By Mia Casey
Last week Caitlin Kunkel (@KunkelTron) posted a Twitter thread that populated the trending page for its fifteen minutes of fame. In it, she told the story of how she started her career at 22, looking at graduate schools for writing while she was teaching English in Indonesia.
While looking at fiction degrees, she sent some of her work to a family friend who worked as an English professor to get his feedback. His reply wasn’t exactly what she was hoping for:
Basically, he very, very nicely told me that I should not really be writing fiction because I did not have the skill for it. As someone who now teaches and edits, I appreciate even more now how much time and effort and angst that email must have taken to write because it was kind.
Despite this, she submitted her applications on a whim – “I was almost done with them and had no better plans!” – and was accepted to a few programs. Still appreciating the advice she received, Kunkel decided to pursue the one non-fiction course that she was accepted to.
While studying a Writing for the Screen and Stage program, she developed her production skills alongside her writing “in case that didn’t work out”. While pursuing her studies, she started building a talent for teaching that added to her own slowly developing writing voice.
The education I got there was very important, but so was my belief that my writing would improv over time. So I got VERY good at giving notes, and editing the work of others, and that became the basis of my first career, teaching.
So how can we learn from Kunkel’s experience and applying it to our own careers?
How to embrace the importance of timing in your career:
1. Remember: just because it take time, doesn’t mean it isn’t worth the wait
Just because you’re not immediately immensely talented at something, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pursue it. Kunkel didn’t have an immediate aptitude for fiction writing but knew that it was something she ultimately wanted to pursue – she just needed to work at it!
Instead of giving up on her goal, she developed her writing skills through non-fiction, built a career around it, and is now able to get stuck in to writing fiction with a wealth of knowledge and experience informing her practice.
2. Developing your skills in other areas isn’t a waste of time
It may take longer, but building skills in related areas to the one you want to pursue can help you gain experience and ability that will ultimately help you in your desired pursuit.
3. Make constructive criticism work for you
Whatever you’re planning to do for a career, it’s important to take constructive criticism for what it is: constructive. Use it to build your career rather than letting it stop you before you even started.
Sometimes, like with Kunkel, constructive criticism can actually be a good indicator that you’re not quite there yet and need to keep working at building your skills.
Want to read the thread? Click through to see the whole thing here:
I just published my first book on 11/13. I've been thinking a lot about something that happened when I was 22 that might have made that wonderful day not happen. (thread).
— Caitlin Kunkel (@KunkelTron) November 26, 2018
Featured image courtesy of Talkward