Speak Out To Make Them Shut Up
When you tell someone that you want to write for a living, a look of confusion drowns their face. Their eyes touch the ground, they say a silent prayer, they look terrified for you.
The conversation usually goes like this:
Person Who Doesn’t Write: What are you going to school for? You: Creative Writing Person Who Doesn’t Write: What are you gonna do with that?
After this shot to the heart, the creative writer usually has an awkward pause of contemplation. They usually have one of two responses to this condescending question:
1. “I don’t know” 2. “Uhhh…Write?”
Both of these answers are just to avoid prolonging communication with said non-writer, who’s undoubtedly thinking, you wasted money on that?
Sometimes admitting to people that you want to be a writer is harder than actually writing. It can get tough when society doesn’t believe in you and/or when you sometimes don’t believe in yourself. This lack of excitement for your own ambitions allows room for you to second guess yourself. But to be a “writer”, a poet, essayist, novelist, journalist whatever this title entails personally, you have to really want to do it (and it helps to be good at it.) The amount of commitment required to actually be good, will eventually double and become a layer of protection Because not only are you getting copious rejections from your industry, you’re also getting stabbed in the face with rejection from outsiders who can’t even put two sentences together. Not to mention insiders (a.k.a. family) who believes that they should be able to live vicariously through you. They just want their baby to be “successful” and “stable,” yet they have never even asked to read a first draft. This support is usually accompanied by sideways comments such as, “good luck” or “I hope it works out for you,” and you say thank you, but what they really mean is, “enjoy being poor because no one reads anything these days.” And although the attacks can seem spiteful, if this is really something you want to pursue, those jabs won’t bleed.
We don’t like to admit it, but writers have egos bigger than their student loans. We are all offended when we spend weeks on a piece and when it comes time to workshop it, you get feedback like “good flow” or “I found a typo here.” We’ve all been here. Our inner Kanye wanting to yell about how they just want to marginalize you until you’re out of your moment. But there’s a way to use this narcissism to your advantage. Next time you’re asked what are you going to do with your creative writing degree, (that you worked hard for,) tell them the truth. Take that moment as an opportunity to drop some facts on a hater. Dismantle their expectations and tell them about starting that magazine, teaching the twelfth grade, owning that publishing company, being that bestseller. Say that instead of shutting down.
But if all else fails and your answer is really,“I don’t know,” make shit up in vivid detail. Rattle the cage a little.
a) Say “do you ask business students what they’re gonna do with their degrees too or am I just special?”
b) Say you’re gonna backpack through Texas on a cow and write short stories that channel D’Jango.
c) Say something like you’re gonna quit your job and spend your whole life savings on self publishing and sell your book out of the back of your trunk.
d) Say you’re gonna buy a bookstore and sell books only written by women of color and no boys are allowed.
e) Say you’re gonna go get your heartbroken, write a novella, then sell it to Tyler Perry so that he can make it into Madea’s Got a Love Jones.
f) Say something like, “Ya know, homework never really bothered me. The idea of sitting in a cubicle and shitting on the youth’s dreams did.”
g) Say you’re gonna make a YouTube channel where you parody all of your old work is various accents.
And when you do, you’ll see that writer’s aren’t the only ones with fragile egos.
All in all, people with traditional occupations already think we’re foolish, so you might as well have fun despite the fact that there’s a possibility people will stop reading and we’ll be broke for a long time. But whatever you do, just don’t let an outsider verify it—they don’t have the qualifications to speak on this life.