Because I'm a relatively professional writer, people sometimes ask me writing advice. Usually my answer is, "Just keep writing, then write some more and finally edit." But I really want to say, "Don't. Learn to be a plumber. People always need their toilets fixed. The world doesn't need another struggling writer. Like me."
I graduated from NYU's writing program. On our first day, our professor told our class of about 100, "Out of all of you, maybe one of you will make it. The rest of you, I'm sorry. There's always teaching." Of course, we all thought we'd be that one. Of course, I was positive it'd be me.
During that semester, I remember a fellow student turned in a piece called "Blueberry Bridesmaids." I remember thinking it was all right. Then a few weeks after graduation, I was shopping at Barnes & Noble.
I jumped backward and yelled, "Holy shit! That girl in class plagiarized 'Blueberry Bridesmaids' from this book!" I picked it up and flipped through it. Yep. This was definitely the story. I couldn't believe somebody at such a prestigious school would get away with stealing a story from a book that's in the world's biggest chain book store.
Then I looked at the author page. Yep. There was my fellow classmate. At 22 years old, she'd published a book of short stories. I'm not sure how she's doing now since I ran out of data on my smartphone plan and can't look her up. I do know that I'm 37 and I just spent eight hours working at a bar and walked out with a whopping $12 in my pocket. I also know that yesterday, somebody emailed me to say they liked my last column. That made my day.
At this juncture of my life, I'm pretty sure I'm not going to be the next Stephen King, J.K. Rowling or any of those other writers that people actually read. I'd give my soul, both testes and film rights to Michael Bay to publish a best seller. I'd also enjoy knowing that people enjoy my books. And maybe they could pay me a little for the experience. Joy doesn't pay my bills. And neither do bad shifts working in bars.
Writing — and all art — is like an incredibly awful romantic relationship. Even when you do your best, you're pretty much destined to fail. And you'll fail big even when you think you're the best of the best. Your friends will nod, smile and say to your face, "You two go great together." Then the minute you turn your back, they grumble quietly, "That's going to last as long as a free bucket of Skittles at fat camp."
However, as much as I hate this life, when my fingers dance on the keys, I feel like I'm creating something. Writing is fulfilling — just not wallet filling.
So my advice with writing or any art is: Do it, but keep your day job. Study carpentry, masonry, sheepherding or nursing. You can always minor in English or take online classes. Please, listen to me. Don't spend your (or your parents' or the government's) hard-earned cash on a writing degree. That is, unless you enjoy washing dishes and taking out trash.