Would It Really Be So Bad If Writing Never Became Your Day Job?

If it never happened, would you consider yourself a failure?


At the beginning of 2019, my employer offered me a different job within the same company. I quickly transitioned out of my position as a writer and into a different role — one that was a better fit for me but would no longer require me to spend eight additional hours a day writing articles.

At first, this both worried and discouraged me. Could I even still call myself a writer if it wasn’t what I did “for a living”? When people asked me what I did for work, could I even still say I was a writer? The title was so embedded in my identity that I was almost afraid I wouldn’t be the same person — the same “me” — without it.

That was a silly thing for me to worry about, of course. I do more than enough writing outside of “work work” to be able to still say I’m a writer. Writers write, and I still write almost every day. Nothing much has changed. If anything, I have more energy and motivation to work on my own projects outside of work than I ever have before.

It was just an odd sensation, having worked so hard to earn a position writing full-time only to realize I was no longer doing that anymore.

But did it really matter?

Many writers dream of making writing their full-time gig. It’s all they want. But many never achieve such a feat — and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. Do you?

Sure, you might dream of waking up whenever you please, staying in your pajamas all day, and writing thousands of words before lunch, but this just isn’t the reality for most people. That doesn’t mean you can’t still achieve your writing dreams.

If you were never officially paid full-time for your work as a writer — if you always had a day job where writing was not always your primary focus and had to do all your writing outside of work hours — would it really be the end of the world?

Success in writing is not defined by how many hours a day you spend writing or whether or not you are employed by someone who pays you to provide content for them.

And there are plenty of writers who never make enough money from their own projects to go full-time, but still arrange their schedules so that they can generate the income they need while also putting in the time and effort required to write, edit, revise, and publish things outside their jobs.

It’s really a matter of not only being grateful for the opportunity to do that, but also allowing yourself to take pride in the fact that you’re Making Writing Happen even if you still have to spend eight or more hours a day sitting at a desk doing work for someone else.

Of course, the exception here is working at a job that either doesn’t allow employees to do contract work for other organizations or it wouldn’t be wise or practical to do it. I’m fortunate enough, for example, to work for a company that only discourages contract work with direct competitors — but that’s it. As long as they’re aware of my other income streams, I’m allowed to publish what and where I please, under my own name, as long as I’m not doing it for a publication that would create a conflict of interest.

There are many organizations that only permit you to do work for them and nowhere else. That can create an interesting dilemma depending on the kind of writing you’re interested in doing. But at the same time, no one can stop you from at least writing a book on your own time. I suppose you could figure out all the logistics later — or quit your job? — if anyone ever offered to officially publish it.

Those circumstances aside, though, there are many different ways someone can “be a writer.” Many of us, when we think of professional writers, have this vision of hanging out in coffee shops all over the country, traveling constantly, writing all day every day unless we choose not to.

But what about the writers who put their kids to bed after a long day, brew a single cup of coffee, sit down in the dark at the kitchen table with a laptop and write until they can’t keep their eyes open? What about the ones who wake up three hours before starting their commute to work, write until they’re almost late, continue writing on the train, and scramble to get a few more sentences in before their shift starts?

Are they any less successful than someone who gets up, gets to write nonstop all day, and finishes by dinner time?

If you are actively working on a project, regardless of when and where that might happen throughout your day, you are a writer. It doesn’t matter if you continue to write “on the side” for years to come. Isn’t that better than never writing anything at all?

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.

Help Novelty Revisions become a more valuable resource for aspiring writers.  Join us on Patreon.

The 12 Best Pieces of Writing Advice I’ve Ever Received

Maybe some of these will stick with you, too.

1. Words can change people’s minds, if they speak directly to the people who need to hear them.

2. Striving for perfection is a waste of energy.

3. The more rejections you get, the more successful you’ll become.

4. There is only one thing that “makes a writer a writer: They write.

5. You don’t have to be good at it, you just have to do it.

6. Write what you want to write. Worry about other people’s opinions later.

7. A bad story does not make you a bad writer.

8. Real-life experience is a writer’s greatest asset.

9. No one will fall in love with your story if you don’t.

10. You can’t always trust your close friends and family to give honest critiques. Sometimes — but not always.

11. You should never pay someone to publish your work. THEY should be paying YOU.

12. You hold the power of words in your hands. Use those words to make the world better.

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.

