I remember writing my first poem when I was nine. It was a half-plagiarized, sentimental ode to friendship inspired by a similar poem I came across in a youth magazine. But the idea of me being a writer, and consequently writing as a profession, only came to me when I was in high school*.
At 12, I began constructing metaphors based on “visions” induced, or so I believed, by too much caffeine. I began writing rhyming verses about my self, my family, and my feelings. After that, it was only a short matter of time before I became a staff member of the campus paper, believed I had writing in me, and pursued the study of writing came college.
Today, at 24, I call myself a writer-slash-editor. I’ve been working for a company that produces educational reading materials for three years now, earning just enough to keep myself in a one-bedroom apartment, eat two to three times a day, support a lover, and keep a cat. It’s far from a luxurious life, seeing friends on Facebook go on vacations, while I content myself with having an Internet connection.
Now, I know you’re here because you think you’re a writer. You want to be convinced that this career is fulfilling and you seek support in taking this road despite the words of caution you get from parents, friends, and significant others. If so, then let me, a 21st century struggling (if not starving) poet, convince you that there is no future in this field. Back away now, and take a different route if you still have the chance. Why?
You’re not good at it.
Sure, you get praises from friends and family for your writing. Perhaps, you’ve even been commended by a handful of professors back in college. But the world is full of people who’ve been told by inadequate critics that they are “good.”
Besides, do you really think you’re good? Do you think that you’re this generation’s Whitman or Neruda? Do you think you have what it takes to stand out from the millions of writers living today? I know I don’t.
Writing is an undervalued skill.
I don’t know about you, but from where I’m sitting, I’m of the impression that people don’t look at writing as a special skill. They think that having a good command of the English language is all it takes to write well. Hell, I even came across an online article sometime ago discouraging students from pursuing Creative Writing, Literature, and Communication degrees because it’s easy enough to get published in Wattpad. Now, if people do not have respect for the craft, why would you want to push through with this?
There’s no money here.
Take it from me, your chances of making a buttload of money through writing is as high as my chances of having an estranged grandmother who’s queen of Genovia. Unless you’re JK Rowling or George RR Martin, which you’re not, you’re never going to get published and you’re never going to earn a cent for the best verses or fiction that you will produce in this lifetime. And while you can always reduce your metaphors to Google search words and succumb to the trend of writing for marketing, that still won’t be anywhere near what your IT and licensed friends make.
So why write?
In the end, you write because you can’t help it. It’s almost a predetermined inclination, a calling if you will. You write because stringing words and phrases is an automatic activity. You write because you unconsciously scribble. You write, not just because you want to, you write because you do.
In an article for The Atlantic, Mark Yakich says that a book of poems is a thing that exists for its own sake. A poem is “a thing made” and a poet is “a maker of things.” That is as writers, we do not write because there is money here or fame or what-have-you. We write because we feel that writing is a part of who we are or of who we want to be. And when you’ve found yourself fallen for words, there is no alternative path or future.
And in this regard, you write because you’re brave.
*High school in the Philippines before the implementation of the K-12 program in 2011 began at the age of 12. There used to be no distinction between junior high and senior high. Under the old system, I entered high school as a freshman at 12 years old and entered university four years later.