College Ain’t For Everyone

So you wanna be a writer? Or paint the next Sistine Chapel? Or maybe you’re desire is to compose a memorable romantic piece of music, write the next Schubert’s Ave Maria? Are you eighteen-years-old, about to spend $40,000 at a university to achieve any of the above? Don’t. Not unless you know what you’re getting into.

On September 17, 2011, a group of the young and the restless camped at Zuccotti Park outside of Wall Street. Their goal was to be recognized. Participants claimed to represent the 99% of those economically under the top 1%. But did they even know what that meant above the slogan? (The 1% they complained about earned around $370,000 annually, which excluded many of those working on Wall Street). Basically, what we saw end of 2011 was every group that felt ignored, used, abused or otherwise unappreciated come out to play victim. Camped out in front of the skyscrapers of financial giants, people from all gripes and complaints came to yell SEE ME!

Here is a partial list of those who supported the sit-in at Zuccotti Park:

Barack Obama

The American Nazi Party

Nuff said. These are two ends of the spectrum and everyone else in-between. The only thing any of them had in common was the feeling they were not part of the economic elite (or, in the case of supporters like Obama, sympathizers to the less fortunate). Even a group from the Council on American-Islamic Relations – NY was invited. So odd, really. Members of this “Council” had been jailed and deported for terrorist activities, had their women wear head covering and sit in the back of prayer services. What would Rosa Parks do? Strange they’d be participating in a protest to achieve equality. Okay if Allah says so, I guess. We also saw non-god-sanctioned forms of abuse, like the high rate of sexual assaults against women; one of which, had a black assailant (she was white) causing some racist activity. So naughty behaviors aside and the feeling of the right to do whatever the hell they pleased, what did this movement try to be? I mean to ask, if practically everyone had a speaking voice at Occupy Wall Street, who was doing the listening?

Mad about corporations taking advantage of tax loopholes, pissed because nothing changing in politics, tired of war, tired of bailouts, tired of being tired. And tired of high tuition fees for college. These were some of their issues and complaints. However, the unifying complaint was this belief that they were somehow underprivileged and economically under a minority.

I saw a second common denominator among the group of protesters. Most seemed to be artsy. (By the way, I consider myself artsy so I don’t use this word in the derogatory). So I got to wondering, unless they were completely devoid of the real world, didn’t they understand that paying $40,000 for a college degree in one of these fields would almost guarantee they’d be in the 99%? That, outside of a hobby, the field of writing, painting, music, etc is mostly a past-time? Every aspiring actor wants the recognition of Tom Cruise. But come on. If you get into acting because you want to be the next Tom Cruise, you’re doing it all wrong. However, if you’re still bent on trying, I wish all the luck to you. But let’s not get into debt and yell at those who made different choices and make a decent living. Understand what you’re getting into.

Let me address writers for a moment, my art of choice: I don’t know any writer who got into it to write commercial jingles or advertisements. You’re probably aspiring to pump out some stories, a novel, maybe be a journalist. If this is you, getting into $40,000 debt in college is a shame. College mainly teaches the mechanics of writing. It doesn’t/can’t teach you to perfect and fine-tune the Craft. It will never make you a published author. If you spend your entire four years in English courses and your goal is to be a novelist, I feel sorry for you. A Bachelor’s of Arts in English is usually a foundation, one achieved with the intent of going on to graduate school to earn a higher degree, like medicine, law, etc. Not an end in itself. If you want to be a writer and still go to college, I suggest you study a list of other things, like philosophy, economics, business, science, etc. Then you’ll have something to write about (very useful in journalism). But don’t spend those years only in writing/English courses.

Take a look at the submission guidelines of Literary Agents and Publishers. Nowhere do any of them ask what your degree is in. No one cares if you have a BA or Masters in writing/English/communication. They just want to sell your book. Some don’t even care who you are in your initial pitch. The getting-to-know-you comes after they’ve reviewed your work and decide to take it on.

Writing is something you learn by doing. And although you will be doing this in college, any fiction writing (novel, short story, screenplays, etc) can be accomplished for much cheaper outside the university and with equal results. If you want to be a novelist, poet, yada-ya, I suggest doing three things:

  • Start writing. Pick up the pen or bang a keyboard but start writing. Let a flow of sentences and verbs and nouns out of your imagination. Let the idea get out, even if the read-back sounds more like a cloudy dream than a story. Get it down. You can polish later. This is the learning to crawl, walk and eventually run part. Don’t know where to start? Here’s an exercise you can do any time: Today I…

 

  • Join a writer’s group. Search online, or at libraries or book stores for postings. Here is where you bounce criticisms off other writers and others critique your work. Everyone is the professor and this is your classroom. May I suggest the best one online: LitReactor. It’s $9 a month ($45 for six). You can submit your stories and get feedback from what seems like thousands of participants. Now that’s a big classroom! And if you want a teacher led class, they offer many at the cost of a few hundred dollars. Not thousands. (No, I do NOT work for LitReactor but I am a member).

 

  • Read, read, read, read, read, read, read, read, read, read, read, read and then read some more. Not just How To Write books but fiction (sci-fi, transgressive, horror, romance, westerns, comics), non-fiction (politics, current events, history, travel diaries, memoirs). And when you’re on the toilet, read the shampoo bottle.

In closing, if you want to be a novelist or sell your poetry or write screenplays for a living, skip college. Unless you have Bill Gate’s money and the idle time of Michael Bloomberg, skip the $40,000 bill. If you think you’re going to be the next Stephen King after college and pay off that debt with the next Carrie, you’re going to end up sitting outside a skyscraper complaining about it. And if I’m wrong, you’re only eighteen. You have plenty of time to go to college and rack up debt.

Maybe you’re wondering why this article is here at Freedom Cocktail. Well being free isn’t always a struggle between you and a politician. There’s a lot of things we do to ourselves that cause losses of liberty, unnecessary debt being one of them. Being free is more than politics. Debt with zero payoff is a form of bondage. So finding alternatives, like finding ways to live free from debt, is important. We, at Freedom Cocktail, got your back.

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