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Why You Should NEVER Let Non-Writers Tell You Your Writing Profession Isn’t “Practical”

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Here’s a list of things I would buy if I received a dollar for every time I was told my creative writing degree wasn’t practical:

  • A large island in the South Pacific. I would name it Black Magic Isle and would declare myself the sultan.
  • The Empire State Building. I would turn it into a mall and various other entities, like the Burj Khalifa, speaking of which…
  • The Burj Khalifa. Because why not? After all, I’d be quite wealthy, and I’ve always wanted to go to Dubai.

“Oh good. You have a business minor to back you up.”

Random chick I met in an Uber


It’s a stigma as old as the sands on your favorite beach: “If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life…because that profession probably isn’t hiring.” Every creative, especially writers, know this feeling all too well. The perceived notion that if it’s not vocational, then it doesn’t pay. What non-believers fail to realize time and again is that writing isn’t just a hobby- it’s a necessity to keep businesses booming, economies thriving, and people educated, informed, and entertained. How isn’t that practical?


“Why would you listen to a twenty-something- year- old ‘kid’ with no medical background?”Overheard from a former co-worker


According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, industries with the highest published employment and wages for the writers and authors include (but certainly aren’t limited to):

  • Advertising + PR
  • Newspaper, Periodicals
  • Independent/Freelance writers
  • Management, Scientific, and Technical Consulting
  • Motion Picture/Video Industries

And let’s not forget various other niches, such as social media copy, web copy, content writing, blogging, article writing, editing, etc. Don’t customers typically read product descriptions before they make a buying decision? Don’t salespersons take marketing documents to close deals? Don’t you read reviews about restaurants before deciding to spend your money there? Don’t you have a favorite show on Netflix? These things aren’t auto-generated by a bot embedded in the processor of some supercomputer. They are planned, written, and edited by professional, talented, and gifted writers.  A world of opportunity exists for us.


“Why would you change to an English degree? That’s not what we hired you for.”CEO, Past employer


The reason why you should never let a non-writer tell you writing isn’t practical is simple: they haven’t and probably never could do it. These are the same people that will be forced to sit through a mandatory “The Art of Storytelling” workshop, mandated by their employer. A workshop that’ll likely be facilitated by that English professor whose degree they said wasn’t “practical.”

The best thing you can do, writer, is bet on yourself.

  • Find a community that supports you.  Join Wattpad, Medium, or WordPress to connect with other writers like you. Put your work out there for the world to see. Create a portfolio showcasing your best work.
  • Read. Read. Read. Explore how other writers use craft and storytelling elements to resonate with their audience.
  • Give and take constructive criticism. Your goal is to be a better writer, an incredible editor and active literary citizen.

Most importantly, never stop writing.

P.S. Everything you know, someone taught you. Special shout out to every teacher I’ve ever had.

Categories
Blogs

Why All Writing Is (Essentially) The Same

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As I meander my way through the writing community, I have come to discover that the discourse around fiction writing mirrors that of religion vs. spirituality – “spirituality”, in this case, being the craft and storytelling elements that make up fiction, such as tone or dialogue, while religion, or interpretation of spirituality, mirrors genre (ex. most monotheistic religions believe in a God, but a Christian’s interpretation of God may be different from someone who is Muslim.) Though two works of fiction may differ in genre, fundamentally they share the same elements.

For example, take conflict. In Adam Silvera’s They Both Die at the End, the characters are presented with a conflict of character vs. fate. Given less than twenty-four hours to live, both find themselves trying to navigate the five stages of grief, all while trying to determine how to leave a legacy in the hours they have left. Rufus questions his fate in a phone call with Death – Cast: “How do you know? The End Days. How do you know? Some list? Crystal ball? Calendar from the future? (19)” Conflict plays out differently in Roselle Lim’s Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune. The antagonist’s battle to find herself outside Chinese cultural norms comes to pass once she required to return home after her mother’s untimely death. I argue that the title character’s conflict is character vs. society – she wants to live out her dreams but is tasked with to do this within the confines of a community she resents.

In both works, the parallelisms to reality, whether that be the looming thought of our own demise or deviating from what we are taught is “normal”,  are what make the premises not only relatable, but perfect foundations for world-building. In They Both Die, their world is centered around death. From Death Cast phone operators unsympathetically informing “deckers” they are living their final twenty-four hours. To television commercials using the dreaded ringtone in their advertisements. To social media streams of people documenting their last days. Unfortunately, this is not too far off from current events. In a time where is not uncommon to see someone’s demise on Facebook Live or YouTube, the Death Cast world is becoming less fictitious. In Luck and Fortune, Natalie escapes the grasp of her traditionalist mother, but must return to her siloed culture to truly thrive.

The environments we are born into shape us. This is ever present in the way we communicate, aka dialogue/dialect. Originally being from a small town nestled in coastal Georgia, home of the Geechee people, and being of Caribbean heritage (Barbados), I can relate. Regional shortened language, coupled with dialects spoken within a certain community (ex. African American Vernacular English) make for a plethora of “nations within nations.” I have recently started working with domestic fiction, so dialogue is an important factor. Given my cultural background, I do like to incorporate different dialects in my work. I tend to stick with dialects I am familiar with, as I do not want to stereotype or misinterpret ones that are foreign to me.  Natalie use of words like “paifang”, “calligraphy”, and “Sono andati?”, are indicative of her Chinese heritage.

Still, Natalie’s reluctance to return home did not surprise me – her tone displayed an ethos of resentment coupled with regret from the first few pages. Lim’s bird symbolism (symbolic of human life), the rain that followed its departure, and the description of the turbulent relationship between Natalie and her mother confirmed the melancholy nature. Tone, though sometimes hard to detect, I believe is important to establish. Admittedly, my works tend to be “dark”, so I use diction that is a little more formal, but I do like to incorporate voice to add variety. Silvera does a great job of mixing tone and voice in They Both Die. While both Mateo and Rufus exhibit tones of distress (ex. “I’m freaking out already, a hundred thoughts immediately drowning out everything around me. (3)”), Silvera does add some comic relief, while also giving insight into some of the flatter characters. Take the scene when Rufus learns he has less than twenty-four hours to live and his friends will not leave him:

“You two are straight up shadows,” [Rufus] says.

“That because we’re Black?” Malcolm asks.

The situation, though serious in nature, has a moment of normalcy, and reminds the reader that the characters are still young adults.

Although they have varying degrees of importance, based on genre, mastery of craft and storytelling elements prove imperative for any type of writing. This requirement supersedes type: genre, literary, creative, or professional writing alike. Just as a building requires the support of a solid structure, or doctors need fundamental knowledge of the human body, all writers would take pleasure in being privy to the elements that form the discipline that’s afforded them so much joy.