In an article about being a creative writing major, a miniaturized writer stares up at colossal gavels, test tubes and stethoscopes that loom over her.

Being a Creative Writing Major in a Family of Non-Creatives

There is no shame in pursuing your own dreams.
August 25, 2023
8 mins read

For as long as I can remember, I have always been a writer. I have always known that I would pursue a writing career. But I never thought that shame would settle within me like a boulder when I chose to fully commit to my ambitions in college by declaring a creative writing major. I also never thought that my extended family’s chosen occupations would act as the anchor of my shame. 

My cousins are all lawyers and engineers. And there I was: the writer. I could not shake the feeling that my cousins’ futures were ready for the taking while mine was up in the air, feeling more like a concept with a one in a million chance of materializing than a grounded reality. 

The world sees being a creative as suicide. At eighteen, when I did not fully know the world, and the world did not yet know me, I ignored this sentiment for a very blissful — albeit brief — moment. I say “brief” because the world introduced itself to me in the same way that severe thunderstorms form. The sky became a canvas of frayed and tattered gray clouds, thunder rumbled across the clouds like fire chasing oil and, finally, lightning struck — an unrelenting show of power. 

I knew that I could not simply be a writer — not if I wanted to make a living. The idea that I might become the starving artist of my family absolutely embarrassed me. This prospect seemed especially mortifying when I imagined my entire family of engineers and lawyers pecking away at me at the dinner table like pigeons desperate for crumbs. 

So I compromised with my own shame and embarrassment and decided to pursue journalism. Long story short, I did not like journalism. It felt too cold, too static and too routine. I only experienced excitement when the people whom I interviewed recounted their stories with pride, melancholy or an endless sense of possibility. 

I love to write. I find stories everywhere I go. So why did I feel shame every time I told my family that I was pursuing a career as a writer? I was learning so much from my creative writing major, so why did I continue to hesitate each time someone asked what I was studying? 

To try to understand the shame that I felt, I first looked at it from a broader, less personal perspective and — like I do with everything — blamed capitalism. It made sense to. Why did I feel so much shame? Well, because I felt like I was never going to find a job stable enough to sustain me for the rest of my days. Why did I feel like I was not going to find a stable job? Well, because capitalism does not value the arts the way that it should. Capitalism values the useful, the profitable — and it ordains the engineer and the lawyer as such. How was my writing going to build and contribute to the future? It would not.

When I finally allowed myself to meditate on the serrated texture of the shame that I had been feeling, I realized that I was desperately looking for approval. My shame stemmed from the fact that, when I changed my major from journalism to creative writing, my dad had never told anyone about my decision. He had stuck to telling people that I was studying journalism. And I had kept my mouth shut for appearances’ sake. 

When I decided to hide my decision to pursue creative writing from others, I did myself a disservice. My silence allowed shame to bury me and plant seeds of insecurity in my head. As a result, everything I did began to seem inadequate and embarrassing. I started to believe that my art was not good enough to share, to even count as art. I began to painfully examine every decision that I had made in college, every class that I had chosen to take, every story idea that I had decided to expand into a full-fledged piece. I willingly placed myself under a microscope —and it only made me miserable. 

Why was I doing this to myself? So that my family would look at me with approval? What about my own approval? After all, I was the one who would have to live with myself for the rest of my days. Why was I allowing myself to carry such corrosive shame when I was finally pursuing the dream that I had set out to achieve countless years ago? 

These are the questions that I began to ask myself after my recent family reunion, where everyone talked about their majors and careers. As I carefully considered the answers to my questions, I slowly realized that I did not need to incessantly fixate on how I could be more like my cousins. The world is too vast for me to stay forever stagnant. 

There’s a saying that my dad loves to tell me: “No dejes que se te cierre el mundo” or “Don’t let the world close on you.” I repeat his words to myself like a prayer. My benediction is the knowledge that my chosen major and career path is a novelty in my family, and that is nothing to be ashamed of. The world will always need artists. My family is my world. 

There is no shame in pursuing what we love and desire. I am a strong believer that every choice we make and path we pursue will eventually find a place within our lives — but only if we allow space for them. I now know that I took an incredible leap of faith when I committed to my dream of becoming a writer, and I am incredibly proud because the decision was my own. 

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