Show Me the Writing!

Those familiar with the hilariously-inappropriate Sesame Street spoof Avenue Q will have heard the song, "What do You do with a BA in English?"

"Four years of college and plenty of knowledge have earned me this useless degree," the song laments. "I can't pay the bills yet, 'cause I have no skills yet. The world is a big, scary place."

If I weren't facing the same predicament, I may find the song funny.

I racked my mind about it for months, but finally did what I said I'd never do: I registered for nursing classes. I'm still not convinced I want to commit to them, but the deciding factor was a practical one: I figure, if things aren't looking up for me and my English degree, I can transfer to a nursing school after graduation.

But it doesn't feel right. I always wanted to be involved with literature. To read, to write, to speak, to critique - that's what I always saw for myself.

As a kid, I never wanted toys. I wanted books instead. I grew up down the street from the public library and spent most of my childhood bopping back and forth between that and home, reading whatever interested me. I wanted to write; I wanted to illustrate. I even won a few young authors awards back in the day.

But to be honest, I don't actually write very much. Yes, I update this blog pretty often, and my school assignments turn out well, but when it comes to actual creative writing, I have very little to show for myself. For someone who's always professed the desire to write, I'm starting to get a little nervous.

So far, my translation projects have yielded just a few, short pieces of poetry, and I never find myself coming up with great ideas for vignettes and short stories. Maybe I need to reassess the kind of writing I want to do, since I seem to do better with nonfiction-type pieces and essays. In any case, if I don't produce soon, I feel it won't be long before the Reality Police come knocking on my door to demand, "Show me the writing!" Perhaps if I were friends with other literary types we could swap drafts and force each other to write. That way I won't feel like I'm groping through a void.

My mother was so relieved when I signed up for the pre-nursing track. It's what I was "supposed" to do from the beginning. She's even started speaking of nursing school as the goal instead of as the back-up. I cannot tell you how much I resent this.

My attachment to literature has been so deeply-felt, and for so long, that to dishonor the attraction by doing something else just feels wrong. It feels like I'm throwing away a natural interest and aptitude, and stifling a part of myself.

Only one thing to do: get creative. I won't end up doing nursing, not without a fight.


barney. said...

you should write, your so good at it! hope to see you on AIM soon! :)

Anonymous said...

The tune of my life goes "What do You do with a BA in Anthropology", so I decided to minor in economics. :-D

There's nothing wrong with putting your love of literature on the side to pursue a practical way of, sadly, making an income. Would you rather be a starving artist--in your case, starving writer?

I myself have an intimate relation with linguistics, but he knows that I have to pay the bills, so I have to eventually work with economics. At the end of the day, linguistics knows that my heart belongs to him--I can't believe I just wrote that paragraph. Hehe.

Luuworld said...

i spent a lot of time in the library as i kid too. i was a real nerd (still am, in many ways..!)

i can relate to your situation, though. i went to art school after high school. i earned a bachelor degree, and had a wonderful time there, but at the end of the day, i couldn't really see myself as a starving artist. i just wasn't "hungry" enough.

you can probably make a living through literature, but be prepared to spend a couple of years before your income is stable....

so you need to ask yourself how much you really want this. if you want it badly enough, you'll make it :)

Gauss Jordan said...

Going into college, I knew from day one that I would do computer engineering. However, I watched my friends bounce around from major to major. (I'm not sure what year you are). One thing that you should do is just take as many gen-ed's as you can. Go look at a cross-section of programs, from Nursing, Literature, Engineering, and say something like public affairs or marketing. Find the common courses they all require, and register for those, so that if you do bounce around a bit, you don't waste time, and end up graduating a semester or a year after your peers.

And by the way, I disappointed my mother by not going to an Ivy League school, and by not getting a PhD or MD. The pressure you feel from your mom won't go away. I have a MS in Engineering from a pretty good state school, work for a Fortune 50 company, and am a technical lead for a multi-million dollar project, all at the age where I should still be a junior developer. But that's still not good enough. So figure out how to solve the resentment issues now, and move on. It's your life, not your mom's.

This is super-late, but I just discovered your blog. ;-)

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