Help Novelty Revisions become a more valuable resource for aspiring writers.  Join us on Patreon.

Not Everyone Will Like Your Story — That Doesn’t Mean It’s a Bad Story

It’s not your job to please everyone.

One summer between college semesters, I wrote a book. I had only written several full-length novels before this, so it was not a publish-worthy book by any means. But I was proud of it. And after passing it around to a few friends who were genuinely interested in reading it (and did so — bless them!), I handed the book off to my mom.

She read it (bless her!) and gave it back to me. Of course I asked her what she thought of it, and because I was old enough at that point to handle the truth, she gave me her honest opinion.

“It’s not that I didn’t like it,” she said. “It was just too dark for me. Not my kind of book. But I’m proud of you.”

Aw. Thanks Mom.

This was the first — and certainly not the last — time I learned the difference between a poorly written story and a story that simply cannot cater to every imaginable audience.

As we’re writing, it’s not uncommon to imagine how a handful of different people might react to our words. We are, after all, writing with an audience in mind, and like to think we’re weaving a story together that is going to capture as many hearts as, for example, a book about an 11-year-old British wizard who goes to a secret school to learn magic.

But the truth is, while there very well may be people who fall in love with a particular story you write, there are probably going to be an equal number of people who just can’t resonate with the characters or the message or your writing style.

My mom thought Queen Bee was too dark. That was her personal opinion and she honestly shared that with me. Someone else who found my book in their hands at some point along the way absolutely loved it, possibly because the style of writing lined up with other stories they were interested in.

When my mom reads, she does so to escape. She likes happy stories and lighthearted prose. A “dark” book is never going to fully satisfy her, even if it’s written by her own daughter. I wasn’t offended by her opinion then and I’m not now. Because it’s her opinion and has nothing to do with my ability (or lack thereof) to write a book.

Just because someone does not “like” or “connect with” your story does not mean it was not a good story. I think many of us immediately jump to that conclusion when we hear about negative reviews or comments or someone doesn’t have great things to say about our work.

Put simply, there are a lot of people out there who just aren’t going to like what you write. The problem is that many of these people don’t know how to communicate or even recognize the difference between not liking something and something of poor quality. They just lump it all together and call it a “bad book.” Because they didn’t have a good experience, people often go straight to labeling something as terrible for everyone, which is a personal pet peeve I’m not going to let myself start ranting about right now.

Therefore, we have to constantly remind ourselves not to take every reaction to something we publish too seriously. It’s possible that someone calling your writing “bad” really means they just did not enjoy it, and those are usually two very different things.

Of course, it’s also possible your writing is actually bad. But you really have to weigh the ratio of good vs. bad feedback here. If one person says it’s bad, and 299 people are saying it’s good, are you really going to go along with the one person going negative?

Your goal as a writer should never be to write something that caters to everyone’s preferences, because this is an impossible feat. Different people like to read different things. A particular menu item at a restaurant is not created for everyone to enjoy. It is there to satisfy those who enjoy the tastes, textures, and other elements it offers. There will be people that prefer not to order it. That does not make it a bad dish.

Instead, you should always write a story you know will connect with and matter to SOMEONE, because it connects with and matters to YOU. In this world, if something you write improves the life of one person, well, isn’t that more than enough?

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.

Help Novelty Revisions become a more valuable resource for aspiring writers.  Join us on Patreon.

The Unexpected ‘Rejection’ That Hurt Me Most As a Writer

Sometimes, disappointing things happen and there’s nothing you can do about it.

I once stumbled upon a freelancing opportunity I fell in love with even before I signed or initialed any dotted lines.

It stands out to me for several reasons — one being that it was the first time a professional had ever contacted ME out of the blue asking if I was interested in writing for their health website.

