Shadow Writing: the Secret Work of an English Major
It occurs to me that I actually do a lot of writing, proofreading, drafting, and editing that can't really be shown to anyone or that doesn't count as creative or portfolio-worthy writing. This is partly why it is so difficult to convey the skills of an English major.
Questions I receive nearly daily:
- How can I edit my design document so W comes across more clearly?
- Can you look over X?
- Can you draft up something short for Y?
- People didn't turn their Z in, so can you just write one for them? (non-academic)
This is due in part to my voluntary role as a TA, and I confess that I thoroughly enjoy helping people with all of these requests; it makes me feel useful and as if my skills are actually valuable. But these skills don't directly translate to many jobs in the real world. The ability to edit is considered "nice to have" or often just assumed.
Some of my shadow writing includes:
IRRADIANCE GAMES (current game team)
Proposal for additional Emotiv headset
Team member descriptions
Write-ups for the DigiPen marketing team, professors, and presentations
Posts on the team's Facebook page & Twitter
Proofreading website content, various forms, etc.
ADDITIONAL DIGIPEN TEAMS
Consulting work for side teams/projects
PERSONAL WORK/INDEPENDENT STUDY
Proposals for fellowships, lectures, and conference panels
Posts on my professional Facebook page & Twitter
Proofreading and giving feedback on ENG110 students' papers and story outlines
Giving feedback on GAT120 and GAT212 game design assignments
Proofreading content on team sites at Microsoft
Writing unique, personalized cover letters for every job application
The teacher for whom I work as an English TA, Sonia Michaels, also teaches communication courses at DigiPen. She often reminds her students how important it is to market themselves well, and professional, detailed management of their social media is a way for their writing, proofreading, drafting, and editing skills to shine. She has a point.
While it is a lot of work to maintain various social media accounts and grade assignments, I feel as if doing so allows me to reflect on my actions, projects, and attitude and constantly evaluate my approach to them. If I'm not making progress on something or if I'm feeling frustrated, I notice red flags in my social media drafts, which prompt me to step back and figure out why before I keep heading in the wrong direction and lose too much time and energy. Also, the students that I evaluate continually surprise me with their unique insights and creativity, so I almost always learn something new every time I sit down to grade assignments.
So perhaps shadow writing isn't wasted writing after all.
Copyright Alexandra Lucas 2015