What Does ‘Writer Burnout’ Actually Look Like?

Burnout might not look the way you’ve been told it’s supposed to look.


Burnout has been an increasingly popular subject among creative people on the internet over the past year. More and more people, I think, are realizing that there is nothing more hurtful about burnout than failing to acknowledge that it exists.

So here’s the truth: Burnout — especially among writers — exists. And it may not appear the way you might expect it to.

I used to think that burnout meant you worked yourself so hard you’d get to a point where you physically could not do work anymore. I suppose for some people this may be the case. But as a general health advocate, I’ve done my fair share of scouring the credible internet to figure out what it really means to burn out.

For most people, it’s a lot more terrifying — and dangerous — than you might think.

I don’t know how often it happens to writers. But I have to assume it happens often to a lot of people, more often than most realize, because most writers don’t know that they’re even experiencing it.

Burnout is not a condition with obvious symptoms. You don’t sit back in your chair as you’re struggling to get something written and think, “I’m tired and I’m really not enjoying what I’m doing and it’s affecting my work. I must be experiencing burnout.”

It’s much more subtle — dare I say sneaky — than that.

I have most often heard creative burnout described as a gradual decline into misery. As many fail to realize, burnout is not the inability to do work. Experiencing burnout, you generally continue to do work despite no longer feeling fulfilled while you’re doing it or after it is finished.

It’s very easy, and common, to mistake burnout for boredom.

And this means that far too many writers of all levels of passion and experience are abandoning projects left and right because they think they’re tired of them, when it’s very possible they don’t have to give them up completely — they’ve just burned out on them and need to take a break.

If they took a break, gave themselves room to breathe, and then tried returning to the project they were so sick of working on before, they might realize they still love that book or that blog or that idea. They just needed time away from it, and can now continue, until they realize they need another break.

I think there’s major stigma surrounding the idea of “going back to something you thought you were done with.” There’s this belief that if you keep going back to old projects, you’re incapable of growing and moving forward in your writing career. And to a point, this is true. It’s good advice. But only in the right context.

Because yes, there are situations in which you truly are done with something and have grown beyond it and need to move on. You can’t keep working on the same draft of the same book your entire career, for example, or you’ll never get around to writing anything else, and that’s not good for anyone. Sometimes you do have to let go.

But that does not mean that every time you start getting bored you should toss what you’re working on completely out of your project pile and forget it ever existed. Sometimes a simple break can give you a new perspective. Especially if you’ve burned yourself out and aren’t sure you can or want to do … well. Anything.

It’s OK to go back to things you once loved. You might remember why you walked away and you can walk away again without feeling like you have to ever go back. But you might go back to something with a completely different perspective, and it might just end up being the best decision you could have made.

Burnout is both curable and preventable. It will probably happen to you. It doesn’t have to.

Obviously if you feel you’re constantly experiencing symptoms of burnout without relief, there might be something much more serious going on. No longer enjoying things that once enriched your life is a classic symptom of depression, for example.

Burnout is not in itself a mental health issue, but can have similar symptoms, and could actually end up masking very real problems that a break from writing will absolutely NOT fix.

But even if you feel you experience burnout often, and aren’t experiencing other symptoms that could mean something more is happening to you, it is 100 percent acceptable to seek help. “First world problems” (I feel the need to do too much in a day, I am not enjoying my very well-paying job) are still problems. They are your problems, and you have every right to talk to someone and seek professional advice about them.

Whether merely a symptom of a larger issue or an issue on its own, burnout is miserable, and too many writers find themselves suffering in silence — many of them unknowingly.

So let’s keep talking about this. Let’s say we’re feeling burned out when we’re feeling burned out. Let’s admit we may have made mistakes that led to feeling this way, but that we’re going to try our best to learn from them and do more to prevent it next time.

Let’s make it okay to burn out. But let’s also acknowledge that it doesn’t have to be this way.

We do not, and should not, have to exhaust ourselves in order to increase our own chances of success in this unpredictable, competitive, oversaturated industry. We shouldn’t have to feel like working 16-hour days seven days a week is the only way to make it as writers.

We should never have to say, “I’m willing to be miserable now so that I can be happy later.” Because there’s a good chance you will continue being miserable even when your “hard work” does pay off.

Is hard work necessary to succeed in writing? Yes. Absolutely yes.

But burnout happens most often when we work hard constantly, and don’t supplement our hard work with what I’ll call “hard play.”

