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I Didn’t Even Know That Creative Writing Was An Option!

, , , , , , | Working | January 12, 2023

Many years ago, when I was fresh out of college, I landed myself a very nice role in the Human Resources/Benefits department of a very large company.

The department that hired me was a launch pad for more high-profile jobs within the company, so while turnover was high, it was actually a good thing. It was great seeing the folks who helped train me getting hired into bigger and better-paying jobs within the same company, and we’d often hang out at lunch and breaks.

It wasn’t long before it was my turn to help train the new folks. Our department had four points of contact: phone, voicemail, walk-in services, and an email inbox. I ran point on all but the phone.

A very nice new person was sitting with me as I demonstrated how the email system worked. My hope was that she would eventually join the email team, as she was very well-spoken and demonstrated high written communication abilities.

As I was showing her some of the duties and ways to do them, she asked why I was so young. Strange question, but I explained that I had just graduated from college.

New Hire: “Oh, really? What was your major?”

Me: “I majored in creative writing. A lot of people laugh when I say that, but it does help with this email inbox.”

I gestured toward the computer.


Imagine a small call center scattered with cubicles, and then fill it with shrieking. I was intimidated.

Me: “Well, mostly short fiction, but of course, we had to study all sorts of writing as part of the major.”

She proceeded to tell me that this job was a gift from God. Her prayers had been answered. She had met me, and now she knew why she was called to this position. She concluded triumphantly:

New Hire: “I need someone to write calligraphy on my daughter’s wedding invitations.”

Now, truth be told, I had taken a few calligraphy summer enrichment courses as a kid, but I really sucked at it. My big, chubby fingers made a mess of things, and I typically ended up with a bunch of ink on my clothes. It was clear to me that I was not the answer to her prayers, but now I had to break this news to her. I quasi-lied:

Me: “I don’t know calligraphy. My handwriting looks like this, and that’s all I’ve got.”

I showed her the handwritten notes I had been taking, hoping the illegible chicken scratches would drive my point home.

Sadly, not even this could deter her. She sprang up from her seat, ran to her desk, and called her daughter with the “good” news, telling everyone that I was going to personally save her daughter’s wedding because I was a creative writer.

The coworkers sitting closest to me asked if I actually knew calligraphy. Not well enough for wedding invites, I admitted.

For the next several days, my coworkers, my manager, and I tried our very best to convince [New Hire] that no calligraphy was going to happen, but we couldn’t manage to make this particular noodle stick. I even started trying different stylized handwriting options to see if I could get anywhere close to “calligraphy.”

Eventually, [New Hire] brought in a stack of envelopes, a list of names and addresses, and a great big fat-tipped magic marker — the exact kind of great big fat-tipped magic marker that you cannot do calligraphy with.

But I was twenty-two years old and wanted to make everyone happy. The whole office held their breath and watched as I scrawled out a sample of the first name on the list on a piece of scrap paper. I held it to [New Hire] to approve, and I was not at all shocked when she said:

New Hire: “What’s that supposed to be?”

She didn’t know what calligraphy was. I tried to show her some examples on my computer, but what she really wanted was someone with neat, even handwriting to address all of the envelopes for her daughter’s wedding.

I do have the ability to write with neat, even handwriting when I need to, so I carefully addressed each and every envelope. My ascenders and descenders weren’t sloppy, my x-height was reasonably equal, and I didn’t get a single droplet of magic marker on my clothes.

But perhaps my favorite part was my manager walking past my desk, grinning, and saying, “See? And you thought you wouldn’t get to use your major here!” before sashaying away in a cloud of laughter.

And that is why, for many years, I jokingly referred to myself as a “Calligraphy Major.”

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