A Birthday Conversation
October 20, 2010
Today is my oldest son's 17th birthday. Happy Birthday, Ian!
In a weird circumstance, Ian has a half-day of school today, starting school around noon (weird) because the freshmen and sophomores have MEAP testing. As a result, he and I took Frodo for a walk this morning, which gives us a decent uninterrupted chance to talk.
We talked about college and if he was still considering getting a degree in creative writing (yes, he's interested).
This is not a terribly easy topic for me to discuss with him, actually. I know how tough it is. On the one hand, why not? Pursue your passions, go for it. On the other hand, I'm a skeptic of creative writing programs, because although they give you plenty of opportunities to write, which is good, and presumably give you useful feedback, if they were so great you'd think all writers would benefit from them, but I just don't believe that to be true. Writing is something you learn primarily by doing and being persistent, although I don't doubt useful feedback might help, although the quality of academic-based feedback is somewhat suspect, in my opinion.
So when I suggested he stay open-minded to the communications programs, or technical writing, which would actually give you some usable skills to go along the ability to stay in a writing program, well, I'm just being Dad and I accept a certain amount of eye-rolling is involved on his part. In fact, if I give him any fatherly advice about pursuing your dreams that I hope he takes to heart, it's "stay open-minded." Stay open-minded to writing opportunities or other work and creative opportunities that may come your way. Because those doorways can lead to some wonderful places, both in terms of economics and personal satisfaction.
I also know that, in life, we all need to find our own way. And that's probably truer in making a living in the arts, although I think it just applies to dealing with life.
In which respect, I think Ian will do just fine. If he chooses to pursue a creative writing program with the hopes of being a novelist and/or scriptwriter, I know all too well how brutally disheartening--and satisfying--such a path can be. I wish him the best of luck. As I said yesterday, don't quit your daydream.