Anyone who has been fortunate enough to get paid to write knows that your first day on the job can be a bit of an unsolicited wake-up call. You’re very excited to Write For a Living — finally! But it becomes very clear, very quickly, that you don’t have total freedom when it comes to deciding what you get to write about. Especially when you’re brand-new to a company or industry.
This is how it is regardless of your job description. You get in and realize that you’re still very lucky to be able to do what you enjoy — but it doesn’t always manifest the way your dreams promised it would.
So you do the work you’re assigned, you hope it’s worth the hours, and you return home after the sun has gone down and pray you have the energy to drop another 1,000 words into your WIP before you fall asleep. You can’t just neglect it now. Can you?
The reality is, you don’t always get to write what you want to write. Yet you still have to figure out how to create space in your life for the projects you’re fully passionate about.
When there’s something in front of you that you’re not all that ecstatic about working on, honestly, you just have to set aside your apathy and do it anyway. You’ll be surprised at how invested you can become in a project once you really get into it. Your perceptions cloud your expectations. That’s why you just have to dive in, and see it for what it truly is, instead of what you think it will be.
And then you have to leave room in your schedule for the things you already know you’re going to write with as much enthusiasm as you can manage. That’s not an easy thing to do, because by the time you’ve met your obligations for the day, you’re too worn out to create freely on your own time — no matter how much you might want to.
There are many ways to “solve” this problem. You can do what many writers at least strive to do — spend most of their time writing on behalf of someone else, until they no longer have to.
You can refuse to write what you don’t want to write, and focus all your energy on the things you do want to work on — with the understanding that just because you’re passionate and willing to work hard doesn’t mean it’s always going to turn out the way you want.
And then you can learn to make both fit into your life. Your ‘day job,’ for example, might let you write anything you want, even though it’s not a steady or significant source of income, while you spend your evenings supplementing that with less-than-ideal freelancing work. Or flip that around — write what doesn’t excite you during the day, and leave the fun stuff for Saturday mornings.
Sometimes, it’s all a balancing act. You have to let yourself enjoy writing while also building up your portfolio, creating business relationships, and, let’s be honest, paying the bills. The fun stuff doesn’t always let you do all these things. But you can’t cut yourself off completely from your personal creative time. That’s not good for you or your future readers.
We write what we don’t want to write, sometimes, because we have to.
But it’s good practice. It’s good for our brains, for our work ethic, for our futures.
It’s not always ideal. But it’s always worth it.
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 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.