I’m in love with reading and writing. But my parents want me to be a musician, even though I am terrible at music. This has made my desire to be a writer diminish. What can I do to keep my dream going without my family’s support?
Dear Dreaming Jess,
What is most interesting to me about your question is that your parents are pushing you to be a musician, another creative and somewhat monetarily unstable profession, as opposed to, say, an accountant where monetary comfort is more likely an outcome.
Regardless, there are a lot of reasons why your parents might steer you away from writing. One of the reasons that comes to my mind is that at least as a fiction writer, success is not guaranteed. Even if you’re talented and hardworking, it can take a long time to arrive at a place where you are financially secure, and there is quite a bit of luck involved as well. These are valid concerns, and artists are continually trying to balance their need to create with their need to survive in a capitalist society that doesn’t necessarily value our artistic contributions unless they can be monetized and sold en masse.
That said, there are a lot of careers in the field of “reading and writing” that are more stable—library science, for example. Communications, advertising, public relations, education, and journalism are other examples. Storytelling is intrinsic to the human experience, which is to say there are several careers outside of “novelist” where you can make a decent living.
Regardless of your parents’ motivations or concerns, you may have to dig deep and reaffirm your commitment to your art so that your family realizes this is not something fleeting or fanciful. Oftentimes if a parent sees their child commit to something through action and not just words, they begin to come around. And if music is not your passion, I’d be as firm as possible in letting your parents know up front before you invest the time (and presumably the money) in trying to make it happen.
If it’s financial support you’re looking for, I would suggest continuing to nurse your passion in whatever ways you can. Perhaps it’s taking classes in creative writing and/or literature, even if that’s not your major study. Perhaps it’s writing in your own time without telling your family or joining an online writers’ group where you can begin to build a community that is supportive of your creative endeavors.
There may also come a time when you need to seek your independence, financially and/or emotionally, from your parents so that you can fully invest yourself in your dreams. You don’t need to have a degree in creative writing to become a great writer. Many of the skills needed to tell a great story can be self-taught and honed through practice, experience, and you guessed it, reading.
But there is another more universal aspect to your question which all of us creatives must face at some point in our lives: how do we place value on our art when it seems so many in our society do not?
There are a range of views on what artists should be willing to sacrifice for their art. It is a very personal decision that every artist must make for themselves. Sometimes it’s money, sometimes it’s relationships, sometimes it’s time. Hopefully, it is not your mental or bodily health. My personal view is that an artist who is “starving” or mentally unwell cannot maintain their creativity for long, and self-care is perhaps the most important thing you can do for yourself and your art.
So, Jess, don’t lose heart. Life is long, and if becoming a writer is your dream, then work toward it in whatever capacity you are able. Believe in yourself and find others who believe in you, too. And don’t measure your own success based on others. Each of our paths is unique, and what may seem like roadblocks initially can become achievements looking back.
Laura Lascarso is the author of several young adult novels including THE BRAVEST THING, which won a 2017 Rainbow Award for best gay contemporary romance and COUNTING BACKWARDS, which won a 2012 Florida Book Award gold medal for young adult literature. If you have a burning question about writing or publishing, please tweet @lauralascarso and include the tag #dearlaura