Writing is Bullshit

Okay, listen. Somebody’s gotta tell you the truth. This writing thing? Sometimes it doesn’t happen. You hear all these platitudes from writers everywhere telling you that you have to “just show up at the page” and “do the work” and “write shitty first drafts.” (Thanks to Anne Lamott for the latter—at least she’s keeping it real.) You’re supposed to silence that critical voice and just write, write, write and eventually, somehow, magically, words will happen. And some of them will be good. And those, you’ll keep. And you’ll learn, and grow, and flower, and become.

And sometimes that’s true. But mostly it’s poetic bullshit.

Writing is bullshit. And this isn’t just me being cynical. Writing sucks, and few of us are both manic and depressed enough to persevere.

bullshit

Here’s what’s going to happen, kid. You’re going to tell yourself that you’re a writer. You’re going to say, “I’m good at this. I should do it. In fact, I have to do it, because it’s the only thing I know, the only way I have of processing the world around me.” This happens particularly when you’re young and idealistic and brimming with optimism. Continue reading

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“Do what you love” is not bad career advice

girl writing in journal

Photo credit: Erin Kohlenberg

I put my high school years behind me 30 years ago, but some memories still resonate. It’s not the social ordeal caused by being an introverted, day-dreamy girl with ADHD in a small school seemingly filled with focused extroverts, nor the crisis of self-esteem engendered by feeling huge, if not morbidly obese, at 5’9″ and 150 lbs. (if I’d only known). No, the memories that stick—and sting—have nothing to do with the students I shared my high school days with but the adults who were supposed to be showing me what it would mean to be a grown-up.

The Perfect Storm

I rocked my English classes. My English teachers loved me, and I loved one teacher in particular. Miss U was a zaftig, kaftan-wearing, long-haired pseudo-hippie who taught all my favorite classes—College Prep English, Creative Writing, Journalism. When I was a high school senior, I wanted nothing more than to be like her, a popular teacher, beloved by her students, a guide through the wilds of the English language and written text.  I wanted to be a teacher. And one day I confessed this desire to Miss U, certain she’d be thrilled that I wanted to follow in her footsteps.

Instead, she sighed. “Don’t be a teacher,” she said. “There are better careers out there.”

Continue reading