For the past two years, I have had the same quote set as my computer’s desktop background.
The hard part of creation is getting past the part where you’re doing it and no one’s paying attention. – Hank Green
When I first heard Hank say this on a podcast, it changed everything for me.
For the first time, it was like someone had put into words what I had been feeling since graduating from college and struggling to find a decent job as a writer.
I set it as my desktop background because I needed a daily reminder that just because I was struggling did not mean the work I was doing did not matter.
I don’t know how I got so lucky, to have made this whole writing thing happen. Even though I feel a lot less undervalued and under-appreciated now, I’ve kept my desktop background the same. Because I need to remember where I have been. What I had to go through to get to a better place.
I know there are too many of you out there who are still feeling this way, though.
So as we approach the final month of the year — the final month to tie up loose ends, accomplish those 2017 goals, maybe squeeze some relaxing in — I wanted to give you some advice for how to get through this time where you feel invisible and your work feels pointless.
Because I spent a lot of time in that void. And it is not a fun place to be.
Try (really try) not to compare yourself to the people you follow
Chances are, if you’re following a creator, and you’re serious about someday ending up where they are, they’re on a completely different timeline than you. You can’t, for example, look at John Green’s success and wonder why he’s published multiple bestsellers and you haven’t yet.
It works on a smaller scale, too. I follow a few “bigger” bloggers, and that used to discourage me. Now I just think, “Hey, they’re doing pretty well.” And then I go back to my own life and do my own thing and don’t worry about them.
Create a loose timeline for yourself — where do you want to be in 5 years?
What do you want to be working on five years from now? I know the answer to that question, for myself. Time-sensitive goals are like long-term deadlines for your writing career. Even when you feel like you’re not going anywhere, at least you know by year X, you hope to be (insert place here).
Of course, you also have to do this with the understanding that things aren’t going to happen exactly when you “plan” for them to happen. Part of this process is learning to be flexible. The point is to create a general guide to keep yourself moving forward on your hardest, most unfulfilling days.
Say yes to writing opportunities even if they aren’t what you’re dreaming of
For about three months at the beginning of my freelance writing ‘career,’ I wrote about men’s fashion. I hated every minute of it. I cried about every other day because I didn’t want to do it. But that experience somehow opened up other doors for me to write within my niche. Huzzah!
You’re going to have to write for free, and about things you don’t care about, and you’re going to have to do a lot of work sometimes for a very small amount of money. Tough. You have to start somewhere. No writer starts out at their dream job. NO. ONE.
Don’t limit yourself to your circle of friends
My Facebook friends do not read my blog posts or click on my articles. I’d say 99 percent of my followers are complete strangers. I used to roll my eyes whenever I worked really hard on something, shared it, and no one even hit the like button.
Your friends and family aren’t going to build your audience for you. You have to do that yourself. You havet to put yourself out there (THE RIGHT WAY).
Just keep going even though going is slow and it sucks
There have been many, many days over the past two or three years when I haven’t wanted to get out of bed because I’m tired of not feeling like I’m making any progress. It happens. But the reason I’m figuring it out is because I kept getting out of bed, showing up, and working.
Even on days you don’t want to, don’t have the energy, don’t care, the best thing you can do is to drag yourself through the day anyway. You have to. That’s what separates the dreamers from the achievers. Choosing to take one small step forward when all they want to do is lie down and sulk.
Is it easier said than done? Uh, yeah. You still have to do it. You do have a choice, technically … but I hope you make the right one.
Keep writing. No one’s paying attention now. That doesn’t mean they never will.
The only guarantee that you’ll fail is if you stop trying.
Hang in there. It gets better. I promise.
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.