If you closed your eyes right now, could you picture your dream job as a writer?
You probably can. Even if you’re not quite sure how to get there from where you are right now.
The steps you need to take to get to your end goal differ depending on your individual circumstances and other related factors. But the things that will keep a writer from achieving what they want to achieve are about the same for everyone.
And you might not even know what they are.
Here are three things you might be doing — without even knowing it — to ruin your chances of ever becoming the writer you’ve always wanted to be.
Focusing on the wrong projects
Too many writers operate with the false belief that as long as they’re doing as much work as possible, they’ll automatically have an increased chance of landing their dream job. While it’s true that you do have to do more work in the beginning to get more experience, there does come a point when you have to nail down a niche, or you’ll never have the “prerequisites” necessary to work full-time in that niche.
Everything you’re writing should somehow relate to whatever your “dream job” entails — except, maybe, a “fun” writing outlet that balances out your work-life endeavors. Don’t stray from the path because you’re convinced your resume needs more bullet points. You should always tailor your resume to every specific job. If it’s not relevant, it doesn’t even need to be there anyway.
Trying to do too much
It has taken me years to unsubscribe to the idea that you have to “do it all” to succeed as a writer. I’m still working my way through that issue, and it’s been over a decade. You are not “more qualified” or “a better writer” because you have six jobs, two volunteer gigs, and a side hustle. The more opportunities you commit to, the lower your quality of work will be. And that’s not impressive. To anyone.
In line with the point above, don’t stretch yourself too thin. If you’re serious about your goal, you need to put all the energy and effort you can into reaching that. Don’t make yourself so busy that, by the end of the day, you’re too worn out to work on the things that are really, really important to you.
Not turning your work in on time (and constantly making excuses)
You’d be surprised how many working writers can’t seem to figure out how to meet deadlines. As an editor for one of my long-term clients, there was a point in which we cycled through at least three writers in less than a month because they, for whatever reason, kept not doing their jobs. I wouldn’t have recommended them for another job if they’d asked.
I don’t understand the argument that every little thing like this “doesn’t matter” because “you’ll do all your work on time when you have a job you actually care about.” No, you won’t. If you’re not willing to do even the absolute minimum now, you’ll never be able to go the extra mile to get — and keep — the job you actually want. Work for the job you want. Treat every project, client, or employer as if they’re the most important assignments you’ve ever had. Prove you’re trustworthy, because at some point, you’re going to need recommendations.
People are watching you — and I don’t mean that in a creepy way. Everything you do and say online matters. Some of your readers could be future employers. They’re not just interested in the messages you’re conveying: They want to know what you’re capable of on a larger scale. So be smart, and strategic. Don’t lose an opportunity before it’s even on the table.
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.