Want to “be a writer”? Work hard. Write often. But also sleep in when you can, and watch some good TV shows, and read books for fun, and spend time with your friends and family and just you by yourself sometimes if you want.

The best defense against writer burnout is not to stop writing, but instead to always make sure you are doing what you need to do to continue being happy while doing it.

So that is the question I will leave you with. Are you working hard? And if you are, are you happy with the work that you are doing? Is there anything you would change? And if you aren’t happy with the way your writing life is going, what are you going to do about it?

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.

Confession: Sometimes I Still Think My Writing Is Trash

Doubt is normal. But don’t let it derail you.

Yesterday I was working on an article for one of the websites I contribute to. This was an opinion-based piece that allowed me to take something a celebrity had recently said and expand upon his argument, in this case supporting the message he was trying to get across with the one-sentence quote being passed around various media outlets.

I was excited to write this piece and ended up doing so fairly quickly — well, the first draft of it, anyway. But as I read over what I’d written, I started to get nervous.

I’d published hundreds of articles before this one. And I was nervous.

Here’s the truth: It’s completely normal to feel this way. It means you care.

This was a post I knew thousands of people were going to see. Not for the first time, I wrote a first draft and then sat with it for far too long. Tweaking. Deleting. Rewriting. I read it over several times in my head. I read it many more times out loud. I worried. I stalled.

It finally got to the point where I either had to submit it or forget the whole thing — and the latter wasn’t actually an option, it turned out.

So I sent it off. Waited impatiently as it went through the publishing process and entered the world, no longer under my control. No longer mine.

The story took off. No one criticized my writing. No one told me I was stupid or delusional or wrong. People were angry about the subject matter, but that’s beside the point. There happened to be at least several readers who pulled quotes from the article that resonated with them and commented their own arguments in support of mine.

In other words, everything turned out fine, I’d overreacted (as usual), and I did not have my name forever attached to a poorly written dumpster fire that would live on the internet for all time.

However, I did end up taking the time — more time than I needed to, but still — to carefully review my work and make sure it was exactly what I wanted to send out. I didn’t rush. I didn’t take a chance on something I figured wouldn’t land. My doubt made me work just a little harder, and it paid off.

It doesn’t always work out this way, however. Plenty of writers end up spending so much time and energy obsessing over making their work “perfect” that they end up not bothering to give the world a chance to even see it before they lock it away forever.

All because it’s not “good enough.”

Even though it very well may have been.

They simply rely on their own harsh judgments of their own work — we all do it, we’re our own worst critics, it’s why we need other people to read our stuff — and don’t even think to take into consideration that they may think it’s “bad” but others may think it’s amazing.

This is imposter syndrome at its most intense — a psychological phenomenon in which a person still thinks they’re not good at something despite massive piles of evidence that they are.

My favorite example of this is the ever-fabulous Viola Davis admitting she doesn’t feel she deserves an Oscar during her acceptance speech at the Academy Awards while holding her Oscar.

It can — and does — happen to anyone, regardless of age, experience, or level of success.

Sometimes, we all worry we’re doing a bad job.

That doesn’t mean we should stop doing our jobs.

Even when you don’t feel like the work you’re doing is excellent — and heck, even if it really isn’t — you can’t let the fear and doubt and disbelief stop you from doing it anyway. You shouldn’t let that voice in your head saying “it’s bad” hold you back. Because there’s a very good chance it’s lying to you.

Now, this doesn’t mean you should quickly publish the first draft of everything you write and release it into the world whether it’s good or not “just to get it out there.”

There’s a big difference between something that isn’t ready to be published yet and something that you’ve worked tirelessly on and are just scared to let go of. There comes a point where there is nothing more you can possibly do to improve something you have written, and you just have to take a deep breath and hit the right button.

No matter how many things you write and publish, you are always going to have moments in which you don’t think you’re good enough. Even in the face of success, you’re going to doubt you deserve to have gotten as far as you have. But you also have to learn not to listen to those lies, because they just aren’t true.

If you work hard, you deserve to be rewarded for that. The publishing world in its many forms is hectic and complicated and things aren’t always going to turn out the way you’ve always imagined they would. That does not mean good things will not happen for you.

And when these good things do come along … celebrate the heck out of them.

There’s half a bottle of wine waiting for me upstairs as I’m writing this. Not because I need to unwind, but because I wrote something I wasn’t sure I was confident enough to release, and I did it anyway, and good things happened.

