Wednesday, June 15, 2011

These Places Matter...

I'm going to take a brief break from obsessing over my query letter to talk about what I do as a day job. For those of you who haven't taken a look at my bio, I am a historic preservationist when I'm not writing. Essentially, I am a qualified architectural historian (by virtue of my educational background and work experience).

I thought it would be interesting to talk about this today because the National Trust for Historic Preservation has released its annual 11 Most Endangered Historic Places. Take a look if you are so inclined. I think you might be surprised by some of the places listed. Everything from an industrial plant to a modern masterpiece, but as you will see, historic preservation isn't just about buildings. It's also about landscapes. Even with rampant development, America still retains many key historical settings. One of the criteria for listing a building in the National Register of Historic Places is does it retain its setting? So for instance, a historic farmhouse that no longer has its original acreage and has a Wal-Mart in the backyard would most likely not get listed because the setting no longer conveys the historical importance of the house.

I have always loved historic buildings. Some of my earliest memories include trapsing through the Castillo De San Marcos fort in St. Augustine. Oh and "breaking" into abandoned victorian houses with my mom, but that's another story. I have this funky theory about buildings (at least according to my hubby.) I think they have souls. They convey stories about the lives of the people associated with them. Stories that might not otherwise be told should that building go away. It is for that reason that I cannot live in a new house--it would be a waste. But it also why I write and why I ended up in preservation. I wish I could say that my career has been fantastic, but more often than not, I have been frustrated and forever stuck in the wrong place at the wrong time. One of my best qualities is that I am a planner, but unfortunately, I failed to plan for my career. Sure, I went to a college that specialized in historic preservation. I volunteered for all the right preservation organizations. But in the end, I still could not break in, and when I finally did (after a few years of working in a related field), I've still been disappointed. At tne end of the day, I just want to restore old buildings, which means I probably should have gone on to get an architecture degree!

But the upside is that if I had not been so frustrated, I don't think I would have committed myself to writing. I've always been a writer, but it was not until recently that I really hunkered down and challenged myself to write better and to write until I finished. As I begin to explore the notion of leaving the field that has been my passion (and pain), I think I will be relying on my ability to write all the more. I suppose I will just have to see where that leads me.

So...what does writing mean to you? Do you write to escape? Or do you have other motivations?


  1. Sounds like a very passionate career choice. My writing is a way for me to express my true nature, a way to escape. My writing partner said I'm an artist and writing is the way I show my creative side.

  2. I feel this post so completely, Caroline--had my hours not gotten cut at my previous job, if I loved what I was doing now...I probably wouldn't have devoted the time and energy to writing. It makes me think that maybe this--writing--is what I'm really supposed to be doing :).

    By the way, I think your day job is really inspiring :)

  3. Thanks all!
    Rowenna--I briefly forayed into the idea of going back to school to get an English degree, so writing could be my day job, but it doesn't look like a viable option sadly. :-(

  4. You have historical buildings in the US? :)

    I'm also a bouncee from history/heritage.

    I write because... hmmm. Not sure.

  5. Zornhau--why yes we do! :-) I have to admit that I get pretty excited when I visit England and stay in a place that predates America's official founding by 200+ years!

  6. Hi! I found your blog from a comment in Nathan Bransford's blog (hope that isn't creepy!). One of my good friend's finished a Master's in museum curation and has been looking for work for awhile. She also followed her dreams and is a bit disappointed w/ what's out there. It's so hard to know! I work in healthcare administration, which is less than glamourous, so writing fills that escapist need for me.

    I look forward to reading your blog!