I’ve struggled a lot over the past year trying to figure out how I got to where I am. And where I hope to go from here. And what it all means. And whether or not I’m okay with it.
There is nothing wrong with having moments (days? weeks? Years?) of questioning in your life, especially when it comes to your professional life and career. Sometimes you have to slow down and ask yourself tough questions. And this isn’t always an easy thing for many writers to do.
We all have very vivid visions of what we want our writing lives to turn out like. I’ve talked before about my writing nook with floor to ceiling windows on three of four sides. You can picture these things so clearly in your mind. Signing your own books. Having your blog posts shared by the masses. Or maybe you dream of knowing your craft so well that you can credibly teach it to others.
Some writers’ biggest fear is that their dreams will never come true. And this is absolutely a valid thing to worry over (especially at night … when you are trying to fall asleep … alone …). Your ambitions matter. They are what drive you forward. Without them, your sense of purpose fades. But even just the idea of never reaching the end of the finish line you have worked so hard to get to … how do you even begin to fathom that?
In situations like these, what many writers don’t consider is the fact that there are many paths that lead to a dream. Sometimes we have this idea in our heads of how we are going to get to a specific place, and we just get stuck there. Our wants become an endless loop of “it has to be this way” and “if I don’t do it like that, I will have failed.”
You don’t know what is going to happen in the future. You can’t predict it; you can only wonder, and make the most of the ride. But sometimes, uncertainty is the best thing that will ever happen to you. Or it will be. Someday.
Here’s some real talk: No matter how hard you dream about things turning out a certain way, especially when it comes to your career as a writer, you will almost never see things turn out exactly the way you want them to.
This isn’t a commentary on your skill or your dedication or the quality of your work.
When I first started writing, I had dreams of publishing bestselling novels. As I got older, I became aware of how “impractical” this dream was. Not that it was unattainable, or that I wasn’t good enough — just that it was not going to be an easy feat to achieve. Anyone can write a book. Not everyone can easily get one accepted by both an agent and a publisher (the traditional route has always been my preference, personally).
I realized that while I was working on improving the first draft of a book or two, after graduating from university, I had to get a job. I was an adult; I had things to pay for … some necessities, and let’s be honest, some luxuries I just really wanted to be able to afford. But I didn’t want to get an office job (though I had one for a while — it suffices for some people). I wanted a job that allowed me to practice my writing and communication skills no matter the setting (with some specifications).
So after some internships and attempts at the whole office work ordeal, I decided to dive headfirst into freelance writing and editing. I had the experience and the skills. It certainly wasn’t fiction writing. I wasn’t going to come away from any of these projects with a novel ready to send out into the world.
But in order to keep my dream alive, I had to find a way to make a living doing other things I loved.
Eventually, my freelancing led to a full-time writing job, and I’m still blessed to work for the same company that hired me almost three years ago. I’m still working on books. I still have hope. But I am also at a point in my career where I would be satisfied with my creative accomplishments even if I never fulfilled my original dream. Things haven’t turned out the way I expected them to. But that’s not a terrible thing, is it?
I am still writing. I am still fulfilling my purpose word by word, line by line, page by page. We should not let our fear of the unknown hold us back from our potential. Just because we move in different directions does not mean our dreams have to fizzle out. Sometimes things change. Sometimes certain things take time.
While we are working toward the various goals we likely want to achieve, we have to find things that keep us occupied. Things that continue to inspire us and make us happy. Just because what you wanted to happened hasn’t happened yet does not mean it never will.
My hope for you this year is that you find the light that guides your path. That you find the one thing that will keep you going, the thing that will encourage you to continue writing and hoping and dreaming even on your darkest days.
Hard, smart, consistent, passionate work always pays off one way or another. Always. I know that right now it might not seem like it ever will. I know that this is a very difficult thing to deal with. And I know that even though questioning your ambitions and asking yourself big questions may be perfectly normal and acceptable, that doesn’t make it easy. None of this is ever easy, really.
The only advice I have to give you on all this: Keep moving forward. Keep writing, one word at a time. Keep looking for opportunities, keep reaching out to people and making connections. The only way to fail as a writer and creator, is to give up. Don’t give up. Even when things stop feeling easy, keep going.
You may not always reach the outcome you always dreamed of. You may end up in a completely different place than you expected. But that’s what happens when you dare to dream and try different things and let what will happen happen.
There will be ups and downs along the way. You will struggle, you won’t succeed, and you will triumph. Celebrate your small victories. Have faith that everything is going to turn out the way it is supposed to in the end. Believe, always in the back of your mind, that you can do this. You have the skills. You have the desire. You have the drive.
Keep writing. Remember that it is, and always will be, your light.
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.