Article and photo by Nicole Thom-Arens

While computers and technology have made the ability to write more accessible, they haven’t replaced good writing because writing is thinking and artificial intelligence hasn’t yet replaced original, creative, critical human thought.

I’ve been in writing-based careers for 16 years, but my desire to be a writer began long ago. Some of my earliest, fondest memories are of perusing picture books in my childhood home. As a professional, every choice I’ve had the privilege to make in my career has been to become a stronger writer. As an assistant professor at Minot State University, I began every semester by drawing a line across the wall of whiteboards with an arrow expanding to infinity. My point was that our journeys as writers begins with our exposure to language, but it never ends.

The best writers are always pushing themselves to grow in their ability to tell stories. 

When I sit down to write a new piece, I ask several questions: What is the goal of this writing? Who am I writing for? What do they need to know? Where does the piece begin for me and where does it begin for the reader? How can I tell this story in the most interesting way? 

That last question is one of the most important for me because my tendency is always to begin at the beginning, but that is rarely the most interesting place to start for the reader. I also remind myself to “mind the gap.” I have a small sign in my office with the saying that replicates the London Underground logo. While in London in 2007, my husband and I were enamored by the light British voice in the Tube that reminded riders to “mind the gap” between the platform and the train — we were young Americans easily amused by a British accent. When we returned home, I saw the sign in Target, of all places, and it became a constant reminder as a writer that my audience doesn’t know what I know, so I must “mind the gap” as I write the story.  

In June of this year, I decided to step away from teaching and re-enter the industry. Professional communicators with strong writing skills are in high demand today, and it is an exciting time to be a skilled writer. Millennials are surprising the world by being traditional readers, and the digital world is full of written word. The best podcasts, television/Netflix/Hulu/Amazon shows and movies, start with amazing scripts by brilliant writers. Businesses, corporations, and fundraisers know the best way to sell is through powerful stories. While the temptation is to think about the lone writer working on a thousand-page novel in a cabin in the woods, that romantic notion of the profession fails to showcase everyday writers telling stories in advertising, local news, and magazines like Inspired Woman and Inspired Youth. Look around, absorb good writing, pick up a pen to journal what you’ve seen, and when you’re ready, write. The world is waiting to be inspired by your stories. 

Nicole Thom-Arens taught writing at Minot State University for seven years. She is currently the communication specialist for the NDSU Foundation and Alumni Association in Fargo. She and her husband, Tim, have an 11-year-old son, Liam. In their free time, they love traveling and attending major sporting events.