Carole Ann Dicton
Writer, Editor, Disliker of Math
When I was in high school trying to figure out what to do with my life, my father advised, “think about what you love doing and find a way to make money doing it.” I thought this was odd advice coming from an accountant. How could anyone love math?!
What I loved was writing and telling stories. Corralling ideas and images, and capturing them with words carefully arranged into tidy little sentences was my favorite pastime. I loved creating stories so much that in third grade I was caught in a fantastic lie, crafting an exciting tale of being bitten by a snake when I lived in Alabama. Having just moved to New Jersey from the deep South this was exactly the kind of fictional currency I needed to trade in to win new friends in this foreign land.
By high school I had figured out how to channel my skills into more productive endeavors. My high school didn’t have a newspaper, but I became a regular contributor to the literary magazine and secured myself a spot on the yearbook staff. I penned a feature titled, “The Cornfields Have Become Condos,” a brief commentary exploring the increasing development pressures on our small, rural community. I used a bit of poetic license to force that alliterative headline; technically, I didn’t know what was growing in the farmer’s field adjacent to the high school and what went up were not condos but lovely little single-family units. (#fakenews)
The allure of writing continued into college. With a double major in English and Mass Communications, I felt I was covering all my bases. Both departments filled me with robust technical and style skills, and offered abundant practice in the art and science of not only writing, but of conveying ideas through words, images, and different mediums. I joined the newspaper staff becoming photo editor my sophomore year, managing editor my junior year, and editor-in-chief by senior year. I was sure my future was in newspapers. I completed an internship at a local paper one summer and assembled an impressive portfolio.
But newspaper jobs were scarce and I was encouraged to broaden my search. One of my fondest memories from this time was applying for an entry-level position at a public relations firm. After the interview, I was given a writing test. The prompt was to write a press release announcing the invention of scissors. I remember being particularly proud of coming up with the phrase, “hand-held, hinged blades for cutting paper, fabric, or any number of materials!” I actually don’t remember if I was offered the job or not. All I remember was that I had a great time writing that press release.
I eventually took a temp job at a management consulting company in the “document production” group. It was then that my eyes were opened to the magical world of corporate communications. I had no idea such a field even existed. I got to write and edit, and sometimes dabble in graphic design, photography, video production, events, and presentations. And they paid me for this?! My favorite part was interviewing people with decades of experience and then writing their stories for newsletters or marketing materials.
And so it began. Now, 30+ years later I can happily tell my dad, “I did it! I have been able to make a living doing something I love.” I love speaking with experts and learning enough about them and what they do to write in their voice to meet a specific goal. I love identifying an audience, learning about their information gaps and crafting something that gets them just what they need. I love sitting down with a piece of complex copy and untangling it so it’s smooth, clear, and as compelling as the author intended.
I did not attend a name-brand school, nor have I had a meteoric career. But I have always loved my work. I love to write and tell stories. Always have, always will.
I still don’t like math and don’t understand why anyone would choose to do it for a living. But I can create and manage a personal or project budget (thanks Dad), and doesn't it just make the world interesting that we all love different things? Maybe someday I'll get to interview a mathematician and learn why she loves it. Then I’ll tell you.