Our daughter is taking a post-graduate writing class in creative non-fiction. We would so much rather she be studying engineering or plumbing or animal-husbandry – something with the letters j.o.b. appended.
When we – hovering anxiously – ask her why she is studying writing, she says she may need it sometime in her to-be-determined career or maybe she will blog or do some other form of writing for herself. What is clear is that she is really enjoying the course – which she paid for herself – actually handing in her assignments on time, something she almost never did from pre-K through college.
What the daughter doesn’t say is that she is going to write the great American book of twenty-first century essays, get it published, become famous and live in luxury on the royalties. Whew! That is what we really didn’t want to hear.
Recently, a client decided to give up writing completely because “she wasn’t any good at it.” In other words, she had come to the conclusion she wasn’t going to write a bestseller, so why bother at all.
What is it about writing as an activity that lends itself to so much fantasy? And why can’t we just do it because it gives us pleasure and surprises us? How many golf players give up the game because they “are no good” at it? (Not enough, golfers who have to share the course might argue.)
People who paint or do other kinds of art don’t seem to place the same strictures on themselves as writers. Our artistic friends make art because they love it, because what they produce pleases them, and because art engages and expands the mind.
We feel sorry for our client who has given up something she cares about and might enjoy working on because she has decided it is “no good.” And we are cautiously proud of the daughter. We hope she can hang on to the joy and self-learning that come from writing without making it more than it is.