Writer’s Block

(Ethan Gates)– One week after missing my SheBomb post for the first time ever (winter break/interterm wreaks havoc with my memory of the days of the week), and I nearly make it two in a row. What can I say? Soviet Westerns are just really engrossing, guys (no, they’re not).

One of the many reasons I was distracted today – others included “The Adventures of Tintin,” sleep, reading about John Wayne, and sleep – was a Career Center alumni panel on jobs in the arts. Tomorrow I’ll be attending another panel on careers in media and communications. And just like today, almost none of it will be relevant to my interests.

I also spent quite a lot of time playing "The Legend of the Golden Robot," a browser game which is far more relevant to my interests.

I appreciate that the Career Center has put these meet-and-greets together, but I have a small bone to pick regarding their career classification. See, I like to write. One way or another, that’s what I’m going to end up doing with my life. I know that I did a post a while back about pursuing a library science education, and I still very well may do that. I do not necessarily expect my passion for writing to end up overlapping with my employment. But between shifts at the Academy Film Archive or the New York Public Library (hook a bro up, T-Marx?) or wherever, I will still keep writing movie reviews for my blog. I will still continue to scribble random lines of bad poetry in notebooks and work out personal shit by writing short stories about them (never, ever ask me to show you these). After I take a course on screenwriting this spring, I’m sure I will spend much of my spare time composing a magnum opus to rival “The Graduate.”

For me, writing is both therapeutic and fun. Finding the right words to express a certain feeling gives me the same satisfaction as completing a puzzle. You know those tackling dummies that football teams use for practice? Sometimes when I’m writing something on my laptop and need a little motivation (ie. every single time I have a paper due), I like to imagine the cursor is one of those dummies, and it’s my job to just keep pushing it back with more words, as long as I can. This allows me to consider myself as far more athletic than I actually am.

So when I’m talking with someone who doesn’t actually give a crap about my life but out of politeness has inquired what I’m going to do after I graduate, my standard response has become, “I want to write.” It’s a satisfactory answer that doesn’t actually mean anything, because “writing” could mean a career in journalism, communications, film theory, publishing, academia, or screenwriting, to name just a few.

But that’s where my problem with the Career Center’s panels start: where are the writers? There must be SOME of our alumni out there who are making money by putting pen to paper (I’ll give you one right off the top of my head: Lauren Groff ’00 – go read her debut novel “The Monsters of Templeton,” right now). I know it’s unreasonable for the Career Center to pander specifically to my pursuits, and were I to actually make an appointment with someone there they might be able to help me out, but in general I constantly feel like non-fine arts humanities careers are ignored because they don’t fall into such easy classifications as “Arts” or “Media/Communications.” The alumni panel today consisted of an opera singer, a photographer, an art/set designer and the president/CEO of an organization called OPERA America (I was unaware Amherst was so opera-inclined). The Media panel will feature a bunch of MBAs who work in public relations, marketing and advertising.

Can’t there be some of us who fall in the middle? Where are the journalists, the editors, the communication directors? As may have become clear from my vacillating earlier in this article, I don’t really have the unwavering, single-minded passion that is required for success in the fine arts (that certainly became even more clear today), nor do I wish to sell out my soul and study business (sorry, economics majors, but that’s just how I feel). What’s a writer to do?

Three to Think About: Great Movies About Writers

  1. Misery (1990)
  2. Barton Fink (1991)
  3. Adaptation (2002)

(Post-script complaint: Dear Underclassmen – it’s really nice that you’re showing up to these Career Center panels. I admire  your foresight. I certainly didn’t have my shit together enough to show up to such events when I was a sophomore. But please stop asking questions that don’t have anything to do with, you know, careers. We spent about 20 minutes today debating the value of fine arts in the community. This has nothing to do with ME GETTING A JOB. Save it for your freshman seminar. Yours truly, An Extremely Insecure Senior.)