The evolution that occurs throughout a writer’s journey has always fascinated me. It’s the reason I started documenting my thoughts and experiences related to writing way back in 2009. Because it’s so hard to track improvement or progression as a writer, I wanted to be able to look back and say, “Yep, I really have grown.”
I think the biggest difference between the writer me of 10 years ago and the writer I am today is how I approach each writing project.
There are two types of writers in general: those who write primarily for the necessity and/or enjoyment of it, and those who are actively pursuing a writing career.
One isn’t “better than” the other. If you write, you’re a writer. If you don’t, you aren’t. But there are people who just write because they need to release their creative energy in a constructive way, love telling stories, or need something to do in their free time.
There are also those who don’t just dream of being a writer “for real”: They’re trying to make it happen. Like, right here, right now.
Unfortunately, many of these writers never get past the “trying to make writing happen” stage. And that’s because they’re missing one key “ingredient” of writing success.
When you actively make the decision to transition from a casual relationship with writing to a much more serious one, you almost immediately start treating the majority of your writing as work. Or, at least, you SHOULD.
This means that even if you’re not officially getting paid (yet), you have yet to sign any kind of contract and you’re still just on your own trying to get better at this whole writing thing, you’re treating it like a job. You put set “writing hours” in place, you create your own deadlines, you still write out of necessity, but now you do it with the expectation that it will — quite literally — pay off sooner rather than later.
For this switch to happen, you have to MAKE it happen. You can’t continue down the same old path of “I’ll write when I feel inspired” and “hopefully I’ll get some writing done this weekend.” Writing must become part of your routine. A future money-making staple in your life — not necessarily daily, but often enough that progress is actually being made from week to week.
Many people struggle with this reality because they’re afraid they won’t enjoy writing once it becomes their job — officially or unofficially. I always offer the same piece of advice here: Always have at least one “just for fun” project. Because there are going to be moments the work is tiring and you don’t want to do it. But keeping those creative muscles exercising, so to speak, is absolutely essential to your future writing success.
Write for others. But also write for yourself. This gives you the chance to write stress-free, experiment, and really get to know yourself as a writer.
Writing won’t always be fun. Work has fun parts and parts you’re going to dread. But when it comes down to it, writing is a business. If you want to pursue a career in this field, you’re going to have to take on not just the parts of writing you love, but also the parts you don’t love so much.
It is a balancing act. Even I still struggle with it. Sometimes I work too hard and neglect the fun. Sometimes I neglect my work and have a little too much fun. Writing, however, is a mix of work and play, frustration and enjoyment, disappointment and triumph. It’s the writers who can navigate those peaks and valleys that find success at the end of the road.
Treat your writing like it’s your job, and I can guarantee, at the very least, you’ll improve. If you work hard enough, someone will agree to pay you good money to continue doing it. And if you’re lucky, your wildest dreams might actually come 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 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.