Only once have I referred to any potential employment as my ‘dream job.’ I don’t like that phrase. I used it because it happened to be a position in which I would get to write, but writing was only a small part of the impact I would be making at a certain company I admired. When I think of my ideal full-time career, there is no one position that comes to mind. Instead, I think about not things I want to do, but ways I want to make a difference.
I don’t really ever say I want to write for a living anymore, because that would be a lie. I don’t even think writing as a career is something worth aspiring to, because no matter what you do, you’re never really going to be writing full-time and doing nothing else. You are always going to have other roles on top of that. Would I love to, traditionally, publish a novel someday? Sure. But it’s not because I just WANT to. If I did, it would be because I had a message I wanted to distribute through a story.
Saying ‘I want to publish a novel because it’s always been my dream’ is like saying you want to get a PhD because it sounds like fun. Professional writers don’t write because it’s fun, honestly – I love to write, but that’s not why I do it. I do what I do now (freelancing) because I am trying to finish graduate school and am still in that really awkward, post-graduate phase where I don’t have a ‘real’ job or a family or even my own place to live. I’m still figuring things out. I know what I want to accomplish in the next few years, but career-wise, writing is just a part of a much bigger picture.
‘Being a writer’ is not a dream job. It’s one small fragment of a much bigger mission statement. You might even have a mission, as a writer, and you don’t even know it. Instead of saying you want to be a writer, focus on what you want to accomplish while writing – and something beyond having other people read your stories, which, again, is only part of the equation. Some writers want to promote diversity, or teach people about something, or give a certain group of people a set of characters to relate to; it really doesn’t matter WHY you write, as long as you use that reason to drive you forward and keep you on track when things don’t go the way you thought they would.
Wanting to write because it’s your dream is, I suppose, a start. But many writers never get past that point because, honestly, there are just too many people trying to do the exact same thing. It’s the same with other industries, too. You have to go deeper, and define a more specific goal. That’s how some of your favorite writers have gotten to where they are. Even if they never talk about it specifically, within themselves, they have known deep down why they do what they do. Some of them have never even considered writing as a dream profession. It sort of just happened.
Dreams and goals are not the same thing. Specify. Create an endpoint and figure out how to get there. Dreaming won’t get you anywhere; working will.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.
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