Occupation: Writer & the Myth of the Writer: Two Semi-Related Ideas Smashed into One Post
Thinking over Andrew’s post about his experience at New School’s MFA, I’ve been considering why I decided to become a writer.
Yesterday, for no reason at all, I remembered this conversation I had with a high school friend seven years ago, right before I started my MFA. He was on break from university (Columbia). We texted back and forth about meeting for a coffee. He said something ridiculous like: I can’t meet on Thursday until after 10 because I have to watch Grey’s Anatomy. When we finally did meet up, he told me something ridiculous like: I just love Grey’s Anatomy so much I’m going Pre-Med so I can have that experience. (And what’s not to want: beautiful doctors sexing each other up all day long and periodically doing some crazy cool, ground-breaking surgeries. I’m sold. Sign me up.)
I say it’s ridiculous, but how ridiculous is it? Why did you start writing? Why do any of us choose our occupations? How much of it has to do with popular media portrayals of certain occupations? (Yes, I realize this is a privileged position. I had a choice. Some people don’t have that choice. I don’t think this undermines my point though.)
I decided to become a writer because when I was eighteen, my college roommate was a poet and all the boys were crazy for her. Turns out they followed her around because she’s gorgeous, but lordy, I was convinced that if I became a writer, like her, I’d have boys trailing me too.
Well, that didn’t really happen. The boys, I mean. But the writing stuck.
Considering popular media’s portrayals of certain occupations—Come on! A few years ago, the hottest occupation must’ve been housewife!—how much do you think this impacts our decisions? I can think of scores of movies etc broadcasting the romantic life of the writer.
Here’s the thing though: these days, I am a writer, and my life is nowhere close to the constant drama and romanticism that I was promised. Most often, the greatest drama I have is rooted more in my ennui and malaise than anything real. That is, I manufacture drama, in no small part because pop culture has told me that as a writer, my life ought to be fraught. Sure, I don’t buy into it most days. Most days, I’m just a normal person. I do what I need to do: chores, grocery shopping, going to campus, etc. But then, that creeping feeling that something should be wrong surfaces.
And so I have my mini-crises: I’m not reading enough; I’m not writing enough; I’m not giving enough readings; no one is reviewing my books; I’m too depressed; I’m not depressed enough; I have too much anxiety; I should probably work on my anxiety; I need to be more social with non-writers; I need to spend less time on the internet; etc etc. I work pretty hard to subvert the myths of crazy-genius-depressed-writer. I work hard to defy it. Then, out of nowhere, there it is, again, relentless.