Ok, Carrie, you’ve told us you know you want to be a writer, and that, in fact, you’ve pretty much always known you wanted to be a writer. And now you’ve told us why you know you want to be a writer…
…I know what you’re going to say…
So why, then, are you not a writer?
…Why am I not a writer…
Hey, I never said this was easy! It takes time, and it’s a big decision. It’s not like there’s a test you can take to tell if you’re good enough. It’s not like you can just apply to writing jobs in the newspaper and magically get paid to produce work.* You’ve got to produce the great work first. And that’s not an easy task. Not when you’ve got bills to pay. And a dog who won’t take kindly to missing meals and not getting the occasional treat or chew toy. To do all that, you’ve got to keep working, a real job, 8 hours a day, and even though there are apparently 16 other hours in the day…
No, I’m sorry. I’m making excuses for myself. You don’t deserve that. I don’t even deserve that. And that’s a cowardly thing to do. It’s easy to make excuses, and, there’ll always be ones to make. There’ll always be reason to say no, not quite now, not just yet.
The truth is, I could quit my job. I could put in my two weeks. I could sell my car, scourge up some money, get a waitressing job or something, and have enough money to get by for a while and still probably afford dog treats. And I could write and write and write.
Finding time to write isn’t (exactly) my problem. My problem is, I don’t know what to do next. I need help. I need direction. I need advice. I don’t think this is something you’re supposed to do alone. I am, however, prepared to figure out how to do it alone, but, if possible, I’d like a little bit of help.
While I don’t subscribe to any religion that believes in mischievous or vengeful deities, I sometimes have to wonder if the universe has got something against me.
You remember how I told you my 9th grade teacher asked me to help petition for a creative writing class? Well, that resulted in a bit ol’ nothing. But whatever, that was high school.
And then in college, after I took my first intro to creative writing class and built up the courage to my professor to be my advisor, I can recall as we walked out of our basement classroom, past the row of vending machines and into the sun, he said, “You know what Carrie, I was going to bull shit you, but I like you too much to do that. I’m trying to leave this school and get a new position elsewhere, so I don’t think it’d be fair of me to advise you knowing that.” I guess I admired his honesty, and sure enough, after another semester, he left. My literature professor became my advisor, and that was that.
As you know if you read my earlier posts, I then went off to Spain and watched Buffy for a while, but when I came back, I was ready to tackle grad school. I (thought) I still didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, so I decided going back to school was the place for me. I had two choices, get my MA in English or my MFA in Creative Writing. I of course was tempted to chose the later, I deep down, secretly wanted to. But I hadn’t been actively writing anything polished for the past two years, and, thanks to Joss Whedon’s title credits, I’d recently been swept up by the idea that I might want to write for film and television. But I didn’t know nearly enough about that, I did have enough time to carefully think things through or consider. I was also on a bit of a teaching high after returning to the states (I taught ESL in Europe), and I thought that was my true calling. I didn’t want to write, I told myself, I wanted to teach. I wanted to be a good, caring person and help people. So I went and got my MA.
It turns out, I don’t’ really want to teach that much. Maybe I’m not as nice as I thought.
I did choose a grad school that had an MFA program, and I took as many of their courses as I could. I even asked the professor of the personal essay course to be my advisor. And this time, he said yes. I was in! I finally had the mentor I’d so long craved, some one who could help me with my writing and introduce me to the publication world.
Well, there you have it Carrie! So why are you here moping to us about all this?
First, I’m not moping (I hope). And second, because my advisor almost immediately had to step down after one of his family members got incredibly sick. My feminist studies professor became my advisor. I wrote my thesis, and that was that.
Now with my my masters degree in hand, I immediately began applying for jobs, in a bit of a panic because I didn’t know what I wanted to do or where I wanted to go other than the vague sense that I wanted to do something creative and go someplace warmer.
And I found this job: a writing consultant needed by a large university with a creative writing program looking for someone who had a background in creative writing.
What luck, I thought, it’s the best of both worlds. I get to do a bit of teaching. A bit of curriculum development. And (hopefully) a lot of creative writing. I’d have benefits, a steady income, and, I could even take classes. It sounded great, and it was some place warm! I said yes.
And now here I am. And while I am the creative writing specialist, I mostly teach and tutor ESL students. I’ve got a good background in that too, so, it’s just as well, and there are far more ESL students than there are creative writing ones. When the occasional creative writer does come around, though, they come to me. And I help them polish their poetry and develop their scenes. I help them write their applications and cover letters to achieve their dreams as I wonder how the hell it never occurred to me to try and achieve mine.
(As a side note, I haven’t been able to take any creative writing classes yet. The slow moving wheels of bureaucracy and such.)
Life can be so funny when you look back on it.
Live and Learn,
*At least, not to my knowledge. If this is a thing (please, let it be a thing), can someone let me know?