I am celebrating.

What small, big, or medium-sized accomplishments are you celebrating today?

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.

‘Real’ Writers Don’t Take Shortcuts.

If you don’t want to do the work, what are you really after?

It’s the ultimate dream of many writers — being able to hold something in their hands that they poured every ounce of their energy and self into.

A published book. An article in a well-known magazine. A real, tangible, readable symbol of their hard work and dedication that says, “I did a thing. I wrote something good enough to get published and no one can take that away from me.”

So why is it that so many writers dream of this moment but don’t make the time to sit down and actually write a book or a magazine article? Why is it that so many people seek out the best writing and publishing advice they can find, yet still find themselves flailing when they don’t take any of that advice still expecting to succeed?

Here are a few truths most aspiring writers probably need to hear:

  • You will almost never get a request for a full manuscript on the first try
  • People who ask you to pay them to publish your work don’t care about you
  • You are not entitled to a publishing opportunity, money, or fame simply because you experienced something
  • A first draft is not worthy of publication
  • If someone writes it for you, it’s not yours to sell (WITH OBVIOUS EXCEPTIONS)
  • Hard work WILL get you where you want to go, it will just take longer than taking the easy way in.

I don’t understand people who try to take shortcuts and knock other people down to get ahead. I don’t understand how they can live with their success knowing they did not earn it.

Maybe that’s my upbringing, maybe it’s just me, I don’t know, being a decent human being. But I don’t want anyone offering me something unless I’ve earned it. I do not get why a person would want their name on a book or article so badly that they would hand over their money, steal someone else’s work, sweet-talk their way into circles they have no right standing in, all so they can say “Hey look, I wrote a thing! LOOK AT ME.”

To me, the greatest reward in writing is sitting back, looking at something you’ve put together with your own brain and two hands, and being proud of the hard work you put into this thing you made that started out as nothing.

Are there people that get no sense of thrill in transforming a blank page into something completely original simply by thinking really hard and pouring those thoughts into coherent sentences on paper? If they don’t, then why do they even want to call themselves writers? If writing does not bring you joy, why do you want to walk around and say you wrote something??

As much as we all say we would jump at any chance someone gave us to get published without hesitation, I’d sincerely hope most of us would think hard about what we were doing before saying yes to anything.

I have always had a vision in my head of what it would be like for me — one I replay often in those moments I don’t “feel like” writing. I submit a part of my book to an agent (okay, more like many agents) whom I have heavily vetted and trust to look at this snapshot of my baby, and I am nervous but also excited because this is a thing that I have worked my tail off to finish and pull apart and reconstruct and edit and finish again.

And maybe, just maybe, one agent will ask to hold and bond with my baby in its entirety and I am still nervous but I will still let them because, again, I have put so much of myself into the product of this work I’ve done that I cannot be ashamed of it no matter how awful the turnout might be.

That’s about where the vision fades for me, because I don’t like building up expectations too high in case they don’t work out. I like being ecstatic when good things happen and reasonably disappointed when things don’t. I don’t like feeling crushed when I expect things to go perfectly and they don’t, because they very rarely do in this unpredictable thing we call life.

I can’t imagine doing it any other way — finding myself successful, somehow, without having put in the time or the effort, without splitting my soul in true Horcrux fashion and binding it into the pages of my story.

There’s just something about having put in the work, survived the rejections, put in more work and so on, that makes the reward so much sweeter than it would have been if someone had just handed it to you.

Don’t you think?

I’m very grateful to work with people on a daily basis who do publishing right. Who pay real writers to do good work and don’t try to cut corners to get things done faster. Who know that climbing the ladder the right way is slower and that others will try to catch up and climb over you and knock you off mid-climb, but that in the end, the ones who do things the way they’re meant to be done will always be more successful in the grand scheme of things. Always happier, always more fulfilled, always (hopefully) with fewer regrets.

I don’t know you. I don’t know what your goals are, what your visions look like, what you dream about when you’ve just fallen asleep.

But I hope you continue to pursue writing because you’re hungry for the process more than you are for the reward. Dare I say (excuse my cliche), for the journey more than the destination.

I write because it is my purpose, not because I want my name on a book.

What about you?

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 of the Best Things That Will Ever Happen to You As a Writer

Life is good when these miracles occur.