For another, this was work designed specifically for people like me — working professionals with degrees and the knowledge base required to do the work, and do it well.

This was a legitimate organization whose content impressed me immediately upon clicking on the first article. I knew after just several minutes of research that this was a company I wanted to work for, even as a contractor without benefits or guaranteed consistent work.

The first several months of this job were some of the most enjoyable I’d ever had as a freelancer. This was the kind of work I wanted to do full-time for the rest of my professional life. It was almost as if the higher-ups of this organization had found me, researched me, and reached out to me knowing I was as close to a perfect fit as they could ever hope to find.

Then the honeymoon phase ended. Just as I was preparing to begin my next assignment, an email I did not expect showed up in my inbox.

It went something like: “I wanted to let you know we’re temporarily shifting our focus to promoting existing content on our website and are no longer in need of new content from you. Your work has been exceptional …”

In other words, “You’re fired.” Except not really, because I was never technically “hired.” Contract work is weird. With one email, I knew I was no longer going to be receiving a paycheck from the organization.

But that was not what upset me the most. What upset me the most was how short and straightforward the notice was. Strictly professional, sure. But that was about it.

I did not know — and never found out — the real reason why they dropped me as a freelancer. Were they being honest with me and shutting the door on all their freelancing endeavors? That’s not what it looked like to me, based on the number of articles they have continued to produce since shutting me out.

Could they no longer afford my rates? I would have understood that — it’s happened to me before. But I would have much rather they told me they could no longer afford to compensate me for my efforts, if that was in fact their reason for shooing me away.

It’s very possible they simply no longer needed my services.

It’s also very possible they were not pleased with my work, wanted to “let me go” (as a contractor, you are never guaranteed notice of lost work or consistent work throughout your contract), and decided to make up an excuse (lie) instead of being honest with me.

Here’s the thing though: Not only had THEY reached out to ME for my services, but I’d had several conversations with multiple parties involved about my passion for health journalism. As in, I wanted this to be my full-time career. As in, I had accepted this gig partially to gain more professional experience in the field, and fully expected that I was skilled and knowledgeable enough to do the work.

If I wasn’t, that was kind of something I needed to know. Because if I didn’t know otherwise, I was going to continue as-is thinking I had what it took to make it in this industry.

If they were leading me to the door because I wasn’t capable of doing the work, don’t you think it would have been common courtesy for someone to tell me that?

There could have been a dozen reasons our contract didn’t work out. They could have decided they only wanted to work with RDNs and I didn’t have that credential. They could have found someone who could do the work just as well as I could for way less money (even though I aimed high with my asking rate and they accepted it without hesitation).

I suppose it doesn’t matter. Because no matter how much I enjoyed the work — it was one of the best freelancing gigs I’ve ever had and I have to restrain myself from contacting them to ask about availabilities every other month to this day — businesses don’t care about that. They don’t hire freelancers to give them something enjoyable to do. They hire them to gain affordable content. And when, for whatever reason, a freelancer can no longer provide them the service they need at the price they can afford, they simply toss them out.

It’s not cruel or unprofessional. I wasn’t angry at them for doing this, because it had happened to me plenty of times before with clients I didn’t adore nearly as much as this one.

But I was definitely disappointed. And confused. And maybe a little hurt. I kindly thanked them and moved on. I never stopped wondering why it happened, though. That’s anxiety for you — the nagging feeling that you did something wrong and no one told you what and there’s a chance you will do it again. I live with it and I continue moving forward despite it.

In writing, disappointment descends upon you unexpectedly and you have to figure out how to deal with it somehow. You can’t just sit around wishing the unfavorable things had not happened. You have to lift your head up, put your hands back on that keyboard, and keep writing.

Rejection comes in many forms, and no matter how much you prepare for it, it still stings when it happens. But for the most part, once it does happen, it’s out of your control. All you can do is keep moving forward. You’re allowed to be hurt and question what may have gone better and what you can do better next time. But always keep going no matter what. No matter how hard it may 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.

