Thoughts On Having An Impractical Major In A Practical World


I have always wanted to be a writer. From the second my babysitter got me an empty book as a going away present in order to document my move, even though I couldn’t even write yet, I wanted to write. So, I sat her down and told her what I wanted to say and concocted my first story when I was five years old: Olivia’s and Elizabeth’s Crazy Day. And then it just kept on going. People always said I was a great writer, that it was my calling, that I was going to be a bestselling author one day. I believed them wholeheartedly, after all, it was what I loved to do and I was good at it.

Cover of my first "book"

Unfortunately, that all changed once I got older.

Writing became a “hobby”. It was something that I could never do to make a living. I had to find something else to do, because the real world was not going to care that I was a great writer, they wanted me to “contribute”. I moved on then, to my second loves, which were math and science. I loved math, and astronomy, and physics, and everyone said that these were “practical”. These were okay to do, they would get me a job, and I would be able to support myself.

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I applied to colleges, mostly in the field of a Criminal Justice Major, but also keeping in mind that these schools had a Creative Writing Major, just in case. I also applied to one school for a Creative Writing Major only: Emerson College. It was a sort of fallback plan, something that I really wanted to do, but didn’t want to admit. When it came time to decide on the schools, I stalled and stalled until I didn’t know what I wanted anymore.

So, I did what I had always wanted: I went to Emerson as a Creative Writing Major. And I LOVE IT.

But that doesn’t mean everyone else does. It seems that with the more confidence I have in myself, the less everyone else has. Whenever I tell someone my major outside of Emerson, I am met with a slight nod and a question of what I am going to do with that. Or something about how my parents allowed me to study something not applicable to this developing world. The questions always come back to money, which is fine, I know I need to support myself, and with confidence and persistence, I will be able to support myself, because I have to. Giving up is not an option to me, regardless of what people think. I don’t hope I will be able to make a living, I will be able to make a living.

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These positive thoughts don’t always help with the doubt of financial insecurity though. I worry that all my schooling will be in vain and that I will have to go back to school and study something else. I worry that the people telling me they like my writing are lying to me. I worry that my talent is just not good enough to get me anywhere. But mostly I worry that I will be proving everyone right if I “fail” at being a writer.

J.K. Rowling with a notebook and coffee

But what does failing as a creative writer even mean? Not making enough money to support myself just as a writer and having to get a second job? What if that second job was writing for advertising, then is that still creative writing? In a world where the written word is so important, is it even possible to fail at writing?

Perhaps that idea of failure has to do with my definition of writing. I would absolutely love to write poetry and fiction and make a living doing so, and not being able to do so, would be deemed a failure. Statistically, the odds are not in my favor, so I have started to slink away from that dream and think about other types of writing, with the hopes of doing my poetry and fiction on the side. The reality is, even if I am not being paid for my poetry and fiction, I can get paid for other types of writing, and that is still being a writer.

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Recently, I had a talk with someone who asked me what my major was. I said: “Creative writing”. I was prepared for the usual speech when he asked what I wanted to do with that, so I said: “I would love to write poetry, but I know that probably won’t happen…”, but he cut me off. He told me I should never say that wouldn’t happen. His daughter loves creative writing and wants to write books when she gets older, and he said that for the sake of me as a child, I should never let go of my dream.

Child writing on book

Letting go of that dream will mean that I have already failed before I even started, so I at least have to try and possibly fail, because failure is a part of life.
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