There are a lot of reasons many aspiring writers never build success full-time careers. Life gets in the way. They can’t move past a failed project. One day they just decide they’d rather have a stable nine-to-five that pays the bills instead of trying to juggle 10 clients at once with no benefits.
There are also mental and physical barriers to writing full-time in the long-term. Burnout happens. Frustration and exhaustion drive people to quit — even if they love what they do.
All these things are sort of normal among creatives … but maybe they shouldn’t be.
Maybe the problem isn’t that we’re financially flustered or it’s too hard to balance family and the writing life or we’re not happy with the way writers are treated.
Maybe we’re not treating our work, our writing, with the right attitude.
I write for a media company. Because of the way my team and the business is structured, I have to meet certain production quotas (though they’re flexible, depending). It would be very easy for me to crank out one article after the other, waiting for something to hit big … but since the majority of articles never do, I’d be waiting a long time to celebrate a well-received article if I waited for a big hit.
When I look back on my week and notice something has done well, I count that as a success. These are very small things — millions of people aren’t reading. But we get too caught up in waiting for that to happen. That’s why burnout happens. Because we don’t take even a moment to say, “Wow. I did a good job with that thing. I am proud of that. I want to do more.”
I’m learning to celebrate every little victory. Maybe not publicly, but I’ll celebrate it. Because if you sit around and wait until something “big” happens, if you don’t convince yourself every small step forward matters … you’re going to be miserable! And you deserve better than that.
So rejoice! Even if you don’t think you deserve it (because you’re wrong). Be proud of and satisfied with the things that work, the payoffs, the rewards, even if they seem small to you. Wrote every day, five days in a row? Gold stars. Ten people read your blog post? Fireworks. Finally started working on that idea you kept putting off starting, even though the writing isn’t your best? Parades, marching bands, your own fight song.
It’s not about thinking you don’t have to work any harder. It’s about looking back at the work you’ve done, taking a moment to reward that success, and then using your small accomplishments to fuel more hard work. Don’t move on from something great until you’ve acknowledged your role in it. You did that thing. You. How cool is that?
So go ahead. Do a happy dance. Eat some chocolate cake. Take the night off. As long as you get up tomorrow morning and keep doing what you’ve been doing, the successes that follow will be bigger. And following this pattern, before you know it, you’ll need to figure out how to celebrate all your dreams (finally) coming true.
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.