By education, I am not a writer. The nice piece of paper says “Chemical Engineering” on it.
I don’t consider this to be a problem, however. I taught myself to be a writer largely by watching the world around me and gently crumbling it up onto a piece of paper with scribblings in English. Teaching myself to edit was a more difficult problem, since it took re-reading my own stuff and not recoiling in horror at the mistakes. But I did it.
Perhaps I am an arrogant SOB, but I firmly believe that I learn more walking down a street than I do sitting in a room that I paid good money to be in, having knowledge dispensed at me by a bobbing head like so much Pez. Learning how to learn, or at least how I learn, was the hard part. It’s not by sitting down and reading stuff, moreso now that I’ve come to believe nearly all writing is inadequate (my own especially).
The problem with this perspective is that we live in a world where people need credentials. If I had “Journalism” written on a piece of paper, I know I would have landed at least one gig I have so far been unable to get. What makes me a writer? Self-publishing “Downriver” was supposed to be my Master’s Thesis, but not everyone sees it that way. They want me to be acknowledged by someone else. They want a piece of paper that tells them I am good at sitting down and eating up pellets of knowledge underneath humming fluorescent lights.
What is amazing about this attitude is that people change careers very often these days. I have heard that as many as twelve careers in a lifetime is now standard. How do you get the credentials to land that next job in a different career? Apparently, the lot of the middle class is to spend a tremendous amount of time in continuing education. While a flexible workforce is certainly desirable, as is a flexible life, this says nothing about people like myself who learn better by asking stupid questions and watching the world from slightly less than a safe distance.
What it boils down to, in my mind, is that I do not bow to authority very easily. I happen to think that the passive way we educate is more about acknowledging authority than it is about any kind of Socratic Q&A process. The pieces of paper that are so richly valued tell the world, “This one is pliable”. Perhaps I am arrogant after all when I say that I am not a toady and I believe in questioning everything. That makes me a horrible scholar in this day and age. Is that really my fault, or does the blame lie in the way things are set up?
I hope that by getting this far you agree that I can write. I don’t see that I need any other acknowledgement than you, frankly. Sure, I could use more work, but I don’t want to bother with gaining the credentials that say I can write. It would be a scam, a lot of time and money wasted pretending I can play the game. I’d rather be honest about the whole deal. Call me arrogant if you want, but it’s just not how I learn. My credentials are in what I do and who I am, and if that’s not good enough I’ll look elsewhere.