Growing as a writer is both breathtaking and heart-stopping. In many ways, experiencing creative growth involves exploring stories no one has ever told; gaining the authority to spread messages that change the world, even. But it also means change – change in your writing process; even in the things you pursue, professionally, as a writer always-in-training.
I have written on several occasions this year about my decision to no longer make writing fiction a priority in my schedule. Perhaps I’ve played it off as though this was an easy choice. When you’ve held onto a dream for a very long time, it feels uncomfortable even considering the idea of setting it aside. I want to make it clear that in no way do I believe changing direction, in any hobby, academic setting or career, is or should be easy. It isn’t. It’s heartbreaking. In a freeing kind of way.
I must have been nine or ten years old when I first considered writing a book. I didn’t start taking it seriously until high school, which was the first time an authority figure told me to my face that I was a skilled writer, and actually meant it.
Before that, I’d had other considerations for creative-focused ways I wanted to spend my adult life. Dancing, drawing, singing being the most memorable. I was either extremely bad at or not seriously committed enough to any of these things (to this day I’d give anything to say I’m a good dancer, but trust me, that dream is as good as dead).
But writing always seemed to be the common thread that linked all of these hobbies together. I still have a journal I kept throughout elementary school. Most of the pages feature at least a few lines of writing, with (awful) drawings underneath to go along with the narratives above them. I have binders full of old song lyrics. I’ve written at least a few stories in the past about ballerinas.
So you would think that I would have stuck to fiction writing. And I did, for a really long time. Until I took my first and only creative writing class in college, which was challenging … and for reasons I couldn’t figure out, not the way I wanted to be spending my free writing time.
I still write fiction. I still dance and sing and sketch when nobody’s watching (who doesn’t?). But I figured out very early on in my writing ‘career’ that as much fun as it is to make up stories and create my own worlds and meet people that don’t actually exist, my heart is set on a very different kind of writing. And if you’re not aware of my background, I ended up getting a master’s degree in health communication, so that I could more credibly pursue a career in writing about health and nutrition – because that is what I want to wake up every morning and do.
The reason I first started pushing my desire to publish a novel further and further from my top priorities was that the idea of sitting in an office all day writing fiction did not excite me. I wasn’t even close to achieving that dream, and I was already bored.
I have never received an award or any kind of recognition for my creative writing, because while I might enjoy it, it’s not my strength. I am likely never going to make a career out of publishing novels. However, I have received more compliments on my nonfiction writing portfolio than I personally think I deserve, not because I’m the best, but because I enjoy it enough to have spent enough hours on those projects to develop the skill level necessary to create good work, consistently, in that niche.
The only thing that still makes me feel uneasy about this whole thing is that, this year, in a sense, I gave up on a dream. When I made my list of goals for 2016 at the end of last year, I included both querying and signing with an agent on that list. But my interest in both of those things has dropped significantly. Not because I do not like to write fiction, but because I would rather use my writing skills for something I am much more marketable for – and something I can make an enjoyable career out of.
This year, when I make my 2017 goals, other than a few Wrimos and finishing up old projects, fiction writing won’t have much of a presence there. And that’s OK.
Goals change. Just because you decide you want to focus on some other area of writing – or something completely unrelated to writing – does not mean you have failed, or that you’re not a good writer, or that you’re letting yourself or someone else down. What it means is that you are growing. You are figuring out what you do and don’t want to do with your time. It’s a sign of creative maturity. It also means that you’re going to enjoy your free time much more – because you can write whatever you want to. But you don’t have to. It’s completely up to you. You are free.
I do want to encourage you never to give up writing completely, though, even if your professional goals do shift and don’t take writing along with them. If you’re here, reading this, writing has an important place in your life and in your heart. I’m never going to stop writing fiction: it is part of who I am. I will always respond to the urge to tell stories, even if no one ever reads them. You can’t ignore that deep calling within yourself, no matter what kind of writing it is – not if you truly want to be happy, and satisfied with who you are as a person.
Let’s not look at this as giving up on a dream. Let’s look at it as an active choice to change our goals as writers. Just because you might decide against trying to make a living as an author, for example, doesn’t mean writing has any less meaning in your life. Our desires change as we grow. Maybe this is only a temporary shift, and as your life continues to change, someday you’ll feel the desire to pursue this kind of dream again. Or not. We can never know exactly what the future holds.
You are allowed to pursue whatever dream ignites passion inside you. If you wake up one day and realize that dream has changed, run with it. See where it takes you. Hold on to small pieces of what made that old dream so important to you. They don’t disappear. They’re part of your story, the one you write as you move through life, balancing everything, doing what needs to be done and doing what you can’t live without.
Whatever you decide to do, best of luck to you. Your passion for Your Thing, and your willingness to work hard to earn it, are going to take you farther than you ever expected someone like you could go.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-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.