Choosing Creative Writing
I always knew I wanted to be a writer, but I never knew what I wanted to write about until I read Michael Pollan’s "The Omnivore’s Dilemma." Reading the clear, articulate, persuasive prose, laughing at the skillfully incorporated anecdotes, I began to care passionately about environmental consciousness and human food systems, and I wanted to write like that. A new world opened up to me – one where my actions and the actions of others mattered, where life was full of choices, and most importantly, where I could influence peoples’ choices through writing.
As a child, I was the black sheep in a family of engineers. My tenacious, gear-headed sister could spend a day taking apart and reassembling impotent microwaves, smoking dishwashers, or clunking lawnmowers, while I would sometimes forget to eat because I couldn’t put down a book.
In elementary school, I started writing short stories, and in junior high I moved on to novels. I used to work on my writing late into the night with uncharacteristic discipline and single-minded focus, my typing hands lit up by the harsh white light of the computer monitor. I remember every member of my right-brained family reading my writing and telling me it was wonderful, encouraging me to write more and to develop my talent. I used to get drafts back from my dad, covered with suggestions, compliments, and questions in his nearly illegible troll handwriting.
But declaring myself a creative writing major in college was still a hard choice. I got a lot of pressure from my dad to go into some kind of science, even a “soft science.” I chose to major in creative writing because I wasn’t giving up on my passion for the environment. I always knew I would write about it. I certainly didn’t see this as the easy route, so I was shocked when some of the people who had encouraged my amateur writing efforts balked at my choice.
I remember my dad calling and asking, his voice full of doubt and frustration, “What are you going to do after you graduate? You’ll wind up working in fast food.” He bombarded me with questions about what my exact plans were, who I wanted to work for, what kinds of positions I could hope to achieve in 20 or 30 years, and criticized me for making what he considered a purely emotional decision. When my dad gets going, he can really be a bulldozer.
But worse than his well-intentioned but frustrating pragmatism was the voice coming from within my own head: “I mean, you’re a good writer, but so are lots of other people, and you’re probably not good enough to make it.” I remember one night staying up until dawn in my bottom bunk dorm room bed, reading everything I’d ever written in my life to determine whether any of it was good enough to justify making writing not only my passion, but my life’s pursuit.
Things started to improve when I began taking creative nonfiction classes, and I realized that a degree in writing doesn’t mean that I have to be a novelist or a flaky artist. I discovered that I could be a professional, and that I could use my writing to follow my other passions, to accomplish things, to persuade people, to make change. I want to write about the interplay between consciousness about the environment and community. People who can learn to work together as families, buy food from their neighbors and problem solve together create more sustainable lifestyles than most Americans today, and I can’t keep quiet about it.
Right now I’m a senior at the University of Arizona with plans for graduate school and beyond, and I’ve worked as a professional writer for a nonprofit and two small businesses. Someday I’d love to work for a nonprofit that spreads awareness about sustainability and community, and I feel like I’m on the right path.
Photo credit: Krista Niles
Andrea Lotz, a UA Honors College student originally from Colorado, is majoring in creative writing.
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