When I was younger, I used to worry about what my writing life might look like two, five, 10 years from now.
I remember spending an entire lecture during my first semester of college writing out my entire five-year plan. I “knew” exactly by what point I was going to graduate, when I was going to publish a book, when I was finally going to “be a real writer.” A “professional.”
I remember bits and pieces of that plan. And I can almost guarantee you that not a single one of the points on that plan played out the way I thought they would.
I did not graduate in three years; it took me five.
I did not publish a book at the age of 22; I still, technically, haven’t. (Unless you count self-publishing, which I did not at the time.)
I didn’t go on to get a master’s degree in creative writing; I currently don’t plan on it anytime soon, still.
We make plans because we’re scared things won’t happen.
When, in reality, things will always happen. Just not the way you think they will.
Here’s my advice for making and meeting reasonable writing goals that will let you relax a little:
Stop freaking out about your future.
No. Seriously. Stop it.
As much as we wish we could see into the future and know for sure if all this hard work will pay off someday, we can’t. There’s no way to know. Even writers who are good at what they do, who work as hard as they can and try their best, don’t always end up where they once thought they would.
Isn’t that the fun of it, though? Not knowing where you’re going? Not knowing if this blog post or that submission or a random email to someone you’ve never met would set you on a course for a professional life beyond what you ever could have imagined?
I know, I know. Sometimes, it just feels like too much. You’re trying to figure out if all this is worth it. You don’t like uncertainty. You can’t seem to handle the stress.
You are not alone.
All of us wish we could know for certain if we’re really meant to be writers or not.
But that’s where faith comes in. Regardless of how you personally view the word, whether it’s inspirational or spiritual or something different entirely.
You just have to believe that in one way or another, what you’re doing now will matter somehow, some way, at some point in time. You may not know when or how or why. But that’s life. Doing things not because you’re certain, but because you’re brave enough to hope. To believe in the possibility.
Maybe you can’t turn off your worry, your doubts, or your fears.
But you can choose to believe, in your own mind, that things are going to work out in your favor — even if things don’t exactly play out the way you hope they will.
Maybe someday, I’ll publish a book the traditional way, earn another degree. Maybe not.
But that doesn’t mean I can’t continue to grow my blog, excel at my job, or do the kind of writing I like on the side.
The future is uncertain. But what you do today doesn’t have to 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 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.