Are my Dreams of Being an Artist Dead at 22?

Dear Sarah,

I’m experiencing a quarter-life crisis, and I haven’t even reach the quarter life mark yet!

Long story short, I had two amazing years of learning and experimenting in film school before family issues and financial problems prevented me from graduating. I had to move back home, where I landed a job as a part-time assistant at the local newspaper and finished up my degree at a community college.

I developed a passion for writing and I would love to pursue some sort of journalism career and work on my science fiction novel that I started in school. The thing is, I just accepted a position as a secretary with the local school district, because it pays significantly more than what I am earning now.

My dilemma is this: I need to convince myself that my dream career isn’t over, but simply postponed so I can provide for myself as an independent, 22-year-old woman. It feels insanely difficult when you’ve discovered your true passion and you cannot pursue it because you have to work a clerical position 7-to-5 to take care of yourself.

—I’m an Artist (I Promise) in Texas

Dear Artist,

When I first became a mom, I was financially broke and brain dead from lack of sleep and creative stimulation—and despaired I would never find work as a writer again. A dear friend told me an anecdote about the prolific mystery writer P.D. James that gave me hope: As a young mother of two, she had to start working full-time after her husband came back from World War II gravely wounded. While supporting her family, she would get up early every morning and put in two hours of writing before heading off to her day job. After about three years, she published her first novel and went on to write 20 more. If you need more inspiration: when J.K. Rowling started writing her first Harry Potter book, she was on welfare and emotionally devastated by divorce and the death of her mother. It took her seven years to complete, but we all know what happened then.. . . And there are countless other stories about successful writers and artists who worked day jobs and suffered many setbacks.

While you may feel frustrated now, you should also be extremely proud of yourself. You responded to your family’s hardships and made some massive life changes without giving up or growing bitter. Now you are supporting yourself with your new job—that’s amazing. This stuff is hard! The sort of tenacity you’ve already shown is exactly what you are going to need to become a successful writer.

It may take a few months to get used to a 40-hour-a-week work schedule, but once you are settled in, you need to get your creative juices flowing again. You can start by committing to write 30 minutes a day—it doesn’t have to be perfect, just get the words on the page. Attend book readings and go to good movies. Reach out to former classmates and professors and get start an online writer’s group if you can’t find an artistic community in your hometown. Start blogging or submit posts to websites you love. Another incredible way to keep your brain buzzing is to audit a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course)—there are thousands to choose from, taught by some of the best professors in the country, and they are free! Some even provide certificates that could help you eventually find a economically viable job as a journalist.

Keep the faith! I believe in you.

Love, Sarah

Have an issue that could use a mom’s-eye-view? Our advice column features a real live mother of three who is ready to discuss any of your burning questions judgment—and baggage—free. Email [email protected] with the subject line “Dear Mom.” Please include your first name or nickname and where you are from. Questions may be edited for clarity and length.