Last summer I realized I wanted to be a writer. I was walking down Boylston street in Boston, sweating profusely, when it hit me. I can’t say for certain why I was struck with an epiphany at this particular moment, but what I can say is that it was one of the most exhilarating moments of my life. It was like my brain and my heart finally got their shit together and decided to let me in on what they had planned for my future. The uncertainty and anxiety I had been feeling for months dissipated in that moment, and what I was left with was this powerful motivation to go grab my dreams and make something of myself.
And then life happened.
Fast forward: 6 months. Two weeks ago I started my last semester of college. It’s safe to say that my certainty has crumbled with the unstoppable move toward graduation. I’ve started looking at jobs and realizing how cutthroat and unrealistic my dream field is. And I’ve come to the sad realization that knowing what you want to do, and actually being able to do said thing, are completely unrelated. It isn’t enough to be talented and driven; you need to produce and prove. If I want to be a writer I need to push through my self doubt and frustrating inner resistance, and write. Harder than expected.
If you’re someone looking to go down a creative career path, you know that creating art isn’t easy. Inspiration comes and goes. Life’s hurdles complicate and distract, and making money off of your passion can be a tricky thing. In order to succeed, you have to commodify your passion. You have to push yourself to produce something during times you feel like shit.You have to have to fight against and accept conventionality, be under constant scrutiny and critique, and habitually tell yourself that what you have to offer is worth sharing. And when you fail, you have to figure out whether or not you are actually cut out for the job.
Creativity has crippled me. I’m struggling to write because I feel like there are so many directions to go in, and I’m not sure where to start. Some days I love what I write, and other days I think what I’ve written is complete garbage. Occasionally, I’ll just stare at my computer screen for hours on end, like it’s somehow going to tell me what to do. It’s becoming harder to write for enjoyment because I feel like I need to hit the ground running and write some book or screenplay before it’s too late. Before I have to get a full time job and take on real responsibilities, and I’m afraid that once that happens that I’ll lose the motivation to keep trying.
I wish writing wasn’t a subjective art form. I wish I had tangible proof of my talent, so that I could know whether or not it’s worth pursuing. Writing isn’t like football though. You never know who will go to the big leagues, and who is forever destined for second string. What makes it more complicated is that writing isn’t just about technical strength; it’s about creative strength. You can be an incredibly gifted writer and never be able to come up with that million dollar idea. Or you can be a great storyteller, but a clunky writer. And what’s worse- success is arbitrary as fuck! I mean how many times did Hell have to freeze over for Fifty Shades of Grey to sell over 125 million copies?! It’s terrifying to try and build a future in such a subjective and finicky field.
What I try to remind myself though is that the odds of me becoming a published author will always be zero if I don’t actually write anything. I’ll always have more regret about not trying than I ever will about failing. I think sometimes when we have a talent we believe we have to commodify it, or use it to get ourselves ahead, and in the process we lose our passion for that thing. We shouldn’t tell ourselves we need to hit certain goals to justify a pursuit of a passion. If something brings you joy, clarity, or comfort it’s something worth doing. Even if it’s not something you can pursue as a career.
I’ve learned that creativity is only a subjective thing when you need it to be. I don’t need my work to be loved or published to love it myself. And you don’t have to pursue your passion to have a meaningful life, nor do you need recognition for something to justify doing it. I don’t need people to like what I write. I don’t need to be F. Scott Fitzgerald, Maya Angelou, or god forbid Stephanie Meyer. The only thing I need to be a writer is the will to be one, in the same way that the only way to become an author is to actually write. And if what I write ends up being garbage- well, our ozone layer’s pretty fucked up as it is.