All writers start out as dreamers. You’ve either dreamed of writing since you were very young, or it’s a dream you’ve discovered later in life. Regardless, a dream is a dream. You want to wake up in the morning and, in some capacity, you want to be able to sit down somewhere and write something, and you want to be able to call that your job.
There’s a huge problem with dreaming of writing professionally, though. It’s that fear that a dream coming true won’t be as good as the dream itself.
What if you work really hard, write tons of queries and emails, blog until you can barely stand it anymore, land a job, end up exactly where you want to be … and you hate it?
Does this happen? Is it worth worrying about?
There was a point, in my quest to become a fiction writer, when I wondered if publishing a novel would disappoint me. I had this nagging feeling that I and others had hyped it up so much that actually succeeding would make me miserable.
The last thing I wanted was to wear myself down writing, rewriting, and going through the process of publishing a book — only to realize it really wasn’t what I wanted at all.
So I started looking into — and trying — different types of writing. And somehow I stumbled into a genre in a niche that satisfied me not more than fiction did, but in a different way. I would still have doubts along the way, but deep down I knew it was the right writing path for me. I still write fiction in the background, I still plan on publishing a novel someday. But if I never do, I can still get on with my life knowing I’m doing the type of writing that best suits me.
I do not hate writing professionally, though there have been many points where I really thought and feared I would. I don’t think it’s fair to let your doubts stand in your way. Because trying, and realizing it’s not for you — or trying something new and realizing you enjoy it more — is much more worthwhile than just giving it all up and walking away. Most of the time.
If you’re writing, and you’re doing well, but you’re not happy, you’re not where you’re supposed to be yet. You’re not far enough along in your career, or you’re in the wrong niche, or you haven’t found a genre that completely satisfies your creative needs.
It does not mean that writing is “not for you.” It does not mean you put in many years of hard work only to end up hating what you worked so hard to achieve. Even if you decide not to write full-time, writing will always be a part of your life. It’s as vital to your survival as oxygen in your blood. We don’t work hard for things we don’t care about. You will find the place in the writing world where you belong, and it will remain a bright spot in your life.
But chances are, you’ll get to where you never thought you’d end up, and you’ll recognize how lucky you are. You’ll be happy — even if every moment of the writing life isn’t always glamorous. Because dreams don’t usually turn out exactly the way we imagine. That’s what would disappoint us the most, the same way a book with a predictable ending often does.
Like me, you might have grown up dreaming of being the next Meg Cabot or John Green or Sarah Dessen or whomever you sought after in bookstores when you were still just dreaming. But you might realize you don’t want to have the exact kinds of success they did. You might decide you want to follow your own path. And that decision — and acting upon it — might be the best thing you’ll ever do for yourself, as a working aspiring professional writer.
Keep going. Wait and see how it turns out. You can always change your mind, change your style, find a new job, write a new kind of story. But you won’t know until you actually do it. You don’t know what X type of writing is like until you’re actually in there doing it. So take a chance on whatever your writing dreams are. It probably won’t turn out the way you thought — and that’s exactly how it should be.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.