For many, writing is a hobby. A creative outlet. Something enjoyable to pass the time.
For many others, writing is all of those things — but it’s also work.
At some point, some writers make the conscious decision to transform their hobby into a career. It’s not an instantaneous change; it takes months, often years. But Many do so either believing it will be too easy or convincing themselves they have to work harder than anyone else to make it out on top.
Neither of these assumptions are wrong, necessarily. But when you consider how many writers don’t ever actually become writers, you start to wonder how much stress — too much stress — has to do with it.
People quit writing — or at least quit trying to write professionally — for a number of reasons. Life gets in the way, or they legitimately change their minds; they can’t find work, or all they can find is work that doesn’t pay well. Writing isn’t as ‘exciting’ as they thought it would be. Maybe they just find more fulfilling ways to spend their time.
There’s another reason so many writers give up before they stumble upon the chance to succeed.
It all becomes too much.
From what I can tell, from my own experiences especially, this happens so often because people have a hard time interpreting the idea that stress in writing is a good thing. It’s motivational; it forces you to advance and develop your skills; it’s even healthy.
But while all of these things are true — a little stress, even in the business of creating things, is extremely good for you — there’s a difference between being stressed, and feeling overwhelmed.
I believe pursuing a writing career comes with many challenges — and that it should. But there comes a point when ‘challenging’ turns into ‘unnecessarily stressful.’
I don’t think writing should ever feel like that.
Because while writing for many people does turn into work, that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be fun. At least sometimes. You shouldn’t feel like people are asking too much of you. You shouldn’t feel like you’re spending more time writing than you are doing everything else. Writing should be a huge part of your life. Not your whole life. You need balance. You need to continue loving what you do — at least four days out of seven. You’re allowed to have a crappy Monday every now and again.
But every day shouldn’t feel like ‘Monday.’ Not when you’re doing something you enjoy.
Always remember that once writing becomes work, you still need to make time for writing for fun. And time for family. Time for friends, for pets, for exercise, for meals with all the major food groups. You should not have to stay up late finishing a project unless you’re doing it because you want to. You should not have to answer emails at seven in the morning unless you want to.
Eventually, you get to the point when you can make that choice.
Don’t let yourself crash and burn before then. Writing while stressed is detrimental to the safety and health of your creativity. Yes — a little stress can give you just the buzz you need to sit down and get your work done. But don’t overdo it. You WILL regret it.
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.