Some of you may wonder why I chose writing above any other fine art to pursue. I have other skills, and I pick things up very quickly. I could have chosen to pursue art, music, or many other things. I have some art and singing talent, which I have made efforts to hone over the years. I still have a passion for singing, and art was fun while it lasted, but both have really dwindled down to hobbies. But writing has stuck with me after all these years. And some of you may be wondering why. It’s not really something I’d given much thought to until the other day when I was having a phone conversation with my friend Raven. She’s an artist and I’m a writer, and so naturally we talk about these things.
During this conversation, she told me she had received a schmancy student sketchbook in the mail that she was excited about, because it was better paper than her other sketchbooks. Which got me to thinking about the attitudes of the artists I’d grown up around, who were generally far more advanced and had more money than I ever possessed. I remember hearing about people talking about professional art supplies probably starting around middle school, and how expensive they were and complaining (bragging) about the buckets of money they’d spent on Prismacolor colored pencils. I spent a lot of time at school seeing all these kids who, by definition, were amateurs, but were way better than I was. I also grew up with an uncle who’s a brilliant artist, and has been for as long as I can remember. I never really saw any of these artists produce anything that was as bad as my art was, so it was really discouraging. Another thing I’ve picked up is that a lot of artists don’t really talk about how they started from the bottom and had to work tirelessly to get where they are now unless you ask them. I never heard about famous artists failing at their craft and pursuing it with determination until they were successful. So, I grew up around all of these art gods who seemingly effortlessly produced masterpieces and called them doodles. Clearly, I know that’s not the case now, but I was kind of dumb as a kid and assumed that some people just had natural talent to that degree. This was all very intimidating, and my Tourette’s slowed me way down. In art classes I was perpetually turning in assignments far later than my peers, even when I worked overtime. I felt like I was constantly being judged for this, and letting down my teachers. On top of all of this, you have the attitudes of the elitists that think one is superior if one has “proper” materials. While this was never said to me, this was the message I gathered from the attitudes of various people. Needless to say, art was just uncomfortable for me.
Music, on the other hand, was my second passion. It was the second most comfortable thing I ever experienced. It gave me a sense of comradery and belonging I have experienced in very few places and within very few circles. It gave me some of the greatest times of my life. It required hard work and dedication, but there was never a dull moment. I never felt like my Tourette’s was holding me or anyone else back. The work I put into choir required intense focus, which helped assuage my tics for long periods of time. Miss Bonfiglio, later known as Mrs. Schmitt, or Ms. Bonschmiglio, was my teacher for three years of choir, and is one of the best teachers, and one of the best people, I have ever had the honor of knowing. She always pushed us, and me personally, to give our all, to push our limits, but also made sure we didn’t strain ourselves. She trained us in a professional manner and where other teachers might have been condescending she always treated us as equals. I never once felt as though I may be less important or beneath her, and the lessons she taught have stuck with me, and will for the rest of my life.
I want to pursue choir, at least on a local level, because it is something that is very dear to me, and I am still passionate about. However, it doesn’t seem possible at the moment, since I have very limited transportation options. I hope to continue choir in the near future.
That brings us to writing. I grew up reading and being read to, and I have always loved books. Even when I couldn’t read, I would stare at the words and grow frustrated. In fact, learning to read was the highlight of my first-grade year. While most children dreaded Virginia Young Author time, groaned and wrung their hands in despair at their plot hole-riddled outlines, I thrived on it. I won an award in either first or second grade for my story, and again in fourth grade. Fourth grade was a surprise, since, for one reason or another, I’d only completed the rough draft and barely gotten around to my final copy. I was probably sick a lot. But my teacher, Mrs. Parrish, read it and loved it and decided to send it in anyway. I won on a rough draft. That was probably my biggest achievement of elementary school.
There was a time when I didn’t even really know that writing was a thing. As I’ve previously mentioned, I was kind of dumb as a kid. So, instead of realizing that people wrote them, I had always imagined that books simply sprung up in a meadow somewhere like glorious flowers and were harvested to be distributed. As I got older than, say, three, I obviously came to realize this wasn’t true. And while most people may have been crushed by this realization, like finding out Santa Clause is really just your parents, I was thrilled, because this meant that I, too, could write stories and be published one day. I don’t remember exactly when I started writing, but it was shortly after this realization.
Growing up, I heard about how J. K. Rowling had been homeless and wrote the entire first draft of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone on coffee house napkins, and how both she and Hemmingway were turned down repeatedly. I never felt like I was being looked down on for writing in a plain old spiral-bound notebook or the back of a classroom worksheet, or that I became a “real” writer when I fulfilled my dream of owning an old typewriter, or wrote on a computer instead. In fact, I have always thought my writing is better when I use a pen and paper as opposed to staring at a mind-numbing computer screen. I never felt like I had to have anything other than a pencil and a piece of scrap paper to get my ideas down.
In short, I stayed with writing because it feels like home. I don’t need specific materials for it. My writing isn’t going to be any different on a receipt than it is on copy paper, or sound better written in gel pen than it does in pencil. The writing community has never made me felt like I’m not welcome, even when my writing was mediocre at best. I haven’t really encountered much elitism beyond those who think you’re not really a writer until you’re published somewhere, or if you participate in fanfiction, which is quite frankly, a load of garbage. If you’re writing with anything, you’re a writer. But this sort of thinking seems to be mild and largely disregarded, thankfully.
I’m planning on going to community college in the Fall and taking classes in the vein of liberal arts. If I feel the need to further my education, I will go on to a four-year college. However, I feel like that won’t be necessary if I can become a successful freelance writer.
As for my career, I decided to not become a journalist. In all honesty, journalism was a job I reluctantly chose because I’d been told repeatedly that I needed to choose a “real job.” It’s not something that I think I would particularly enjoy, but I felt pressured into it. When people would ask me what I wanted to pursue, I would tell them, and oftentimes I received a negative response, saying how journalists were sneaky, conniving, and untrustworthy, as well as pointing out how corrupt and unreliable such an institution was. They would ask me why I wanted to be part of something like that, an industry that, in their misinformed minds, was made up entirely of gossip and lies. I could almost hear the unspoken “why would you waste your life on that when you have so much more potential?” One friend even listed all of the reasons why they don’t like journalists. When I pointed out that this was offensive to me, as this was my chosen career choice, they said “No, it’s not. I’m not talking about you, just the industry as a whole.” This was very surprising to me, as this friend is usually completely supportive of my ambitions.
Eventually, this became too much. My real dream, aside from being a published author, is to be a freelance writer. As previously stated, I was harassed for this, also, but I’m more passionate about it. I’ve wanted to pursue this career since I about twelve years old. And I’d rather be given shit for something I truly want to do than for something that I’m not passionate about at all.
So, if any of you have experiences with the art, writing, or choir communities, I would love to hear about it. If you’re going to criticize my career decisions, however, please keep it to yourself.