I Don’t Want to Live Off of My Writing; I Just Want to Live

“What do you want to do with your life?”

That may be the least appropriate question to ask a college fourth-year. Ignoring the few STEM majors who immediately throw themselves into research, the few people who have known their calling their entire life, and those who have the incredible and almighty power of nepotism on their side, “What do you want to do with your life?” only has one real answer: 

Bruh, I don’t know. 

This was a question that I, along with my fellow students, was recently asked during one of my classes. As expected, many stumbled through their responses, grasping at straws and talking about whatever career path they assumed their major had prepared them for. When it came to my turn, I answered this question as I always do:

I want to live off of my writing. Creative, journalism, whatever. That’s the goal.

And it was true, at that time. However, as I’ve thought about this experience, I’ve realized that it’s not true. 

Yes, I love writing. Of all of my childhood hobbies, it is the one that has stuck with me the longest. Acting fell by the wayside, football dropped off the map, and I can’t remember the last time I painted a picture. But writing is still here, bringing me joy and shaping my life. So, if writing is just as important to me as ever before, why do I feel like it is no longer my life’s goal?

Because, somewhere along the way, I stopped writing for fun. I stopped writing because I loved it. Now, I write because I feel like I’ve backed myself into a corner. I’ve pursued my passion for writing, and it’s become my major. The internships I’ve done have been in an effort to continue to build my skills. Now as I search for jobs, terms like “writer,” “journalism,” and “literary,” flood my searches — and they are not generating a ton of results.

As I look back on the writing I’ve done over the past few years, there are pieces that I am truly proud of, pieces that I love. My articles about Kobe Bryant and Chadwick Boseman, my columns with my friend and fellow Sports Editor Zoë Martin del Campo, and my short stories from my Capstone class all immediately stick out to me. I wrote those because they meant something to me. I felt like those were times when my voice could really be heard — and that’s why I write in the first place.

Unfortunately, that is not the majority of my writing. A lot of my writing has been churned out to meet a deadline, to cover a story I’m not passionate about, or to pass a class. How did that happen? How did I go from a fifth grader who was writing novels during recess to a 22-year-old who claims writing is his passion, but has written very few things he can actually say resonate with him?

Simply put, I grew up.

As I’ve gotten older, writing has shifted from something that I do because I love it to something that I do because it is one of the few things I enjoy that I can reasonably turn into a career. My writing, whether it be for a class or for the Review, has often been written with a little voice in the back of my head that says, “Hey, write this well so you can secure that internship?” or “Nah, fam, this isn’t going to impress the higher-ups. You should probably scrap this idea.” 

As I compile portfolios for jobs and grad school applications, I find myself not picking my favorites or the pieces that feel the most like me. Instead, I select the pieces that I assume will be viewed as the most “impressive” or “professional,” and that’s a shame. The pressure to find a way to make money to live comfortably and the pressure to do what you love and enjoy, in my experience, are at odds, and that’s heartbreaking. 

So what does all of this mean?

Capitalism has polluted my mind. It managed to take my childhood dream of being an author and, while I wasn’t looking, turn it into a goal that I must achieve in order to justify my life choices. A hobby has turned into a career path, and with that comes a significant increase in stress and expectations, and a dramatic decrease in enjoyment and satisfaction. I want to write pieces I love, about things I love, and somewhere along the line, I forgot that. I started writing for money, career advancement, and grades. And this is not how I want to live my life.

I don’t want to live off of my writing. I don’t want my life and my choices to be determined solely by a paycheck. I don’t want to have to commodify the things that bring me joy just to keep a roof over my head. I want to be able to live and define what life looks like for myself. I want to love what I do, what I write, and I want others to be able to love it too. If they’re willing to pay for it, that’s great. But I’m going to stop writing for pay or recognition or to impress some potential boss. Instead, I’m going to go back to my roots and do what makes me happier than almost anything else. I’m going to write for myself.

I still don’t know what my answer will be to that dreaded “What do you want to do with your life?” question. But for the first time in a long time, I think I’m comfortable answering honestly:

Bruh, I don’t know. I just wanna write fun things and have a good life.