Help Novelty Revisions become a more valuable resource for aspiring writers.  Join us on Patreon.

The Completely Preventable Mistake I Saw Writers Make Most Often When Submitting Their Work

Please don’t be THAT person …

When I was the managing editor of a now-deceased online magazine back in the mid-2010s, part of my job was to handle “submission requests” from students and freelancers looking to have their names and articles in digital print.

When I took over from our publication’s previous managing editor, I spent the first few weeks of my new position writing up new and improved submission guidelines for our correspondent program. These guidelines were carefully constructed to offer the clearest, easiest, and most straightforward directions for everyone sending things to my inbox to adhere to.

Guess what most of these writers did not do?

All I wanted — all I really needed, because of the very limited time I had to review these submissions — was for each prospective author to follow very specific and simple instructions to, let’s be honest, make my life easier. I kind of also wanted to give them an opportunity to practice what real-world publishing was like, because this was a magazine written by and for college students who weren’t professionals yet. So I had two motives in this practice — one personal, and one strictly professional.

My inbox was constantly flooded with resumes and CVs that I did not ask for, emails without subject lines, emails asking if my “blog” (nope) was accepting articles without attaching any work to be reviewed … I could go on. Basically, the inbox was a mess, I was almost always frustrated, and it got to a point where so many writers failed to follow directions that I had to start considering their work anyway because we weren’t publishing enough of their content. Because I kept rejecting people on the basis of NOT FOLLOWING DIRECTIONS, and nothing ever got better.

This still frustrates me even years after that gig ended. Setting aside the fact that these were students often in their late teens or early twenties, it amazed me how few of them neglected to read more than a few sentences of our how-to submission guidelines.

The ones who did do everything as requested were wonderful to work with, and I’m sure they’re doing quite well now based on that fact alone. But so, so many of these aspiring writers just … didn’t seem to care.

Following directions seems to be something writers either do completely or not at all, especially when submitting to a publication. I do think there are many people who truly believe they are “beyond the rules” and do pretty much whatever they please in general, and this practice carries over to writing in many obnoxious and often unprofessional ways. An unfortunate reality, but a reality all the same.

But there are also people who just feel the need to rush through everything they do, as if doing so will somehow save them time somehow later on (it won’t).

I won’t say I’ve never accidentally skimmed over an important piece of information throughout my adult life, but I also take my writing very seriously. And when I’m submitting based on a set of guidelines, I copy and paste those guidelines into a document and don’t submit anything until I have made sure I can check off every single box.

So is the problem that many writers don’t take their work seriously enough? Probably not. I think many of them are in this “more is more” mentality and are trying to submit as much work to as many places as they can in a very short amount of time. I personally don’t think that’s a good strategy to follow in any capacity, but they learn it from somewhere and continue to repeat it until someone or something prompts them to stop.

It’s sad to me, because I’m sure I passed over a lot of great writers who just couldn’t be bothered to act professionally enough to earn my respect or interest. As an editor, I don’t have time for nonsense — if I’m going to be reviewing your work as carefully and constructively as I need to, I also need to feel like it’s worth my time. If I’m in charge of deciding whether or not your work even gets to the review stage, you really need to make sure you’ve done all you possibly could to show me you’ve earned that right.

Maybe I’m too strict or uptight about these things. Maybe not. But if you’re going to do anything as a writer, make sure it’s everything in your power necessary to impress a potential editor. We see the same mistakes over and over again, and not following simple instructions laid out very clearly for you is not one that makes you stand out or makes us want to publish you.

Do as you’re told. If you’re looking for feedback, let that feedback be about your work, not about the fact that you haven’t proven you’re able to read. Act like the professional you want to be, and chances are, you will be treated like one, regardless of the outcome.

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.

Help Novelty Revisions become a more valuable resource for aspiring writers.  Join us on Patreon.

The ‘Focusing Problem’ Most Writers Don’t Realize They Have (and How to Solve It)

After all the struggling, THIS might finally be the solution you need.