1. Writing a full four sentences without spelling something incorrectly.

2. Successfully refraining from correcting a stranger’s grammar in public.

3. Having a new pen/notebook ready as soon as one runs out/fills up. (Or is that just me???)

4. Having a plan and not totally freaking out when your characters decide they’re not going to follow it.

5. Remembering to write down an idea as soon as it appears.

6. Actually remembering the idea you couldn’t/forgot to write down earlier!

7. Getting a rejection email/letter — which is so much better than never hearing anything at all.

8. Getting something written when you weren’t at first sure it was possible.

9. Writing something that actually inspires someone else to write something, which inspires someone else to write something …

10. Finishing something and not totally hating it.

11. Finishing something and actually really loving it.

12. Finishing something and having the confidence to do it all over again … tomorrow.

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 You Really Mean When You Say ‘I Can’t’

Is the problem REALLY that you “can’t”?

“I can’t do this.”

Have you ever said these words out loud to yourself after struggling with something? When you’ve reached a point where you don’t think you could possibly type another word, correct another piece of improper grammar, or answer yet another email?

I have.

“I can’t” is a part of my vocabulary I wish I’d never adopted. It hangs around all the same.

It is a sentence I actually say out loud quite frequently. But every time I do, I catch myself and do the best I can to (1) take back the lie and (2) figure out what’s prompting me to generate that automatic response to a problem that’s difficult to solve.

Because the truth is, I CAN do it. I CAN write those last 1,000 words. I CAN finish that blog post. I CAN, and I WILL. It just feels like I can’t, because there is at least one barrier (though, more often than not, multiple simultaneous barriers) doing their very best to stand in my way.

You’ve probably said “I can’t” a dozen times in your life as a writer. But that’s not really what you’ve been saying at all.

When you say “I can’t,” you’re saying something else — something much deeper. You’re saying more than it’s too hard, it’s taking too long, it’s not going the way I want it to go.

No. You’re saying you’re frustrated. Disappointed. Impatient. Scared. You don’t want to put in the energy, the time, the effort. You don’t know how.

“I can’t do it because I’m afraid I’ll fail.”

“I can’t do it because I feel overwhelmed and it’s too much to handle.”

“I can’t do it because all my work might be for nothing.”

“I can’t do it because I want it to be done already.”

It sounds kind of silly when you look at it like that, doesn’t it? “Can’t” is not the appropriate word to use here. “Don’t want to” would probably be a better phrase. And maybe that’s your version of “I can’t.” I don’t want to do this thing that’s going to be challenging in some way, so I just won’t do it.

Honestly, the best way out of this mindset is to train yourself to do the things you don’t think you “can” do. Many people start out as writers completely incapable of this kind of thing. They’re not bad writers and they’re not necessarily doing anything “wrong.” They have simply never been taught how to fight through the desire to not do something and do it anyway.

I’m not perfect. I sometimes forget how privileged I am to have been raised in an environment that promoted self-discipline. I think sometimes my no-nonsense approach to writing comes off the wrong way or comes off too strongly. I just want you to know I care about you and your journey. I just want to help.

So in saying the above, I don’t mean to put blame on any writer who truly feels like they can’t achieve their goals. I’m simply stating a problem. Now I can do my best to offer a solution.

How do you write through the “I can’t”s? You just … do it.

For you, that might mean setting a very small goal and working toward it until you get it. Or making a list of things that are preventing you from writing (e.g., “I’m afraid to fail”) and verbally contradicting those things (“failing will only teach me how to succeed, there’s nothing to be afraid of”).

It might mean taking a deep breath and writing absolute garbage until you either get better by default or you realize what you wrote really wasn’t as terrible as you thought it was.

Maybe you CAN do it, just not the way or as well as you’d like to do it. Not yet, anyway.

Maybe you’re not making writing enough of a priority in your life, and may be able to afford to shuffle some things around (cough cough take an extended Netflix break) in order to change that.

Or maybe it’s as simple as attitude — you just need to have a better one, and you’re really the only one who can do anything about that. Whether you use positive affirmations, personal quotes, or you have to scream “YES I CAN DO IT BECAUSE I AM A WRITER GOSH DARN IT” into a mirror, if you’re stuck in negativity, there’s likely a way to dig yourself out of it. At least I hope there is.

Everyone has different internal and external issues that bring them to this “I can’t” place. I can’t obviously offer individual advice to fit every possible situation in a single blog post. But your “can’t” has an underlying trigger. If you can figure out what that trigger is, you should be able to work through it — either with help or on your own.

