When Things Collide: Wayfinding in Professional Writers' Early Career Development


  • Carl Whithaus University of California, Davis
  • Jonathan Alexander University of California, Irvine
  • Karen Lunsford University of California, Santa Barbara




wayfinding, professional writing, writing through the lifespan, post-college writing, writing transfer, metageneric connections


In this article, we explore how the concept of wayfinding allows us an opportunity to map post-collegiate writers’ complex and recursive movement in and out of different territories, realms, spaces, and spheres of writing ecologies.  Focusing specifically on accounts from seven alumni who participated in focus group interviews during 2018-19, we offer stories of writers’ navigating the transition from college to workforce. Using wayfinding as our theoretical lens, we pay attention to the ways in which these writers articulate their increasing understanding of these domains -- college and post-college -- as far from separate. Such examples show us how alumni “find their way,” and introduce three emergent themes in our ongoing analysis of wayfinding. Our participants describe their ongoing and developing journeys as writers: (1) encountering the unexpected, (2) navigating career plans and paths, and (3) seeing beyond the boundaries of writing contexts. In each case, we narrate how wayfinding helps us illuminate the complex dynamics at play as these writers’ continue to explore how writing is meaningful in their lives and across multiple contexts.

Author Biographies

Carl Whithaus, University of California, Davis

Carl Whithaus is a Professor of Writing and Rhetoric at the University of California, Davis. His research areas include the impact of information technology on literacy practices, writing assessment, and writing in the sciences and engineering.  

Jonathan Alexander, University of California, Irvine

Jonathan Alexander is Chancellor's Professor of English at the University of California, Irvine. He is the author, co-author, or co-editor of twenty-one books.  

Karen Lunsford, University of California, Santa Barbara

Karen Lunsford is an associate professor of Writing and Director of the PhD Emphasis in Writing Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Her latest book, with James P. Purdy, is *The Effects of Intellectual Property Law in Writing Studies: Ethics, Sponsors, and Academic Knowledge-Making*. She is currently working on a project called STEM Stories.  




How to Cite

Whithaus, C. ., Alexander, J., & Lunsford, K. (2022). When Things Collide: Wayfinding in Professional Writers’ Early Career Development. Literacy in Composition Studies, 9(1), 1–22. https://doi.org/10.21623/