There isn’t a birthday party that goes by without someone asking me the question of what I’m going to do with my life. As soon as I tell them I’m a writer, I feel like I have to come to my own defense. “Of course I’m getting another part-time job as well!” “Need to earn money, am I right?” At this point, I’ve come to realize that writing is what I want to be doing with my life, and not any of the back-up jobs I’ve thought about throughout my life. I want to be able to spend most of my time writing, if not all of it. I know I will probably need a part-time job to sustain myself. I just wish people wouldn’t immediately assume I’m never going to be a successful writer.
I think this is something a lot of writers and other artists can probably relate to. I know it probably comes from a good place, but doubting someone’s goals from the moment they talk about them is not helpful. Especially if that someone is still a child. In my case, it caused me to lose sight of my dream goal in favour of other goals that would ultimately be more likely to keep me from writing than anything else. Other children might discard their dream altogether.
Now I’m not saying you can’t give a young person (or a person of any age) practical advice about how to achieve their dream of becoming a writer. Just make sure that a) you are in a situation where giving advice is appropriate, and b) you’re actually giving practical advice and not quashing their dreams. So, if you’re just making small talk, maybe don’t go there. Or, if you’re a writer yourself, ask them if they want you to give them some tips. What I mean by ‘actually giving practical advice’ is the kind of advice that actually helps someone to become a writer. Not ‘you should probably get a paid job as well, in case your writing career fails completely’.
Lately I’ve actually been thinking about what kind of job I could do besides my writing, one that would leave me enough time and energy to actually pursue writing as a career, and that’s the kind of advice I wish I’d gotten. Less ‘okay, but what would you want to be if writing doesn’t pan out’ and more ‘what can you do to make sure you will be able to write’.
If you’re a writer, have you ever experienced something like this? Did/do you tell people you want to be an author? And if you also used to have ‘back-up dream jobs’, what were they?