You Don’t Need to Be a Full-Time Writer to Be Successful

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I was convinced I knew exactly what college would be like for me.

I know. Hilarious.

Let me tell you my original plan, because it’s a great one. Unique. Realistic. (Smell the sarcasm. Smell it.) Then allow me to show you what really happened, and why I’m not cut out for the full-time life of a writer (and why that’s fine with me).

Getting paid to write, that would be nice. But I don’t. And honestly, I’m not sure I would be the same writer if I did.

I was on the fast track to making my dreams come true.

When your high school creative writing teacher tells you on your graduation day to publish a book within five years (or else?), you don’t take that lightly.

I had my doubts and insecurities (all of us do), but he made me believe I could do it, and back then, that was really important for me. So I had this plan: at 17 I started college, and I wanted to finish by the time I turned 21. I was going to graduate with a degree in English and a creative writing minor, because, goals. At some point between then and turning 22, I was going to write, sell and publish my first novel.

I’ll be honest with you: I think, if everything had gone according to that original plan, I just might have done it.

I turn 23 next month. I’ve been out of college for six months. I’m still working on writing a story I started three years ago.

Here’s what went down. 

I thought writing for a living was what I really wanted.

I flaunted my English major badge even before I was qualified to officially declare it. Anyone who would listen to me knew I was going to “be a writer.” And of course, back then, “being a writer” meant publishing a book and somehow miraculously making a living off the success.

It wasn’t that I believed one success would make, not break me. I don’t think I understood what being a writer truly meant. I think I believed college would consist of reading and writing and meeting other writers along the way. We were all going to have the same goals. We were all going to make it.

Except, it didn’t happen the way I thought it would. College, I mean.

I made great friends my first year, I really did. But the thing was … they all had career goals. Real ones. These were education and science and journalism majors. I was the only one who wanted just to “be a writer.” Unfortunately, school got really busy. Being an English major was … hard. There wasn’t all that much time for writing for fun.

As much as I wanted to write, I started craving more than sitting in a desk chair typing by myself. Adventure. Excitement. More than reading out of an anthology could provide. There wasn’t a lot of writing involved that first year, not the kind of writing I had expected. Not only did I feel I wasn’t learning, but I wanted to learn more than what my professors were teaching me.

Fast forward. This is June 2015.

I finished college with two degrees, no literary agent and no clue where I belonged.

Nutrition and fitness have always interested me, so I picked up that major my sophomore year to give me something to do. I started writing part-time for a magazine. Not until earlier this year, fresh out of school, did I completely revamp my blog to focus on helping writers achieve their dreams when I had all but abandoned mine.

I haven’t, though. The thing is, I love writing. Yet I don’t do it for a living. I don’t get paid and sometimes I’d just rather do other things. To really be a successful author you have to be really good at writing. I’m okay. I’m allowed to improve and refine my skills on my own time without being pressured to do so.

Yet a lot of people ask me what writing has to do with health, and why I’m studying for an MS in health communication and why all I ever seem to talk about is writing.

I recently interviewed for a nutrition communications job; they were confused when I explained that I write and edit for a magazine and run my own blog about writing, even though I’d just spent a good 10 minutes going through my health and fitness experience (there’s a lot) and my passion for promoting healthy lifestyles.

I’m not sure they understood that passion spans across disciplines.

I’ll share more of this some other time. This post is getting long (bad habit).

I’ve accomplished a lot even though I haven’t published much fiction.

Dietetics is hard. Just trust me on that one. Add to that an entire cluster of professors trying to figure out why your two areas of study have nothing to do with each other. I had instructors tell me I needed to choose one or the other (nope). Because no one ever really sees how me teaching you how to “be a writer” has anything to do with teaching you how to live a healthier life.

Look deeper. A lot deeper. Just for a minute.

If you’re a writer, you know how important writing is in the grand scheme of your life.

Just as important as diet and exercise and being as happy as you can be.

I will always face the challenge of balancing my two loves. I’ve blogged about it before and I know it’s hard for most of you to understand. But writing full-time just wouldn’t satisfy me. I am one of those introverts who needs her people time just as much as she needs her don’t-bother-me-I’m-introverting time. I need to use the scientific part of my brain, the problem-solving part, the logistical mindset. The kind you can’t get from sitting at your computer all day.

Which means I need a job, a real job, that meets all those needs. And writing full-time just isn’t it. At least not right now, not at my experience level (or lack thereof).

I do not want to have a lot of money for the sake of having money. I want to be able to afford to travel and continue my education. I think I want to be able to write on my own time, for my own enjoyment, and not have to worry that I’m not getting paid.

It doesn’t mean I won’t ever publish something. Or that I don’t want to. I think there are a lot of different ways to measure success. And I think waiting until I have a book ready for the world to see, even if I can’t spend all day every day working on it, would still be considered success to me.

We make a lot of plans, us humans.

I think we make plans because we know they’ll never turn out the way we expect.

Real life plot twists. That’s what we live for, isn’t it?

Huh. That sure explains a lot.

Love&hugs, Meg<3

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

A recent graduate with a B.A. in English and a completed major in nutrition, currently seeking a graduate degree in health communication, Meg is a twenty-something workaholic with a passion for writing, coffee and dietetics. In addition to her status as an aspiring novelist and Grammar Nazi (and the mastermind behind this site), Meg is an editor for College Lifestyles magazine and a guest blogger for Food & Nutrition Magazine’s Stone Soup.  She is a seven-time NaNoWriMo winner and has written several creative pieces for Teen Ink magazine. Follow Meg on Twitter.

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