If you walk away with anything after reading this post, let it be this:

You CAN.

You CAN do it.


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.

You Won’t Write Your Best Stuff When You’re Tired and That’s OK

Stop trying to make perfect happen. It’s never going to happen.

Due to circumstances mostly out of my control, I was up way too late last night.

But I was writing, I swear. Work is work no matter the time of day. I sat at my desk pushing through every word that came to me until I hit my minimum goal for the day, and reaching it felt AMAZING.

Until my alarm went off this morning and I realized that what I had done may not have been the wisest way to go about achieving a writing goal.

It’s one thing to be tired but not really have to claw your way through it. It’s something different entirely when you have to, you know, use your brain and get things done and make it sound like you’re awake and excited for what you’re writing about! Even when you’d rather just be back in bed!

Why am I talking about being tired on a blog about writing? Because writing is tiring. Because life is tiring. And writers do not exist in a safe cozy bubble of optimal circumstances. Sometimes we have to write even when we’re not at our best, despite the fact that so many advice-givers have probably said something along the lines of “Don’t force yourself to write when you don’t feel like it — what a waste” once or twice.

Do I agree that the best times to write are the times you’re feeling healthy, energized, and motivated? Of course.

But the reality is, it’s not realistic to expect that you’re going to “feel like” writing every time you sit down to write. I still don’t feel like writing this blog post and I’ve already started it. That doesn’t mean I’m not enjoying it, it doesn’t mean it’s going to be terrible. At this particular moment, I’d just rather be doing something else. I had to make the active choice to say yes to work and no to whatever I might otherwise be doing right now.

So many aspiring writers — who desperately want to write — don’t get very far, if at all. Not because they can’t or don’t want to write, but because they expect writing to always fill them with a sense of joy and purpose. And this simply isn’t always the case.

I’m not saying you should write if it makes you miserable — writing should always leave you with a sense of fulfillment. But there are going to be days you just don’t want to regardless. You have to come into writing expecting that it’s not always going to feel amazing, though it will always be worth it in the end no matter what.

Writing is not this magic thing that takes away all your problems, aches, and worries. Writing is something you often have to do despite these things. And doing it when you’re sleepy sometimes feels like the hardest of all of them.

If you’ve been alive for quite some time, you may have noticed that being tired is sort of … normal … these days? I’m pretty sure an adult’s most used phrase is “I’m tired.” It’s our excuse for everything — and there are many days we really do end up feeling so tired we’re not sure how much longer we’re going to make it.

Unfortunately, even if you KNOW you shouldn’t use your exhaustion as an excuse not to write — you could just write anyway, right? — it’s likely you can’t help worrying about that, too.

If you’re too tired to write, but you proceed to write, will the words that end up on that page even make sense? Will they even end up usable? Or will you end up wasting more time than you thought you were saving because you’ll have to delete most of what you wrote in your sleep deprived state and rewrite it?

Is it better to stay creatively silent when it’s a struggle just to keep your eyes open and try for a fresh start tomorrow when you’re (hopefully) better rested?

I think that really depends on you and what you need to be rested and available for tomorrow (if anything). If I had thought through what I was doing last night, I would have realized how many deadlines I happened to have today and most likely would have gone to bed much earlier than I did.

Writing is important. But it is not always the MOST important thing in your life.

And if you do end up writing and you know it’s not your best work, well, is a first draft of anything worth much? You don’t always have to be at the top of your game to write content, whether it’s exceptional or not.

If you like to be at your best when you write, well … do more throughout your days and nights to make sure you’re feeling as close to your best as you can.

Let this also be a reminder to all you hard-working writers out there (myself included): GET SOME SLEEP. It matters. I don’t know about you, but my body cannot run on less than five hours of sleep the way it used to, and that becomes apparent with every step I take the day following a restless night. One day of extra struggling never hurt anyone, but don’t make this a habit.

Take care of yourself, always, above everything else. If you aren’t healthy, you can’t give your full attention to the things and people around you that need it most. Do what you have to do, but don’t make so many sacrifices that you end up burning yourself out. That’s not fun, nor is it helpful — to you or to anyone else!

Write when you have to. Push yourself, but not to the point of breaking. Do not do as I do, because if I’m being honest, I messed up and it’s going to bite me in the butt at least once before I make it back to my bed tonight.

Good luck. Do your best. Make good choices based on how you want to feel tomorrow. Probably.

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.

