The responsibilities and expectations of a professional writer are always directly proportionate to and dependent on the desires of the writer’s employer, usually an editor of the publication. The relationship with this employer is the only aspect ensuring the continuation of a writer’s employment assuming that his or her initial hiring was based on the writer’s ability to write. As a student, your continued employment comes in the form of satisfactory grades and eventually sources for positive references. In my time as a student majoring in English and concentrating in professional writing and public discourse the relationships I have had with my professors have similarly affected my grades as in the professional world that relationship would affect the writer’s employment. In the professional world there are deadlines, length specifications, desired voices for particular audiences,etc.. These expectations are just the same for a student.
Currently, there is a course offered here at the University of Alabama at Birmingham listed as EH488/588 British Novel: The Modern Age. Bear in mind this course requires a substantial amount of reading – a novel per week to be specific – though it is the lessons learned as a writer that someone in the PW concentration can really benefit. In the course there is, as stated, a novel to be read each week and along with that a minimum of three pages to be written on the style, form, and voice of the novel. Each week you turn in a paper and receive your paper from the week prior, which is sometimes heavy with red ink – but that’s the point. As in the professional world, your performance is under close watch and is constantly being critiqued – but it doesn’t end there. The point is to respond to those critiques by utilizing them as a way to evaluate and improve your own work. Additionally, as there is an assignment due each week, the concept and importance of deadlines is inherently instilled in each student.
EH488/588 is not unlike other literature courses aside from the mere rapidity and repetition that it offers. Here’s a list of available English courses with their respective descriptions. With each graded and critiqued paper that is returned to the student should come at least one particular aspect of the student’s work that he or she will now know they need to improve on. The course allows visible advancements in a writer’s ability to be made from week to week and at the same time ensures improvement in a writer’s own voice by requiring such a heavy load of reading.
The idea is this: all English and literature courses should be viewed as training and exercise for the real world of professional writing. If a student can constructively evaluate his or her work based on a professor’s critiques and make the necessary adjustments to improve all while, at the same time, keep up with due dates and assignment specifications, then the training and exercise found in literature courses is truly invaluable to the ability of a professional writing student.