When trying to decide what to major and minor in at Texas Tech University and discover what steps would lead me to the career of my fondest choice (editing books for a publishing house), I quickly became somewhat frustrated, because there really aren’t any clear guidelines on how to go about it. I looked at different career sites, and they all said the same thing: get a BA in technical communications, English, or journalism. That’s pretty much it; not much advice on what to minor in (if you were going to major in technical communications, it was suggested that you minor in whatever field you’re interested in technically writing for, so I guess it’s just based upon interests?); nothing about what kind of English or journalism classes to take that would work best for a career in editing. Because let me tell you: I don’t know about journalism classes, but there are MANY different kinds of English classes. The English degree at Texas Tech has multiple areas of specialization, like creative writing, literature, and teaching. And even if you just minor in English, you still have to decide what classes you’re most interested in. Do you want to learn to write better (creative writing) or read better (literature) or teach?
I was more than a little confused. But perhaps it would be easier for you,the reader, to understand my confusion by doing a brief rewind. Before doing all this research, I had settled on majoring in Technical Communications and minoring in English. But for some reason, I decided to turn my decision on its head for awhile and consider other options. Hence the more in-depth research into editors’ education, after which this chaotic conundrum ensued, along with the inevitable queries:
Why is college so confusing?
Why isn’t there a clear set of steps that I can follow to get me where I want to go?
Should I revamp my university plans entirely?
And then, it happened. I came across this blog post: http://crazyindustry.blogspot.com/2005/03/becoming-editor.html It was written by a woman who went through her own struggles to find a clear path to becoming an editor, a way through the twists and turns of the maze that is college and education. Before she goes into her own personal tips and tricks about how to get into this sought-after career, she quotes a friend who summed up the essence of a would-be editor’s journey quite profoundly: There’s no way a person becomes an editor. One simply decides that one is, and sets about doing it.
The rest of the article is very interesting and contains some helpful guidelines, but what I found that really stuck in my brain was in the comments section. First of all, one commenter, whom I assume by the authoritative way she conveyed her information is an editor or someone of that ilk, stated “‘Get connected, keep your ears open, and tell EVERYONE that you’re looking for a job in publishing,” after which she goes on to describe how to get connected to the publishing industry, like working in a bookstore, moving to NYC (the hub of the publishing world), etc. The author of the blog post references this comment later on in a reply to another commenter, saying: “get connected in the field in which you want to work….” Whether you want to edit books for a publishing company, or “edit a magazine for guitarists” (the author’s example), you have to get out there and really dive into whatever it is you’re interested in. The rest just kind of follows.
To put all of this in a nutshell, the two biggest points that came across to me from this blog post were: experience and learning are key. That’s it. It doesn’t matter if you have an English major or not, or even what you major in, really. Just so long as you have received an education in whatever field it is you want to be editing in. The editor blogger also mentioned that she had known some editors who had studied science, and others still didn’t have a degree at all (they just “read widely”). The main thing is to read a lot, have “excellent” writing skills, and seek knowledge concerning whatever industry or part of an industry you want to work in.
This blog post gave me clarity; a direction, you might say. And guess what? I ended up going back to my original plan of majoring in Technical Communications and minoring in English. But, throughout this whole process, I have spawned some new goals.
Firstly, I want more experience. I would like to work in a bookstore, and I want to have read a LOT of books by the time I’m through at Texas Tech! I want to intern with a publishing company, but not just any publishing company: a company like Tor, which publishes sci fi and fantasy novels, or Random House, which publishes anything and everything (and also owns Del Rey, which *cough cough* may or may not produce *cough cough* Star Wars books). Heck, I’d even like to dip my toes in journalism a bit and work for a newspaper or a magazine or something, just to get that experience. Experience really is key, it would seem. And, even though it’s not in my major or minor, I’d like to learn more about astronomy, and do star gazing and stuff like that because, believe it or not, I really do like astronomy. A LOT (in fact, I wanted to be an astronomer at one time, but nuance). That would even help my career aspirations by familiarizing myself with more space-y terms that might be present in books I might edit (or books I might write ;). You get my drift; if I want to make something a part of my career, I need to learn more about it.
Secondly…I want to get into writing and publishing. Even if I don’t become a professional editor, I can still do freelance work. Or maybe I’ll become a world-famous author and let other people edit MY stuff. The sky’s the limit, really. All I have to do is decide that THIS is what I want to do, that THIS is what I’m going to shoot for. And I think that that kind of thinking applies to every career, every choice in life, not just editing. It’s all up to us, I guess. “All we have to do is decide what to do with the time that is given to us,” as a certain grey wizard would say.
And now that I have bored you to tears with career woes and philosophical meanderings, I only have one more thing to say: I’m getting a computer-screen-glare headache from all this writing, so you better have read the whole…stinkin’…thing. Thank you.