Instead of Complaining About Your Sacrifices, Be Proud of Them.

Ever catch yourself complaining? Me too.

I used to be “that” person.

You know the one. That one Facebook friend who constantly filled your news feed with summaries of everything they had to do and “updates” on their progress, with the occasional “I wish I had time to …” post mixed in.

Unfortunately, using social media to complain about self-inflicted problems isn’t something everyone eventually grows out of, but I learned how to keep most of my unnecessary gripes to myself.

Actually, I mostly learned that the more time I spent on social media, the less time I spent doing actual work, which somehow always led to more complaining on social media … I’m glad I broke the cycle. Moving on.

Sometimes I still catch myself complaining. It’s a bad habit I have to actively work against in every area of my life. Writing is tough. Being a writer is tough. So many things constantly demand so much of our attention and time, and our fear of missing out on every little thing keeps many of us from turning our dreams into goals and our goals into achievements.

I don’t like having to skip a TV show, narrowly avoid spoilers all week, and finally sit down to watch it over the weekend. I wish I were as excited to play with my puppy as she is to play with me when she brings me a toy while I’m sitting at my desk. I would love to spend an entire Saturday sitting around with a book and no responsibilities.

These are completely valid things to want. But I don’t need to vocalize these complaints every single time I have them. Not just because I like my friends and don’t want to give them more reasons to leave me (I LOVE YOU!!), but also because complaining doesn’t change the way things are. And it definitely does not change the fact that I actively choose, every single day, to spend as much time writing as I can.

When it comes down to it — and you may be facing personal circumstances that contradict this, and if so, I sincerely hope things improve for you very soon — whether or not you make the time to write is one hundred percent your choice. No one is forcing you to do it the same way no one is forcing you to give up any number of things in order to Make Words Happen.

Sure, giving up things like TV and infinite puppy playtime makes complete logical sense and really isn’t much of a sacrifice if you think about it. The shows will always be available for streaming at a later date and your fur babies will understand the occasional “here’s something to chew on, we can play in thirty minutes.”

(They will not understand this, of course, but it’s very easy to pretend they do.)

But what about the things that matter more than Grey’s Anatomy and fetch? What about sleep, and exercise, and trying your best not to eat a hamburger every other meal? What about the time you want to spend with your family and the time you have to spend away from them? The friends you keep saying you’re going to make plans with but somehow haven’t gotten around to actually doing that yet?

In life — in the real world, which often clashes with the writing world — there are things we have to give up so we can write. There are also things we have to do instead of write. What these things are, how often they change, and the balance you hopefully find to manage all of it is different for everyone. It may be something someone can coach or counsel you through, but it isn’t necessarily something even a blog or book or course can teach.

This, like so many other things in writing, one can learn best only by doing it. By trying one thing, and then another, until somehow it all ends up working out all right.

And as you work through all the snags and run over new bumps and have to reorganize your life all over again, it’s OK to talk about these things. It’s OK to admit, “Hey, I’m kind of struggling right now, but such is the life of the writer — the struggle always comes before the success.”

But you shouldn’t take that to mean you can — or should — complain all you want about everything that changes because of your desire to make writing a priority in your life. Instead of taking a negative approach to these changes, perhaps many of us need to look at it from a more positive angle.

For example: How cool is it that you get to come home from your day job, spend time taking care of and loving on your family, and then spend a few hours in the quiet and stillness of the night telling stories that other people might get to enjoy someday?

Or: Isn’t it amazing that instead of spending every night in front of the TV consuming stories that other people have already written, you’re sitting in front of your computer writing stories that just came out of your brain somehow that could one day maybe be the stories other people consume on their TVs?

OR OR OR: It’s such a blessing that you are able to sit down and write things as ideas come to you. There are people out there who genuinely don’t have the means of doing that for a number of reasons ranging from a crippling lack of confidence to physical or mental barriers that make the process so much more difficult than it should be.

I suppose it’s whatever you need to tell yourself to remind your tired, uncertain, blocked and/or ever-spinning brain that while there may be things about being a writer you don’t always like, everything that you are and aren’t doing to make writing possible is TOTALLY WORTH THE SACRIFICE.

You should be proud of what you’re making such an effort to do. Not so proud that you get that iffy, cringe-worthy kind of braggy on Twitter, but you get the idea. You are writing! This is a thing you are doing! Wow! You are putting so much of your time and energy and sweat and tears and soul into this work. IT MATTERS. AND SO DO YOU!