Do you have a hard time focusing? Do you sit down to write and five seconds later find yourself scrolling through Twitter (how did that happen??). Do you constantly start and abandon writing projects because none of them can ever seem to hold your interest?

It turns out that’s only one kind of “focusing problem.” Some writers have to work harder than others to learn to deep focus on creative tasks, practicing the art of shutting out avoidable distractions and applying techniques to calm their wandering minds.

That’s not the kind of issue I want to direct your ever-wandering attention to today.

No. Today, I want to talk about what happens when a writer sets a long-term goal, but doesn’t know how to get from “I want to do a thing” to “I successfully completed a thing and I am proud!”

You see, some people are so dependent on instant gratification — expecting to get what they want “right now” — that they have no clue how to “tolerate” the boring parts of the writing journey. You know, that part of the road trip where you’re in the Midwestern United States and everything is just corn.

A writer, for example, might really, REALLY want to get a book published. And they’re fully aware that in order to do that, they actually have to sit down and write one. They have a pretty decent idea. They might even have a rough outline of how they see things going. The next logical step is to sit down and start writing the book.

But something keeps distracting them — and each day it seems to be something different. They’re on their laptop looking at lists of agents to query. They’re looking up how much first-time novelists generally make in royalties. They’re designing their book cover, looking for a good place to get a professional author photo taken …

Yeah. Everything except for … writing the book.

It’s extremely tempting to want to always look ahead to the end result you want. And in most cases, it’s not “bad” or “wrong” to keep your ultimate goal in mind. But don’t make the mistake of focusing on that finish line so intensely that you can’t focus on what you need to do right here and right now in order to get there.

Something I’ve recently found helpful is breaking my bigger writing goals down into multiple layers — years, months, weeks, and sometimes even days. I know that if I want to write a roughly 80,000-word novel by the end of 2019, I have to chip away at it a thousand or sometimes just 500 words at a time. I can’t afford to spend all my writing time daydreaming about what it will be like if/when I’m a published author.

There is a big difference between a dream and a goal. Dreaming is something you do when you aren’t working. And when you’re working, you’re doing so with a very specific goal in mind — whether that be to write a blog post, finish a manuscript, or write just one paragraph … maybe another one after that.

Should you go big with your dreams and set larger-than-life — yet still realistic — goals? Absolutely. But you don’t wake up on the morning of a marathon and decide you’re going to run it, the same way you don’t decide you want to write a book and conquer the task with a snap of your fingers. Every writer must take their journey one word at a time. There are no exceptions, no shortcuts, and no time limits.

And if you need to break it all the way down to one word after the other to keep yourself going, then do that. Both the creative process and a writer’s productivity are all about applying the strategies that work for you, no matter how tedious or laughable that might seem. I’m currently keeping track of basically every word I write in 2019, and the spreadsheet I use is “extra” even for me. But it works. And so I use it, and it continues to work.

Do whatever you have to do to keep your focus on right now while giving yourself chances to look up and see your finish line on the horizon. I have a reminder set on my phone that pops up every day at around 6pm when I’m typically losing momentum and often call it quits. “Are you done with your book yet?” It asks. And many times, I sit back down and crank out the 1,000 words I need to get one step closer to being able to say, “Yes.”

You won’t get to where you want to be if you don’t work. Take this one step, one word, one day at a time. If you consistently put in the effort, good things will happen to you one way or another. Trust that. Believe it. Now get back to what you should be doing instead of reading this nonsense. :)

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.

Help Novelty Revisions become a more valuable resource for aspiring writers.  Join us on Patreon.

Should You Tell Your Friend They’re Bad at Writing?

Do you crush their dreams, or let them hope?

So you have this friend. You value them enough to respect them and avoid hurting their feelings as much as possible.

You and this friend continuously bond over the fact that you’re both writers. It’s not the primary reason you get along, but it’s nice to have someone to “talk about writing” with, and a solid reminder that you aren’t the only one struggling to put ideas into words and make those words accessible to the masses.

You’ve gotten to the point in your “writing relationship” where you both are willing to swap prose knowing you’re good enough friends that each will receive honest feedback without resentment — a great place to be, as far as writing relationships go.

