writing for the self

As senior year approaches and the college search continues, I’ve been thinking a lot about why I write, what I would do if I didn’t write and if writing is the thing that I want to dedicate my entire life to.

There are many reasons why I write, and just to name a few here: I write for figuring out the world and my place in it; I write for escaping reality when it all becomes too much; I write for not feeling lonely; I write for the satisfaction of having created something that is bigger, or simply other than life; I write for understanding complex moral situations when I would find myself in; I write because I love writing.

A question I’ve been asking myself specifically was whether I could make writing a career, or, whether could I write for money. There are few rich authors, many best-sellers, and a lot of others trying to support themselves with their art. We hear of the impoverished writer and artist so often that when I first seriously considered writing as something I wished to pursue, I painted the image of myself in ten years time, typing away at my desk with a half-drunk mug of coffee, a house plant, and the mechanical clock on the wall showing that the time was well past midnight. I believed that for me to sustain my future family, I would have to push writing aside as a night-time job, as something I could never do full-time. Sure, there are J. K. Rowlings, George R. R. Martins, but I convinced myself that they all had that special something that I could never possess. I pictured myself working as a computer programmer – a profession that is money earning yet still creative – and that is what I thought I would go on to do until a few months ago.

Last summer I attended the Yale Young Global Scholars program, where I studied intensive math & sciences for two weeks. It was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had, and I made friends and memories that I would cherish forever. I went into YYGS thinking that I would do computer programming as a full-time job; I left feverishly reading the last fifty or so pages of Call Me by Your Name and dreaming about the day I would write a book as wonderful as that one. With some considerable thinking over the summer and something one of my best friends (the same one who convinced me to see Call Me by Your Name) told me, I decided that I’m probably not going to study computer programming because try as I might to convince myself otherwise, it has never excited me, and it never will.

Of course, the ultimate dream would be supporting myself and my future financially (that’s quite a mouthful) with my writing; so in that sense, am I really writing for money?

Or maybe a better question would be: would I still write even if I couldn’t earn a single penny off of it?

Some of my relatives’ response might be that I’m too young to worry about things such as money, that I’m only a junior in high school, that I have plenty of time to figure out what I want to do and what I’m going to do. While I think there’s a lot of truth to that statement – life really does have a way of taking one by surprise – my family’s current financial situation has made me more money-aware (again, a mouthful). If she were to read this blog, my grandmother would probably say that America has made me into an idealist, someone who believes that they should do what they want to do. But is that such a bad thing to ask for? Happiness?

So what do we write for?

Enjoyment? Fame? Escaping one’s problems (or all the other problems in the world)?

We all have our own answers to this question and I believe there isn’t one that is right or wrong (well, maybe are some that are wrong), that would be oversimplifying things, as assigning black and white labels tend to do. But when I write, especially when it is the first draft, and when the spark of inspiration – be it a simple sentence, an image, a line of dialogue – starts to propel the fingers to type on the keyboard, it is, in my humble opinion, one of the most amazing feelings in the world.

There are not a lot of rights or wrongs in the world as I’ve said before; most things are too complicated. But I do know I speak the truth when I say that I am happy when I am writing, and when I’m writing, I feel that I shouldn’t be doing anything else.

“Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well. It’s about getting up, getting well, and getting over. Getting happy, okay? Getting happy.”

– Stephen King

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