I read the first Harry Potter book at eight years old and immediately thought JK Rowling was a genius. That was the first time I fell in love with a book. At that moment, I decided I wanted to be a writer. However, I soon learned that this would not be as easy as I first anticipated. Of course, when you’re in elementary school, anything seems possible. You have the world at your fingertips. Your parents encourage you to strive to be a doctor, lawyer, or engineer. Any job that sounds prestigious and will keep you living in the lap of luxury. But how many times do young children hear from their parents that they should choose to be a writer?
When I declared my major in college, family members, friends, acquaintances, and even random people asked how I planned on making a living after college. They would say with fake sympathy and concern about my future: “Well, you better marry someone rich!” “You’ll be living in a box someday.” “Don’t you want a degree in something you can make a career out of?” “How will you survive?” “You could always be a teacher.” “You’ll change your mind once you realize how hard it is.”
But, I haven’t changed my mind and I don’t regret my degree at all. It’s been a year since I graduated from college. I have a full-time job scoring standardized essays, while doing freelance editing work, and writing my novel in my free time. I know it’s going to be difficult. I know I’ll have to struggle if I want to publish my first novel before I’m 25. I know I’ll almost always be looking for work and will probably always have another job on top of writing. I know most people will never see what I do as a career and that they will be judgmental and scornful because non-writers don’t understand: this isn’t just a career choice. It’s a lifestyle.
Being a writer is always carrying a pen and paper with you just in case, suddenly being struck with a story idea while driving, just as you’re about to fall asleep, or while out on a date. It’s typing for hours on end because you have discovered something beautiful and don’t want to stop, it’s the anxiety of writer’s block, the loneliness of late nights and staying home on weekends, the feeling of pouring your soul, essence, and everything you are into your words, the heart-warming, tingling sensation of a breakthrough in the plot, the mantra of “just one cup of coffee,” “okay, maybe one more,” the tediousness of editing and re-working words until they can’t be touched anymore, the unadulterated joy of a finished product, yet also knowing a piece of writing is never truly finished. Something can always be changed and always sound better. It’s also knowing when to stop editing before you drive yourself crazy, understanding when to take a break and step back, and when to push yourself. It’s the look of astonishment and wonder on someone’s face when they say, “You wrote that? It’s amazing.”
I followed my passion rather than wasting four years studying something I loathed. I didn’t want to spend my life working a miserable job, knowing at one point I had the option to choose otherwise. I am pursuing my dreams, regardless of what anyone else may think. Maybe I won’t be the next JK Rowling billionaire author, but I will write, and I will get published, and that will be my legacy.