There’s just one problem.

When your friend emails you a piece of their manuscript-in-progress, you sit down, open it up, get a few sentences in and realize …

It’s bad.

Like … really bad.

Like can-barely-get-through-the-first-paragraph-because-it’s-so-hard-to-read bad.

This is not at all what you expected from them. IRL, they’re pretty good at talking, telling stories, and explaining ideas and opinions clearly. They’re an excellent conversationalist and always enjoyable to talk to. And overall, they have good ideas and story foundations you’re genuinely interested in diving into.

But on paper, it just doesn’t translate. You spend a lot of time on the internet — you’ve read a lot of not-so-great writing. This is worse than that. It’s barely even English.

The issue runs much deeper than this, however. Not only is your friend a writer like you, but they’re also almost obsessively determined to become “the next J.K. Rowling.” They can’t stop talking about publishing their first book and writing their way to fortune and fame.

So they’re not just casually curious about what you think. They’re almost begging you to validate their effort so they can continue pursuing their dream.

When they ask you for the fourteenth time if you’ve read their manuscript yet — and you really haven’t, because it’s barely possible — what do you say?

This is a dilemma a friend brought up to me recently. And I can honestly say it’s the first time in a long time I’ve hesitated when giving writing-related advice.

Because here’s the problem: While you might think you’d be saving your friend a lot of heartache by just breaking the bad news to them now, would you really be doing them a favor?

Sure, you could tell them “great job” and keep encouraging them to go for it, and they might face years of rejection and disappointment because of that. But is that a better or worse outcome than hearing someone they value and trust say they aren’t going to make it?

Is it better to be honest and tell them they’re … not good at it? Or should you continue encouraging them, even though it might hurt them in the long-term?

As humans often do, I turned this question back on myself and tried to imagine myself as the bad writer friend dreaming big. Would I want someone to tell me my writing kind of sucked? Or would I have a better experience continuing to write to my heart’s content and chase my dreams even if it wasn’t likely they’d come true?

I’m not sure I would want to know if my writing was terrible. At least, I’m not sure I’d want to hear it from someone close to me. If I were passionate enough about writing to work hard in an attempt to make it, having my dreams crushed before my eyes … I don’t know how I would handle that.

But that’s just me personally. Maybe there are some people out there who would rather know ahead of time so they didn’t have to bother failing over and over again.

Eventually, weighing so many possibilities in my hands, I came to one conclusion: I don’t think it should be your responsibility, as a friend, to dampen their dream. I think it’s a friend’s job to encourage, lift up, and support the other person in everything they do. Friends don’t tear each other down or build walls around each others’ ambitions.

I think that kind of responsibility falls onto a professional with no personal ties to an aspiring writer who doesn’t have the skills (yet) to make it in the industry. I also think there’s great value in letting someone pursue a goal they’ve established themselves — especially if it makes them happy. If it brings them joy, does it really matter if they’re good at it?

What happens if they come to you one day in tears and ask, “Why didn’t you tell me I suck at writing?” Would they be a little hurt if you told them you wanted to encourage and support them instead of knocking them down? Maybe. But you never lied. Not with the intention of hurting them, anyway. You were doing the right thing, being a good, supportive friend. I see no harm in that.

Could you subtly offer them opportunities to continue taking charge of their writing dreams while also, maybe, improving their skills as a writer? Possibly. I’m all for suggesting a course or book or mentorship opportunity to someone who could benefit it whether they’re on their way to writing success or have a long, long way to go. It’s possible to offer help without being condescending about it.

Basically, you don’t have to tell someone they’re a bad writer. You probably shouldn’t. Approach the situation with well-meaning kindness, and if they really seem like they’re desperate, suggest ways for them to self-improve as writers casually and let them decide if they want to take advantage of them or not.

Always leave someone’s future in their own hands, even when trying to support them. You don’t want to be the one to talk someone out of what they want to do. Sometimes, it’s best to leave people to their dreams and let them find their way to wherever they’re going to end up on their own. Just make sure you’re there for them at the end of the road, no matter what.

