Every once in a while, I consider going back to writing Just For Fun.
At this point, I’m not sure I’ll ever make a full transition back to writing just for myself or just for the sake of storytelling. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t days, even now, I still feel overwhelmed enough to weigh my options.
While it may seem like every writer’s end goal is to make money — and let’s be honest, if we could all make a living doing it, would any of us really say no thanks? — not everyone wants to write full-time. And the good news is, that is one hundred percent okay.
Writing is a lot of work. Some people are right in thinking they personally wouldn’t enjoy writing as much if they HAD to do it — so for them, the choice to write on the side is the best one. There are others who pursue specific degrees and other educational opportunities with full intent to write for a paycheck. There’s nothing wrong with that, either.
But here’s the thing: If you’re ever feeling weighed down by writing — if all of a sudden the pressure to perform just becomes too much — you can take a step back. You can give yourself room to breathe. You can redefine the role writing plays in your life. You are in control.
For many, writing is a worthwhile, fulfilling, often creatively necessary activity. It can be fun, inspiring, and emotionally freeing. It can change your perspective, challenge your beliefs, connect you with others, and help you to better understand the world — and yourself.
It can also be extremely time-consuming, exhausting, frustrating, and discouraging. Especially if you are pursuing writing as a serious career option. In other words: You want to make money writing. And the challenges and pressures that come with that reality are difficult to face no matter your experience level or how intensely determined you might feel.
Writers who are trying to break into the business are almost instantly overwhelmed with conflicting advice, opinions, and warnings. Everyone you interact with is on their own journey, and it can feel discouraging to watch someone who is closer to their dreams than you are even though you just started out.
Plus, it almost goes without saying at this point that getting from “have never published anything” to “I just published something I’m super proud of YAY ME” can take a very long time. There’s nothing more discouraging than realizing over and over how non-existent instant gratification is in the publishing industry.
In most cases, the truth is, you don’t HAVE to write full time if you don’t want to. You don’t have to write for anyone else. You don’t have to be stressed.
If you just want to write on your own time, for your own reasons, without the pressures of publishing and client communications and job searching and always feeling like you have to be “on,” then guess what? You can.
You can write whenever you feel like it (or not). You can write whatever is going through your head. You can write terribly. You can write the best things you’ve ever written. You can keep what you write to yourself, or you can share it with the world. You can ask for financial support, but you don’t have to. You can just write because you like and/or need to write, even if you don’t want writing to be the ONLY thing you do.
That doesn’t mean you can’t or aren’t taking your writing seriously. It doesn’t mean you’re any “less” of a writer. It doesn’t mean your writing isn’t good or that it doesn’t count. It just means you have different goals, particularly goals that have no financial incentive. If that’s not what you’re in it for, there’s absolutely, without a doubt, nothing wrong with that.
The cool thing about writing is that you also have the freedom to do a little bit of both — writing to pay the bills with additional writing on the side just for the fun of it, or for the exposure, or whatever your reasons might be. Before I switched to an editing position at my day job, I would spend eight hours a day writing to get paid, and a few hours in the evenings writing just for myself. I needed that balance — a little bit of work and a little bit of fun. It’s not for everyone, but it’s always an option if you want to figure out how to make it work.
Writing doesn’t have to be all work or all play. It can be both. You might be happier with one or the other. You might prefer a healthy balance. It’s really up to you to decide — and even though it might take some experimenting to figure out that balance in your life, it’s worth the effort.
Here’s some advice even I need to give back to myself every now and then: The only thing that disqualifies you from being a writer is that you completely stop writing. As long as you are writing, as long as you are telling stories, as long as you are daring to create, you are part of the group. You are one of us. You belong.
You don’t have to make money to call yourself a writer. It doesn’t have to be part of your official job description. You don’t have to do it every day. And you don’t even have to be good at it.
All that matters is that you do it. All that matters is that you try. No matter how scared or embarrassed or uncertain you are. No matter how many people in your life say they won’t support you. No matter how many loved ones do say they support you but have never read a single thing you’ve released into the world.
Writing happens when you will it to happen. Sometimes it even happens when you don’t want it to happen (like when you get an idea in the middle of doing something else and suddenly NOT writing is no longer an option, according to your brain).
If any part of the writing life is making you unhappy, to the best of your ability, find a way to change something. You don’t have to necessarily stop writing. You just might need to adjust how it fits into your existence.
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.