When you were young, you wrote stories because there were stories to be written. Tales floated around in your head until you wrote them down, at which point they became yours – your real, amazing creations coming to life in your hands.
Kids carry little to no shame when it comes to creativity. You know this if you have spent even only five minutes with a six-year-old. When they don’t know how to explain something, they attempt to create a way of understanding that matches their level of cognition. Creativity is their perspective. They know nothing different.
When you were little, every story you wrote was awful. At least in comparison to what adult professionals tend to produce. Adults didn’t tear the pages of your stories into pieces and say you were stupid for responding to your heart and mind’s call to create, though. They said “very good.” That was enough for you. “Good” meant your attempt was successful. Onto the next task you went.
Adulthood has a way of shattering everything you once experienced as a young writer. Before, you were just interested in writing about the moving pictures in your head. It was relief; it was fun. But not anymore. Now you’re over-concerned about everything. Will this sell? Does my audience care? Where IS my audience? How will I get paid? Why is so-and-so’s blog more popular than mine? Why is he making a living as a writer even though I’m better at writing than he is?
Why does no one ever tell me I’m doing a good job?
Have you ever stopped to think that it doesn’t have to be like this?
The reality is, as you already know, making money as a writer is challenging. Getting people to read what you write is a struggle. Building a marketable, credible online presence is a nightmare. You’re not the only one doing it, so you feel threatened when someone else crowds the tiny space you’ve claimed in your niche. All these things are part of writing, whether you’re a journalist or a novelist or whatever it is you want to call yourself. But you don’t have to be part of the crowd that complains and shoves elbows and demands more money than they have earned.
Far too many of us have forgotten where we came from. You didn’t start out this way. I didn’t think about making money as an author when I was seven – did you? You wrote because you liked it. You wrote because every part of you demanded it. I think it’s safe to bet a good percentage of people trying to write professionally now don’t even like doing it half the time. That’s sad. Please don’t be one of those people.
You don’t hate writing – you hate the system. No one ever said this was going to be a perfect road. People get so caught up in being better than everyone else that they completely ignore the only thing that’s going to get them anywhere near the top – listening to that voice inside them saying, “Write this. Write this because it is what you are supposed to write, and that is all that matters.”
I am a freelance writer. I understand that money and a following and recognition matters. However, I am a believer in passion before profit. That sounds a lot more hollow than it actually is. I wrote things I liked, and there was no money. I wrote things I didn’t like, and there was still no money. Then all of a sudden there was money, and people started reaching out to me. It HAPPENS.
Of course, by “all of a sudden,” I mean months and months later. Instant gratification does not exist in the writing world. If you can’t handle that reality, you’re just not going to survive.
You have to do this because you want to do this. You have to do this because of that part of you that’s screaming to let that story out. Otherwise, you’re going to be miserable. I have met many miserable writers. They are not fun to be around. They’ve lost their reason for doing this. Don’t lose yours.
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.