I recently received the following letter from a reader of this blog. With their permission, I’ve scrubbed some of the specifics and am posting it to solicit some broader advice.
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I mentor a young man who wants to pursue a writing career. He shows promise in his writing but is reluctant to market his work.
He is a bright young man from a socioeconomically depressed situation. His potential definitely outstrips his circumstances. He is a home-schooled young adult in an overly controlling home. As the oldest of a large family, he is viewed as the family member who will become successful and change the course of his younger siblings.
We live in a rural area of the U.S. and the matriarchal hierarchy in this kid’s life is alive and well. Mama wants him to become a famous writer and see his name on the NYT best seller list. Grandma wants him to be a preacher. He is almost an adult and has not been allowed to pursue a driver’s license, a job ( other than mowing lawns) to have a cell phone, or to date. He is also not allowed to blog, unless mama can read everything he writes before he posts.
He is trying to make college plans and is determined to pursue an English degree, but is unwilling to consider anything beyond a bachelor’s degree. He is terrified of failing, and believes that because he loves reading and writing, English is the only route for him to take.
I am in a quandary. His reading background is primarily Stephen King and pop horror. His writing is mediocre…it has poignant, sweet, emotional moments but his lack of experience in general makes it stilted and forced.
I am writing this strange, rambling note to ask for your opinion. When does one encourage someone to pursue an English degree? When does one encourage someone to pursue a writing career? How realistic is it for a writing career to support a family in this day and age?
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Definitely a complex situation! So what advice would you give this reader?