Why I Chose Professional Writing—Even Though I Don’t Want to Be an Author

by Katherine Hiegel

When I tell people I’m a Professional Writing major, the usual response I get is, “Oh, so you want to write books?” And I reply, “Well, no, actually. I want to become an editor.”

Ever since I was little, the one thing I loved to do more than anything was read. I eventually quit soccer, and I gave up my childhood dreams of being a dentist or a teacher, but my love of reading stuck. That in itself is pretty common (and, I would argue, an asset, even a necessity) among writers. I also wrote my own stories as a kid, and in high school I joined the Poetry Slam Team and began to keep a journal. But as I got older, I discovered that what I enjoyed even more than writing or reading was editing—looking at other people’s writing and making it better.

One of my earliest editing experiences was when I was picked to judge Young Authors in middle school. We sat in the library for almost the entire school day and did nothing but read and score stories written by students at our school. I was in my element. And, as every editor learns, some of the entries were good, and most definitely were not. I still remember that one story contained the line (referring to a mother’s miscarriage), “She lost the baby in her stomach.” Ahh, the innocence/ignorance of middle school…

In high school, I loved peer editing day in English class. Editing allowed me to read interesting writing, hunt for and fix mistakes, and intellectually engage with someone else’s thoughts and raw material. I still love editing for those very same reasons.

But when I committed to Taylor University and it came time to pick a major, the decision intimidated me so much that I almost came in as a pre-major. I’m a curious person by nature, and I was interested in so many subjects that I couldn’t bring myself to commit to just one. (And there isn’t a “reading” major in college.) Finally, I settled on Professional Writing in the hope that it would be able to help me toward my dream of becoming a full-time editor.

Still, I worried, because it seemed almost everyone I talked to at Taylor wanted to write books or screenplays or video game storylines or news articles.  None of that seemed to fit my particular skill set. I have a generally strong grasp of writing mechanics, and I can formulate arguments and phrase thoughts well, but I struggle with the creative side of writing—coming up with unique ideas and building vivid new worlds.

katie-hiegelIt wasn’t until fall of my sophomore year, when I took PWR 343 (Editing), that I really felt like I belonged in the major. I loved Editing and felt like my doubts had finally been put at bay; here was my reason for being at Taylor and in the PWR program. Today, I’m plugging away at a screenplay, short stories, and news articles, but I still have my sights set on editing as my dream career—and every day I learn more about both writing and editing.

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