Be Flexible: Video Transcript

Christopher Michel (MA English Creative Writing, Miami, 2006) [Digital Editor for Runner's World]: Working with words has always been something I have enjoyed doing. I like the way that language makes an impact on the world, and creative writing and writing poetry is a way of focusing on language just for itself, not for any other purpose, which I found as a way I can take the things that I've learned and thought about in language and put them to use in a variety of different fields.

I came here as someone who was mostly writing in sort-of strict, you know, 19th century forms, sonnets, and sestinas. Working with teachers like Keith Tuma and Chris Cheek, they really expanded my idea of what poetry was and could be. And it took me actually several years after being here to process a lot of the things that I had learned while I was here and to put some of those teachings to use in my own writing and in my own life, but I found them to be really invaluable.

Basically the focus on language and the way that you can use language to create effects is something that I think that I bring to the team at Runner's World, that not a lot of other writers have. So, you know, having developed a bit of an ear for sound and how sound can create effects makes me, I think, a better headline writer. It makes me pay more close attention to nice turns of phrases.

One of my favorite memories of working or being here at Miami University was working on Oxford Magazine, the student literary magazine. It was run by grad students when we were here, and it was just a scrappy, fun thing, but it was also something we got to just kind of make up and do. I felt like it was a way of really connecting with my fellow students and doing something that felt ambitious and big, and I learned a lot, not just about how to put together a magazine, but how to be part of an organization.

I find a liberal arts education to be valuable in the way that it teaches you not a specific thing, but how to learn, and the flexibility that that engenders means that wherever I go and whatever I do, I have the ability to learn things quickly, to gather new information, to do the research necessary to become competent in a field that I'm unfamiliar with.

There isn't really a place to go where you don't need to work with words and you don't need to communicate with people. And the degree to which you can be effective in that is a skill that sets you apart from, I think, the bulk of other people. So I feel like anybody can learn how to produce a widget, but to know how to work with people, to know how to communicate effectively with people is something that is much harder to teach.

Do your best to be flexible. Don't presume that your five-year plan is going to be exactly the way that your life goes. Look for opportunities. Look for opportunities in unexpected and unusual places, and take advantage of them. That's usually where the most interesting memories that you're going to make will be.

[September 2016]