One of the occupational hazards of being a humanities major with friends in the sciences is being constantly assured that your studies are a joke.
When I tell my friends that I am stressed, and especially when I indicate that writing is the stressor, they look at me like I have five heads. I’m a communication studies and creative writing major. I don’t do anything but crochet in my room waiting for friends in the biology department to come over to tell me how to keep myself occupied. Thank God for the sciences.
I exaggerate, but you get my point: people seem to think writing is easy.
It is anything but.
To be a writer means to spend enough hours with the same characters that you aren’t certain whether you’re living your own life anymore, or theirs. To be a writer means to have the entire dictionary at your disposal and for not a single word to be the right one. To be a writer means to rifle through old notebooks and hate the writer you once were. Related: to be a writer means to have a Harry Potter fan fiction phase.
To be a writer means to be a reader, to devour books like you’ve been starving your whole life. To be a writer means to always have black smudges on your hands from writing so quickly. To be a writer means to be a thinker, always seeing the world in layers; peeling them back, seeing things for the first time.
To be a writer means to send your manuscript, your heart on the page, beating and raw and still dripping, to strangers halfway across the country who crumple it into a bruised ball that shrivels in a wastebasket. To be a writer means to have that happen four times in an hour and a half.
To be a writer means to have the capacity to change. Not just your characters, and not even your readers, but yourself. To be a writer means to wonder why. To be a writer is hard work. To be a writer is more challenging than anything I have ever been before.
My friends in the sciences talk about becoming medical doctors, about neuropathways and brain-mapping, about becoming diabetes education nurses and a whole host of other things that they deem “necessary;” and none of them are wrong. We need people to keep us healthy, but the truth is that people like my friends are learning how to keep people alive. Writers, artists, musicians, dramatists– these are the people that make life worth living. I have a shelf of books and a list of songs that help me understand myself and the world around me. Without the arts, the “hobbies” that make my parents worry about my ability to pay of my student loans and my friends raise an eyebrow at the very thought of me having a work load, I would be lost.
I know that the chances of me “making it” as a writer are likely slim to none, but that doesn’t bother me. Someone somewhere crafted the volumes that line your bookshelf; someone had to create the stories that stuff your favorite bookseller. When you look at me like I could never be that person, all I see is a challenge. And I never back down from a challenge.
–Heather Job, Assistant Fiction Editor