How about you? How would you handle a tough situation like this?

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.

Help Novelty Revisions become a more valuable resource for aspiring writers.  Join us on Patreon.

What If You Have Nothing New or Unique to Say?

It’s not about what you say, but HOW you say it.

It took me a long time to become fully comfortable with this blog.

Sure, I knew how to write and I knew what I wanted to say. I knew my audience and how to create content my readers could easily relate to. But I often found myself worrying about all the other “writing blogs” out there. All the other writers who were in this space also writing about writing.

What made my blog different than all the rest? What made mine special?

Even though it’s not uncommon for writers — especially beginning writers — to wonder and worry about these things, it’s questions like these that stop many people before they even start creating. Some writers spend so much time trying to stand out that they never put anything they write out there because it’s not “unique enough.”

Here’s the thing: In writing, there is only one true way to stand out from everyone else pursuing the same goals and dreams you are. And it’s not necessarily by having the most “unheard of” ideas or beliefs.

In reality, there are technically no truly “original” ideas. Every idea you’ve had, someone else has already had in one form or another.

This does NOT mean all your work has to or will be unoriginal or uninteresting, however.

Because here’s the thing: two writers may very well have almost an identical idea. A point they both want to get across. A message they want to send through their work. But each writer will take a very different approach to executing their idea or getting their message across.

Every writer tells a story from their own perspectve. That perspective is shaped by factors completely unique to each individual: Personal experiences. Particular realms of knowledge. Books they’ve read, movies they’ve watched, memories they have. Things they believe in. Things they don’t.

Each of us has something different to bring into everything we compose. I may have a blog about writing very similar in concept to others’ blogs about writing. But my thoughts and opinions are not presented in the exact same way as theirs. With every post, I bring in my own past experiences. My own current struggles and teachable moments and triumphs. I may aim to say the same thing, but I will never say it in the exact same way as someone else.

THAT is what makes a writer unique. Not that they have the most “out there” ideas or beliefs or opinions, but that they make each piece of writing their own. That they allow themselves to shine through every single word. That with everything they write, they add in very small pieces of themselves. Like a trademark. Something that is only theirs that can’t be replicated.

I’ve stopped worrying about whether or not what I put out there has the “wow factor” so many people crave. The point of online publishing isn’t to go viral as many times as you can or try to say something “no one” has ever heard of before. The point is to say what’s on your mind to say and present it as clearly and skillfully as possible.

Never try so hard it’s obvious you’re trying hard. Never write something for the sake of the attention you hope it attracts. That’s not what writing is about. And if that’s what you’re after in your writing life, you might want to take a step back and rethink your ambitions.

Say what you feel inspired to say. Take the time to craft your words into something memorable. Don’t rush it — write it well. Those who follow you and/or know you will appreciate it. Because it’s coming from you personally — and THAT is what makes it worth reading.

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.

Help Novelty Revisions become a more valuable resource for aspiring writers.  Join us on Patreon.

12 Terrible Pieces of Writing ‘Advice’ You Need to Erase From Your Memory

Bad advice alert!

1. Don’t worry — it gets easier. (It really doesn’t — well, some parts do, but not all of them.)

2. Publishing a book isn’t a big deal anymore because anyone can do it — aim higher. — Eh …

3. If you don’t have a huge social media following, you’ll never “make it.”

4. Write what you know. — I mean, I get where they’re coming from with this one but … don’t put yourself in a box.

5. Only write when you “feel” motivated to write.

6. Write what’s popular. Eh.

7. If a story is too “overdone” it’s not worth writing. — If you’re creative enough you can pull it off.

8. Do what you love and you’ll never work again! (Writing is ALWAYS work. Stop it.)

9. If you’re “smart,” writing can get you rich fast and easy. I’m sorry, what?

10. As long as you’re good at writing, you’ll be fine. — Also, you need to be able to work well with others … etc.

11. You’re not a real writer until you’ve … — just stop there. Stop.

12. If you don’t like what you’re writing, quit. — I mean, I don’t like my day job sometimes, but …

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.

