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:~: Tuesday, July 31, 2007 :~:

Encouraging young writers?

A few weeks ago, my daughter told me she thinks she wants to be a writer when she grows up. The first question that came to mind was this: "What else do you want to do?" I'm very proud of her and want to support her in whatever she wants to do, but at the same time, I know how difficult this field is, and how difficult it is to support oneself in this kind of a career. I'm passionate about what I do, but I would really like to see her settle in to something a little more stable. So as I'm encouraging her to follow her dreams, I'm also encouraging her to make sure she finds the balance between her dreams and security.

Having dealt with the struggle firsthand--and dealing with it still on a near daily basis--I wouldn't want to see her go through the same thing unless she really, really wanted it. So I told her I would be happy to look at anything she writes, and then gently explained that she might want to think of something else she'd like to do when she grows up, just in case. It doesn't hurt to have a backup plan. I don't have one myself, and there are days I wish I did. ;)

Earlier today, I told someone what I do, and she immediately asked me if I made money like Danielle Steel. Um, not even close. :) Because I write for small presses, I have to write a lot to bring in steady paychecks. Don't get me wrong, I love what I do, and I wouldn't change anything if I had the chance. I guess it's all part of being a parent. We don't want to see our kids struggling, and want to make sure they have good lives.

What do you think? Would you encourage your child to follow their dreams, encourage them to go for security, or a little of both?


Blogger Joan Swan said...

Cool topic -- one so many people can relate to.

After many careers (writing is my ninth) I'd have to say I believe that if you are passionate about what you do, the money will follow.


The other thing to consider when choosing a career built around something you love and are passionate about is that once it becomes the means by which you pay the electric bill and fill your cart at the grocery store, it loses some glitter. And once it becomes "work" instead of "passion", you can lose your love for it altogether. Which is both sad and frustrating.

None of that is an answer for your daughter. I always tell mine that when she's thinking about what she wants to do, look for something that is multi-faceted and can provide variety and novelty for many years, something that she can enjoy during those 40, 50 or 60 hr work weeks, and something where you make enough money to also enjoy the remaining hours of your life.

8:00 PM  
Blogger B.E. Sanderson said...

Right now my daughter is talking about wanting to be a movie director when she grows up. I'm nudging toward lawyer or scientist. She knows I'll support her in whatever she decides, but I'm thinking about occupations she'll be good at that will make her a lot of cash. Lucky we still have 4 years before college to think about it.

LOL, she loves to write, but after watching me, there's no way she'd want it as a career.

6:25 AM  
Blogger wavybrains said...

My mother IS a writer. A very struggling writer. And I resisted my own ambitions for that reason for many years. Heck, I got into a prestigious writing program, but I chose the "safety" of law school instead. But during my 3rd year of law school, a book just started pouring out of me. And now, I've got a "safe" degree, but I'm living the same life as if I got that English degree--adjunct teaching and struggling writer. Sometimes you just can't fight destiny, even as much as you might like to.

9:39 AM  
Blogger Elisa said...

J, you're right about writing losing a little of its glitter. Writing is my full-time job now, and there aren't as many days that I look forward to sitting down at the computer as there used to be. Still, I can't imagine doing anything else.

B.E., I've been doing the same thing with my middle son. He wants to be an actor (I guess we have a creative family LOL) but I'm nudging him toward something more traditional.

Wavy, very true about destiny. I wanted to write way back when I was in middle school, but I chose something safe instead. Now I'm right back where I started, and though it's not an easy career path, I think this is where I'm supposed to be.

3:47 PM  
Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...

Your daughter has a lot of years to decide what she wants to do. I read somewhere the average person changes careers 3 times in their life. Don't know if that's true but it sounds about right to me.

Encourage your daughter to study something general her first years of college so she has options. She'll figure out what she wants to do.

7:31 PM  
Blogger Maggie said...

As someone who was on the receiving end of a well intentioned speech about doing something "practical" from my mother (or that should be plural as it was repeated on many occasions over the years), I have to disagree. Of course no one wants their child to struggle, but I think it is doing your daughter a disservice to try and dissuade her, however gently, from following her heart, if writing is where it lies. I wanted to write from the time I was 12. My mother always viewed it as an interesting hobby. I excelled academically from pre-k through Master's degree, always pursuing a "safe" and "lucrative" career because it was the "sensible" thing to do. And I wasted a lot of years on the sensible thing only to wind up miserable. Until I finally acknowledged that the only thing in the world I want to do is write and sat down to actually do it. I stopped my higher education after my Masters instead of going on to waste another 6 years getting a PhD which wasn't going to help me do what I wanted to do. My mother is still baffled and continues to badger me to get back to it because she thinks that I'll regret it someday. But it wasn't what I was supposed to do. She doesn't quite get that, and as a non-writer, she can be forgiven for it. But as a writer, someone who understands the passion, I am surprised to see you giving the same advice. There are far more important things in life than money. And there are a myriad of things that she can do to support herself while she's trying to make a go of it as a writer (if she, indeed, decides to do so). Training for a fall back career that she doesn't love is a waste of time. Let her try her wings. If it's not for her, she'll realize it and can always pursue something else later. And she can pursue it with a free mind and heart because she'll know that the first dream wasn't THE dream. But she shouldn't put off a dream just because it's "sensible".

8:44 AM  

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