In January 2019, I stopped being a writer.
I didn’t stop writing. Quite the opposite actually; I proceeded to write 1 million words over the 365 days that made up that year and I promise you, at some point, I will tell you why and how I did that … and why I’ll probably never do it again.
When I say I stopped being a writer, I really mean I stopped writing as a day job. I pretty much stopped getting paid to write.
Moving from a staff writing to an editing position at my place of employment was partially my choice and largely a means of filling a need at the company — one I was both more than qualified and happy to fill.
But it also meant I would no longer spend eight hours a day crafting my own words; instead, I’d be polishing someone else’s. Which was fine and, for the most part, still is over 2 years later.
What I didn’t know at the time was how challenging it would become to keep writing a large, if not the primary focus of my life once it no longer paid my bills. Not only did I have to find other outlets for my words, but also my creativity. I can’t just be happy with writing; I’ve done it for so long that it doesn’t always stimulate my needs the way it used to. Which is fine.
But the more I tried to vary my means of creative expression over the year that followed, the more I struggled to keep writing at the forefront not just of my to-do list, but of my list of passions as well.
I loved to write. I still do. I always will.
My identity, however, no longer rests solely in the fact that sometimes I write things, and every now and then they might be good things.
And that has made me happier than identifying myself as “a writer” ever has.
When we start on this journey of becoming the thing(s) we always dreamed of becoming, we teach ourselves to fear versatility. Granted, there are many people who function best when they focus on one thing. And there is NOTHING wrong wth that.
We can’t let it hold us back from making the most of our creative energy, though. Sometimes you just don’t feel like writing, or you know what you want to write but can’t seem to form the right words in the right order. Or life is just stressful and you’re too spent to even turn your laptop on.
Often times the reason we feel guilty or anxious when we’re not writing comes from our unintentional deprivation of active creativity. We’re not writing, so we think we can’t do anything else. But our brains are BEGGING us to do something. We have thoughts and ideas and energy and seemingly nowhere to put it.
I’ve found the best solution to this is to do the thing, or “a thing,” rather. Creativity takes endless forms. Drawing, even if badly (can relate). Singing (again, badly?), rearranging a bookshelf, SOMETHING.
The only warning label I’ll put on that is that you may accidentally discover, as I did the summer I started an Instagram account completely out of boredom, that even if you’re not good at a lot of things … you might really like exercising your creativity in more ways than just writing.
To avoid the existential crisis that can come with this epiphany, however, I’ll offer you this: Just because you don’t write all the time, or it’s not the only thing you do in your free time or otherwise, doesn’t mean your words or work or effort matter any less than they did before.
Even if writing ends up becoming a side project instead of your main hustle, you’re still the same you. Just with different priorities and maybe a new hobby or two.
You are not defined by one thing you do or say or think or represent. You can be as many or as few things as you want, and that doesn’t have to remain a constant. It can change daily if that’s what floats your canoe. Today, perhaps, you’re an aspiring writer reading this blog post wondering what you’re doing with your life. Tomorrow, maybe, you can be a hopeful creative seeking to define where you want to put your words and what you want them to mean.
Perhaps today I’m a former daily blogger who feels guilty for almost having quit this whole thing, having believed for a day too many that my words were meaningless and the world would be better off without them.
Tomorrow I might take 500 photos of my dog and bake a cake.
Why? Because my interests are many, my heart is full, and if I don’t write for 24 hours that simply means what it always should have — that writing is an important part of my life, but it is not all that I am.
Free yourself from this notion that we have to be an easily digestible thing to the masses. You are today what you choose to be, and that will always be enough.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is an editor, writer, podcaster, and photographer. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about nonsense and Star Wars.