As part of my job, I help scientists write papers.
It sounds kind of crazy because I have zero knowledge of the science, but on the flip side, a lot of the scientists have zero knowledge of the writing, so it goes both ways.
Yesterday at work, I was walking one of the scientists through his paper. Turns out he’d never written one before. I started explaining things like the SVO (subject-verb-object) sentence structure used in English and when to effectively use commas.
“Wow, yeah, I’m really bad at commas.”
“No, don’t worry about it.”
“But like the boss said, I just put them in everywhere.”
“It takes a lot of practice to really feel comfortable knowing where they go, trust me,” I assured him, “Plus, sometimes it’s a stylistic thing.”
“What do you mean?”
“Like, some people love commas. Some people put commas everywhere! There are lots of cases where they’re neither right nor wrong. Just a choice. Do you get what I mean?”
“Even in English courses, I saw lots of writers use commas incorrectly, so don’t be too hard on yourself. Sometimes I use too many commas. I love punctuation!”
“Wait…so you have a degree in English literature?”
“Wow. So do you write?”
“Yes, what’s what I do. I’m a writer. So on this next page –”
“Wait, so you write like, from your mind?”
“Do you write things from your imagination? Or do you write for other people? Because sometimes people want to write and they don’t know how. They just have the idea and they get a writer to help them.”
“Oh, well I’ve helped people write things before. And I do a lot of editing.”
“Have you edited books?”
“But I prefer to write from my imagination. I mean, that’s what I’d like to do as a career one day.”
“Wow. That is so cool.”
Sometimes, when you spend all of your time with other creative and/or artistic types, your skills lose their street cred. Oh yeah, another writer, blah blah blah. I’m a writer, too. Oh, you’re an actor? I’m an actor, too. Are you conservatory trained?
Yesterday I learned that my degree is still considered exotic and yes, cool by other people. Scientists, at that. And it felt good.
Yeah, I’m a writer. Deal with it.
(And then I’d trip over my own feet trying to sashay out of the room, or better yet, poke myself in the eye with the arm of my sunglasses.)