.