Writers need to do more than just write

When I was going through my professional writing degree program, our department head, who was also my professor, had a mantra that he often impressed on us in our non-writing classes – “It’s no longer good enough to just write. Writers need to do more than just write these days to get a job, and that’s why you’re taking these courses.”

My design courses frustrated me to no end. My big sister would hardly find this surprising, as art was never one of my strengths, yet somehow I managed an A in both of my design courses during my college career. I also somehow managed to stumble, quite clumsily through a writing for the web course, where we had to build our own website on Drupal 7. Now I’m not going to sit here and say that those were a waste of money, but today’s job market, as writers, we can’t just breeze through the job listings hoping we can find some place where we can “just write”.

For example, while I was taking my introductory document design course, I did some volunteering for my former church’s marketing and communications division (yes, my former church is that big). You would have thought that for all the glossy fliers with elaborate graphic designs, we would have been able to put out a half decent weekly newsletter that clearly presented all the events in various church ministries every week.

Not so much.

In fact, my document design professor took a jab at it when I showed him the newsletter, saying “it looks like something a church would put out, multi-colored paper and all!” I couldn’t defend it, since I knew church used Adobe InDesign, and this half-letter, black lettering on neon pink paper newsletter was a poor offering for such a highly advanced program, and a church that spared no expense on its pamphlets, bulletins, and hand out cards. So I did a redesign for a class project, starting the project by using a larger paper size (half-legal) and adding color .

This was the result:

Weekly project

It made a huge difference, and I think that was when it dawned on me that maybe there was a logic to what the writing department was doing. Writers in the professional world need to not only write, but present their writing clearly, and effectively to their audience. What the redesign taught me wasn’t that I was good at document design, but that presentation still matters, and as writers, we will do well to remember that how we present our writing matters.

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