Help Novelty Revisions become a more valuable resource for aspiring writers.  Join us on Patreon.

Go Big or Go Nowhere

Go big. But not all at once.

Have you ever had a really big idea? An idea so big that the more you thought about making it happen, the more excited — and terrified — you became?

Ideas are abstract in the sense that we can’t measure them by weight or mass or density. You can’t put an idea on a scale and judge its worth or put a price tag on it based on the numbers it spits out.

But ideas are emotionally charged. Often times, you can tell whether or not something is worth chancing just by the way it makes you feel.

Of course, sometimes we act based on how we feel and it completely backfires, in the most extreme of cases. Sometimes we just try something out to see what might happen and eventually we lose interest and the thing we were once so excited to start gradually fades into oblivion, never to be resurrected.

Unfortunately, it’s this possibility that we might give an idea a chance only to be betrayed by its emotional facade that stops many people from pursuing the projects and businesses and dreams that once brought them warm sensations of hope.

People are afraid to fail. Most of us now are rasied to believe failing is some kind of warped, unforgivable sin. We have it drilled into our heads that if we try something and don’t succeed, either something is wrong with “the system” or something is wrong with US.

Here’s some truth you might need to hear: The only way to fail is to avoid trying.

Trying and not succeeding is, by definition, failing. But I don’t agree with the way that comes off to people who have been conditioned to back away from anything that implies they were wrong to attempt something. I prefer much less harsh phrasing. “Didn’t reach a goal.” “Fell short of expectations.” “Didn’t quite make it.”

I’m not sugar-coating the fact that mistakes happen and we have to take responsibility for our own. If you started writing a book and didn’t finish it, that’s on you, and it’s up to you to decide if you’re going to make a second attempt and learn from the first one.

What happens, though, if you have a really big idea you can’t stop thinking about? Like, you want to move to Hollywood and start on a path to becoming a screenwriter? Or you want to turn your years’ worth of blog posts into a course or book? Or you want to, for whatever reason, attempt to write a million words in 365 days even though you know it might actually kill you?

Do you go for the big idea, knowing you might fail? Do you weigh the pros and cons for months before coming to a decision, or do you just jump into it? Do you approach it rationally, or let your creative instincts take over?

I would love to say that every time, your best bet is to take your idea and run with it, no matter the cost. But I think it would be irresponsible to imply that everyone reading this is privileged enough to even be able to consider making that choice.

The reality is, you can’t necessarily just quit your job today, or move your entire young family across the country, or spend every penny you’ve ever earned without guarantee of financial security. It’s one thing to dream. It’s another to be recklessly impulsive in pursuit of something you’re not sure you could live without.

But I’m not saying you can’t, or shouldn’t, make your big idea happen. You absolutely should.

You just have to take baby steps to get there. Such as taking screenwriting courses while you save up the funds for a sustainable move, or starting a rough outline, or writing 3,000 words this weekend.

Just because an idea is big doesn’t mean you have to make big strides all at once to put it into motion. Some of the world’s biggest ideas spent years in the development stage before becoming real. You just don’t see or hear about those years, because they’re the montage scenes in all the Hollywood biopics and nothing more.

Go big. Shoot for the stars, as they say. But don’t build a rocket ship and fly there yourself tomorrow. Buy a telescope and chart your course. I hate this metaphor but I’m fully committed to it now so bear with me.

Taking chances, trying things out — that’s better than nothing. You could spend your whole life dreaming of being in space. Reading books about going to space. Watching movies about space.

Or you could take very small steps closer to getting there every single day. Go big, or go nowhere. But take things slow. Take your time. Learn how to do it right. Build up the confidence you need to make it happen, and the resilience required to get back up every time you crash.

But never, under any circumstance, stop believing you can do it. THAT is what will lead to failure. Try. That’s all anyone is asking of you. Try.

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.

Help Novelty Revisions become a more valuable resource for aspiring writers.  Join us on Patreon.