So it’s back-to-school time and right now my heart’s going out, as it does every year, to my youthful compatriots in creativity, earnest young strivers desperate to know that the writer’s path is one they can fruitfully walk. It’s so hard when you’re that age (okay, any age) and you yearn for a life of creative engagement but all these obstacles stand in your way. Can you make it pay? Can you meet others’ expectations (or silence their objections)? Can you stand before the world saying, “This is my voice! It means something to me and I want it to mean something to you!”? (Can you punctuate that last sentence correctly, ‘cause I’m not entirely sure that I have.)
For young people in thrall to such questions it’s a particularly knotty problem. Think of the burden they bear: completely creatively inflamed and pretty completely creatively disempowered. This is the lot of any high school or college student who is being channeled away from (or is self-channeling away from) the writer’s life or any other life of creative pursuit. That’s not what they want. They know it’s not what they want. They just don’t know if what they want is a realistic or viable option.
Let’s say that the writer’s life is a roll of the dice. I don’t personally think that it is; I think that choosing a life of the mind, any life of the mind, is about as sure a bet as you can make in life, in terms of happiness, fullfilment and getting down to the isness of it all. But that’s not how it looks to an earnest young writer. It looks like a big gamble, and what if it doesn’t pay off? That future has disastrophe written all over it.
How can we set that young person free?
There stands a writer, desperate to walk the writer’s path, and desperate to know that the path will be fruitful… successful. What can we say to that writer? Here’s what I’d say.
1/ The path is the path. You’ll either walk it or you won’t. But the decision to walk it – the simple act of saying, “I’m a writer” – opens every meaningful door. If you’re wondering whether you can be a writer, the words “I am a writer” are an epic expression of self-fulfilling prophecy. Say you are and you are.
2/ Get support on the path. Creative people ally themselves with creative people. Once you’re a writer you’re in community, and in community there is strength. So go ahead and self-define as a writer. Once you do that, you can go where the writers go, and discover that they’re just as insecure and crazy and hell-bent as you are. As a writer you’ll need that, so get it. [Read more…]