In college, I was an English major, which means that the latter part of my formative years were spent within circles of those types of people.
You know the kind. Faux-artists. Idealists. Hipsters. Whatever you want to call them, my generation (Millennial) has its own special breed.
We shopped at thrift stores, not because we had to, but because it was trendy. On weekends we holed up in someone's apartment to smoke cigarettes and drink shitty beer or wine and read poetry aloud and talk about how we should totally make a short film.
We all had plans to go off and pursue our art. Writers, actors, drawers. Reality be damned! Adult-world be damned! We were going to be the next revolution of artists and thinkers and all the like.
The problem was that most of us were more in love the idea than the practice. Our little circles, grounded in little more than youthful naivety, often dissolved quickly. Few of us made it out of college, even fewer went on to actually use and work with the medium we once claimed to be so in love with.
I'm one of the luckier ones.
I was always going to be a writer. A paid writer. I was damned and determined to live my craft.
And I do just that.
But I'm not a poet, or a novelist, or an accomplished short story writer, or a screenwriter or anything like that.
Instead, I work as a content manager for a phenomenal digital marketing company in Alabama that, after years of freelancing in the trenches for local newspapers and obscure online publications, gave me the opportunity to live my craft.
I get to write about a wide range of subjects for companies all across the business spectrum. Some of them are awesome. Some of them are about title insurance. But I'm doing what I love. I wake up happy. I wake up excited about going to work. And the reason why is because I truly love writing.
But not the idea of writing. Not the culture that follows it. Not the insightful aura that surrounds those writers we looked up to in college.
No, I literally love crafting words and sentences and paragraphs. I love the way black font looks on a white background. I love building blocks of text, and making sentences flow together seamlessly. Sometimes I feel less like a writer and more like an engineer or an architect.
It's not sexy. It's not mysterious. It's not revolutionary. But I don't care.
Which brings me to this.
For everyone out there who one day aspires to find work in the world of liberal arts, I ask: Do you truly love the art? Do you truly love the practice?
Or do you love the idea?
If it's the latter, then you need to stop. Put your love aside and go focus on something beneficial to society. Study something else. Learn a trade or a craft. By all means, paint, write or act on the side if you must, but don't expect success.
However, if you can say you truly love the practice, regardless of the subject, then I'm here to tell you that you can do it.
But don't do it for fame and glory. Don't do it to gain some type of artistic status. Don't do it in hopes that a bunch of trendy, naive college kids with shitty taste in beer will one day sit in circles and talk about your "genius".
If I could give one piece of advice to young, aspiring writers, it would be to find a way to make your art practical.
Find a way to apply it to the real world.
Find a way to make it work.
Transform it from an art to a skill. Because if you truly love it, it won't matter how you're doing it. All that will matter is that you're doing it.
It's not selling out. It's winning.