What if most journalists are fiction writers who stopped dreaming too early?
This question has been on my mind a lot lately, mostly because it applies to me more than I want to admit. When I was younger I wanted to write children’s books and young adult fiction. I wanted to be the editor-in-chief of Seventeen magazine. I wanted to start my own magazine called Soul Teen that featured black, Latina, and Asian girls on its pages, so that we could be cover girls, too. Then, somewhere in all that dreaming, I decided that being a journalist was the way to make money before the fiction thing took off. Just before I was a New York Times best-selling author, I would fill my time writing for The New Yorker. Gotta love a 14-year-old’s conception of how work works.
Now, 12 years later, I’m questioning more and more whether I was too practical in my dreaming. I recently started taking a creative writing workshop because it occurred to me that since my day job isn’t writing fiction, it will never be my passion. I’ve been asking myself whether I can stand making my money at something that isn’t my passion. It’s been a real buzz kill to have to ask myself the tough questions, but it has also been necessary.
I work at a magazine and what has become increasingly clear to me is that a career in publishing, particularly in mass media, never gets any easier. Whether you are 20 or 50, you have to hustle just as hard to get the story, to sell the advertising, to close the deal. Do I want to have to pound the pavement for the next 30 years for something that does not fulfill me? The answer is no, so now what? I don’t have the answer today, but I’m hoping by this time next year, I will have had a stroke of genius and a shower of clarity.
Here’s to the New Year!