I know exactly how you are feeling right now.
Well, not exactly. But I do know how it feels to write … and write … and write … when it seems like nothing you are doing is changing the world like you keep hoping it someday will.
We have all felt this way, myself included. Around this time last year, I was miserable. I couldn’t get a job. Grad school was expensive and hard. I was writing for websites for free and working as a magazine editor where very few of my writers respected my position. I felt like nothing I wrote ever mattered. I felt like no one was paying attention to my words. I still feel that way every once in awhile. But I pushed through it. And so can you. I know for a fact these (below) are things you think you can’t do right now. You can. I promise, you can.
Connect with your favorite writers/authors
While there may be plenty of writers who are further along on their paths to success than you are, that doesn’t mean they are unreachable. Especially since writers are expected to have social media accounts and online presences, it’s not impossible to connect with the authors, journalists and other professional writers you love and admire. You can tweet right at them – sometimes they’ll even respond (like that one time Meg Cabot liked my tweet … best day ever, or at least in my top five).
Obviously you’re not going to get anywhere by spamming people or asking every writer you know of to read this thing you wrote and give you feedback. I personally love it when readers reach out to me to ask questions about something I have written or start a discussion about a topic I’ve covered or an experience I’ve had, and I’m sure many other writers feel the same way. Remember, making connections with super busy professionals is not about you. But even an “I really loved this book/article/story you wrote, thank you for all you do” is still communicating. It’s totally OK to let other people know how much you appreciate their work. It’s much easier and more convenient to respond to short “thank you”s than it is to pages’ worth of email messages all about you and your projects.
Grow your audience
When I transformed my sad mess of a writing blog into something a little less messy and disorganized last March, and named it Novelty Revisions, this blog probably had about 25-30 followers. I don’t pay that much attention to numbers, except as a measurement of whether or not my content generally resonates with people and my social media/guest posting efforts are worth the time. A year and a half later, we’ve almost hit 300. That’s a big deal, in comparison to where I started … with no followers, uh, seven years ago when I first learned what a blog was. And I post daily – many of you can’t, which is completely understandable. It takes A LONG time to show people you’re here and writing stuff. There might be weeks, months it feels like nothing’s happening. But that doesn’t mean nothing ever will.
Building up a recurring flow of readers, or an online following of any kind for that matter, takes a long time. Years, in many cases. It can take you awhile to find your niche, and which ‘genre’ of that niche you fit best in. It can take time to refine your style and familiarize yourself, and your readers, with your voice. It can take even longer, after all that, to figure out how to be consistent and balance your writing life with other areas of commitment. You CAN grow your audience. Just not as quickly as you’d probably like. That’s OK. Slow and steady. Yes, I mean that.
Make a difference
Here’s the problem with the “news”: you either hear about the really good stories, or the really bad ones. The small stuff, the in-between stuff, it all gets lost in bigger shadows. So it has become very easy for us to think that if we aren’t making the kind of difference through our writing that gets us noticed and recognized in a big way, we’re not really doing anything of value. And this just isn’t true. Sometimes the little things matter even more than the big ones.
Making a difference doesn’t mean your content gets shared by well-known publications, not necessarily. It doesn’t mean people have to constantly shower you with praise and admiration. It doesn’t mean millions of people have to read your work every day. Sure, many of us might want those things – because they are easy to see, and they feel more tangible. You might change one person’s life, and they’ll never get the chance to tell you so in person. You might publish an essay that people really like, even if it doesn’t get shared around. Making a difference is all about knowing your purpose and sending messages through your words that aim to fulfill that purpose. If you feel like you are accomplishing what you have always wanted to accomplish, then you’ve already made a difference in your own life. That counts, too.
There may be a lot of things you don’t think you have the power to do. You’re just one small person in a very big world. You’re just a single aspiring writer in a large crowd of people who – at least it feels like – are much more successful than you will ever be. Don’t let yourself get too discouraged. We all start in the exact same place. Have you ever thought about that? Every single writer starts out as a virtually unknown name with an idea and a dream. Whether or not you take the steps necessary to turn your dreams into goals, and make your goals successes, well, that’s up to you.
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.