I understand not all of you fit this category – you’re not a struggling 20-something with a whole career in front of you. But many of you are, as am I. And I’m here to tell you it’s OK to be where you are. And it’s OK to be proud of where you are. Being an aspiring writer at any age is tough. But your early 20s, your quarter life crisis, approaching 30, it’s all hard and it can be lonely and confusing and emotional. Adding on top of that the fact that you want to write for a living … I’m sorry. It’s hard. Trust me, I know.
But I also know you, in the sense that you’re still trying to figure it all out, and be practical, and let yourself dream all at the same time. How does that work? With practice.
You know what you want.
I don’t believe you’re stuck in the sense that you don’t know what you want out of your education or a temp job or even a career. I think, deep down, you do know what you want. In some capacity, you want to write or create something original. You’re just either afraid to talk about it or you’ve already been shot down so many times you’d rather just keep your dreams to yourself. Working silently toward a goal nobody else thinks you can reach is lonely and tiring and sad. You’re good at what you do, or you’re trying to be. But it seems like everyone else is better than you, further along than you and/or happier than you.
So what do you do? Settle for a nine-to-five you don’t want? It’s not lazy to know you are not equipped to sit in a cubicle for eight hours a day doing things you’re over-qualified for. Sure, you might have to make that kind of sacrifice, for awhile, because student loans are a real thing that affect a lot of people. But you know you aren’t going to be there forever. You know where you want to be, eventually. It’s just a matter of figuring out how to make it work.
There’s being judged, and there’s being ignored.
I personally would rather be openly ridiculed for trying to make a living creating things on the internet than have everyone around me brush off my goals as if they’re just dust on my shoulders. Maybe you feel the same way, maybe you don’t. But the reality is, so many people have and want to achieve those kinds of goals that your needs and desires tend to fall between the couch cushions. Nobody cares. And that can start to make you wish you didn’t. Why put so much time and energy and effort into pursuing something when no one’s there to cheer you on?
You do it, or you should do it anyway, because everyone’s goals are important. Even yours. If you want to write professionally, and you want to prove to people it’s a real thing and you’re skilled enough to do it and you’re determined to make it happen, then make it happen. Don’t settle. Make the sacrifices you have to make. Tolerate your nine-to-five, come home and find a way to fuel your writing until you have to sleep. Do whatever it takes. Work or study, take care of yourself, but also make your goal a priority. If you don’t, nobody else will.
You’re allowed to be proud of what you’ve done.
Or what you’re going to do. Nobody else is going to believe in you unless you believe in yourself. You are not an archetype. You are a real person with real ambitions and real opportunities to develop your skills and use them in the real world. The world isn’t always fair and you can’t always depend on other people. There are going to be hard times and early mornings and days you just don’t feel like writing, but every little thing you do, every small step you take toward your goals, counts.
You’re not the kind of person who’s OK with bragging about your accomplishments. Maybe that’s the hardest part for you. But you don’t have to let the fear of being judged or targeted by jealous former friends get in the way of promoting your success. You have to believe you can do it, and you have to believe it’s OK to congratulate yourself. Who cares if other people have already done it? Who cares if you aren’t the first or the best or the brightest? As long as you try, as long as you work, you deserve the success you’ve earned, no matter how small, no matter how small your audience might be.
You want to be a writer. You’re trying. Whatever stage of the process you’re in, just know it’s OK to feel down and stressed and lonely sometimes. It’s hard to find people who understand what you’re going through. Just keep writing. Really. If it’s all you have, make it a worthwhile relationship. You don’t have to have it all figured out. But you have to keep going anyway. It’s hard. But you can do it.
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.