Being a writer can be more than just a fun pastime or a way to get good grades in school. It can actually be a skill that turns into a lifelong profession. While writing a best-selling book is a lofty goal, there are other jobs that allow those with a passion for words to earn a living and pursue their enthusiasm for expression. But don’t just Take My Word For It!  This week contributor Jennifer Brown writes about her path to becoming a college professor.

Jenniebrown I have always loved to read and to write. Throughout my childhood and well into my young adulthood I kept a journal that was less a diary and more a place for poems, short stories, sentences that appealed to me, or ideas I liked. Later, when I would become a professor of medieval literature, I learned that the medieval word for this kind of collection is a miscellany. A book that is full of miscellaneous information -- recipes, prayers, drawings, and dreams.

But the path from those childhood writings to the kind of writing I do now is not entirely direct.  When I went to college I knew I wanted to major in English. There seemed to be no greater way to pass my time than reading great books, discussing them in class, and then writing about them. But I was certain that I wanted to be a writer like those that I was reading. I wanted to be a creative writer, an author of fiction, and reading all of those great works in English was a way for me to see what great writers did: how their sentences sounded, what images they drew on, who their influences were.

I even remember my freshman year, after reading Beowulf,  a text I considered exceedingly boring --that I asked my professor if I could rewrite the 1200-year-old story as a modern one rather than write the analysis he assigned for homework. I thought creative writing like that was much more fun and interesting. So, imagine my surprise when, as my college years continued, that I found the analysis was fun too.

I loved reading one of Shakespeare's plays and then looking very closely at what a character said, trying to find the major themes and ideas, the subtle twists and turns of the plot. By the time I was a senior I wanted to write about books, not write the books themselves. I went to graduate school and fell in love with medieval literature. My favorite book was The Canterbury Tales, written by Geoffrey Chaucer in the 1380s. I could not believe that the things he had written were so funny!

When I finished my advanced degree, I was an expert in medieval literature and that is what I teach at a college now. The best part about my job is that I am not just a teacher, I am also a reader and a writer.

Re-reading the books I choose to teach is a gift every semester. I am getting paid to read and talk about my favorite books! Each time I re-read one, I am surprised by something new I did not see the first time I read it. When the students discuss the books, I am also surprised by what they say. Their different eyes make me see the book in a new way. Teaching also changes the way I think about books. One of my favorite books to teach is Beowulf,  a book I hated the first time I read it!