I was slurping away at a bowl of Top Ramen on my couch one night when I noticed that some television broadcaster was blathering on about the economy, the recession and the job market. I actually almost changed the channel because hearing about that kind of thing when you’re one hundred grand deep in student loans and working at a coffee shop is enough to make you drown yourself in a kitchen sink. I didn’t though, because I love abuse, and saw that the blond woman listed the official top five “useless majors.” The list went like this:
1. Fine Arts 2. Drama and Theatre Arts 3. Film, Video, and Photographic Arts 4. Commercial Arts and Graphic Design 5. Architecture.
At first, I was angry. I was ready to storm into the other room where my boyfriend was reading and go off on some rant wherein I quote “The Dead Poets Society” and list the ways poetry makes the world a better place. But after a few minutes, I regained my composure. The blond woman on NBC was right. I made the choice to earn my Bachelor of Fine Arts in creative writing because I “liked it,” and now I have become a bitter post-grad who can’t find a job because no one speaks or writes proper English anymore anyway, never mind writing Creative English. Let’s face it. We all have that friend (or two, or three) that sends text messages that look like this: “were are u, their is a great deal on pantyhose here to.” The English language is being smothered in grammatical mistakes and ambivalence. It’s a tough environment for a Creative Writing graduate to live.
The absolute worst for us creative writing majors is when friends, relatives, or strangers ask us what we did in college.
“Are you in school?”
“No, I graduated, actually.”
“Super. What did you major in?”
“Oh…I didn’t know there was such a thing!” or “Oh wow, are you writing a book?” or
“Wow! I wish I could write!” or “So…you want to teach?” or the blunt, “You went to college to write stories?”
These responses, whether they’re meant to be polite or are just plain rude, all equal one thing: creative writing is as useful as an appendix or decaffeinated coffee. However, as a creative writing major, I have learned that it is best to evolve, adapt and adopt a defense mechanism. It involves some heavy self-deprecation, but it is your best bet at looking less dreamy and naive. For example, when your high-school cousin Andy asks you what you majored in, you answer, “Creative writing; the most applicable major for this failing economy ever!” or “Creative writing, and no, I definitely don’t have a job right now, ha-ha!”
If you can’t beat them, join them. Until you publish your suffering manuscript that compares your sh**ty childhood to one thousand frozen lakes, or your frantic bundle of flash fiction stories that involve a slutty, independent female protagonist and her dog, it is so much better to undermine yourself than let yourself be under-minded. Laugh at yourself first before anyone else can laugh at you. Say exactly what the interrogator will think before they even get the chance; beat them to it. Like any decent creative writing major, you must understand your audience and above all, you create an image for them. You must subtly show them that you understand how whimsical it is to be a writer, but that you are more than willing to sacrifice yourself to the craft.
There are some lines from Maggie Nelson’s poem, “Afterword (or, The Bridge)” where she states, “Because my heart is shooting ahead, and I have no choice but to follow it.” The poem deals with a faltering relationship, but I like to think that those two lines are malleable in the sense that can convey the need to follow intrinsic loves and that this need is not necessarily a choice. I write because I was, and am propelled to do so, not because I expected a steady job the minute I walked across the happy green field.
Of course, honesty is not the best policy and it is best to leave it at, “I didn’t know creative writing was a real major either!”
You can read more from Regina Vaynshteyn on her blog.
Feature image Touchstone Pictures.