The future is murky

Here’s a tricky question: should we encourage kids to become artists?

I was wondering this after I spoke to a UBC creative writing class a few weeks ago. I ranted for a while about the power of writers’ voices. When we write, we aim to affect and move people, and that can be an influential thing.

So yes, we should encourage kids to to become artists.

But then there was this article, waiting for me on Twitter. And this one. Many writers live off independent wealth, family connections, or the sponsorship of partners with stable jobs. (Mea culpa on the last one.)

This is crushing for two reasons. First, because it cuts from the conversation a lot of brilliant people who give up writing in order to support themselves. Second, because by encouraging our kids to become artists, we might be dooming them to lives of dependence.

All of this makes me thankful for my own parents, who watched me embark on a creative writing degree with not a word of complaint. My dad’s only suggestion, when I considered a journalism trade program, was that a degree from a university rather than a trade school would allow me more options. (I’m sure he didn’t think I was listening, but I was.) Other than that, not a word.

For six years, I wrote in the evenings while working a day job. I lived in a rented East Van attic and used a laundromat. Between salary and freelance income, I made $25,000 to $30,000 a year.

Then I married well.

Having the time and space to write has certainly increased my productivity. But my income from writing is still only $30,000 a year. So, would I be writing even if I were living in an attic and my kids were barefoot and there was plastic wrap on the insides of my windows? I’m a rather tenacious sort. I like to think that no matter how much it sucked, I would have done it. Then again, maybe that’s delusional. My kids kinda like their shoes…

So back to the original question: do we encourage that future for others?

I only know my own answers. I’m grateful, both for my parents’ encouragement and for my husband’s support. I hope my kids make their own choices as confidently as I did, whether they decide to be writers or doctors. I hope they find callings rather than careers.

And I dearly hope they never, ever work in LNG, no matter how much money they’d make.

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