Let’s work on this together. Complain less. Praise ourselves more.

You’re doing all the right things. Or at least, you’re trying to.

That is enough.

Good writer. Now have a cookie.

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.

Your Ultimate Writing Goal Doesn’t Have to Match ‘What You Want to Do With Your Life’

You can have more than one dream.

For the first six or seven years of my life as a practicing writer, I had one goal: to publish a novel. You know, the kind of “publishing a novel” that requires hundreds of query letters, lots of waiting, agents, contracts, and being associated with a publishing house that isn’t associated with Amazon.

There is nothing “wrong” with wanting to publish a novel (AND NOTHING WRONG WITH SELF-PUBLISHING — it still counts!!!). I’m confident in saying most aspiring writers, whether they continue down the path or not, start out wanting to be able to say they wrote a book like their favorite author.

Why? Probably many reasons — including the fact that when you’re surrounded by so many published books, the thought of having your own seems cool. And kind of easy. After all, anyone can write a book, right?

As I got older and found myself in a position to choose my own career path for real, I’ll say my professional goals changed — at least, the priority of my goals shifted significantly.

I still wanted — and even still want — to publish a novel someday. But when I think about “what I want to do with my life,” the answer isn’t the same. As devastated as I would be if novel-publishing never happened, I wouldn’t feel any less fulfilled or as though I had somehow failed.

It’s not “growing up” per se that caused this mental shift. But there is the reality and maturity that comes along with becoming an adult and acquiring responsibilities like bills and errands and the like. As much as we would all probably love to spend all day every day sitting at our laptops “making up stories” for a living, 99 percent of us will never live a life quite like that.

This does not mean we cannot be writers, call writing our career, or make a living putting ideas into words.

For me, a shift like this came about due to the simple fact that I have many interests that don’t always fit well together. I have degrees in health — I like educating people. I make music in my spare time — it brings me joy. I love creative writing, but I am also a trained journalist and get way too excited over facts. And then there’s the whole Star Wars obsession, but that’s another story.

I am currently working on a lot of projects, all outside normal working hours. Working on the book(s) I hope to attempt to publish at some point in the near future takes up only a very small portion of my time in comparison.

And my biggest goal of all — which I will not discuss in detail here — has nothing to do with telling a fictional story whatsoever. And that’s totally OK with me.

Your big writing goals and your “big life goals” don’t have to line up perfectly. I have many friends also in their 20s who have dreams of writing screenplays and books and poetry who are also pursuing careers in science, education, medicine, and more.

Some of them write on the side while working, furthering their education, and caring for their families and maintaining healthy relationships. Their writing goals are very important to them, but they want to — and are in a position to — contribute something to the world in other ways, and choose to put more of their energy toward those goals.

There’s nothing wrong with that. If you write regularly but it’s not your day job or you don’t make money doing it, you are still a writer. You are still fully capable of making writing a priority in your life, even if it is not your highest priority.

There was one point I thought that if I stopped wanting to write a novel more than I wanted to do other things, that dream would fade away or I would stop actively pursuing it. Neither of those things have happened. I am still actively pursuing the same goal I have been for years. Other projects — and my day job — simply often require more attention on a daily basis.

The way I see it, as long as you are still setting small, regular writing goals that are realistic for you to achieve and keep you on a continuous path toward whatever writing “success” means for you, writing doesn’t have to be the most important goal in your life.

You can have more than one dream. Even as adults our interests shift. Some weeks I’m really into reading and don’t want to spend as much time creating my own stories. Some weeks I try to map out how my life would change if I went back to school and disregard most of my other projects almost completely.

It’s important to have goals, to have things to look forward to, to have more than one thing to work toward. Writing can be all of those things in one. It can be a small part of your life. It doesn’t matter — as long as what you’re doing makes you feel fulfilled and at the end of the day, you are grateful you get to do it along with everything else.

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.

‘You’re a Great Writer! But …’

Good writing matters. But it’s not the whole picture.

Every writer wants to be told they’re good at what they do.

It’s not that we constantly need our egos inflated — well, not most of us, anyway. Praise is a comfy form of encouragement (even if it makes you cringe a little, it still gives you the warm fuzzies deep down and you know it). We all need to feel validated every once in a while. We all need to be reminded that we are doing good work and people are noticing. Or one person. Whatever.

Unfortunately, good writing is only half of what makes a writer successful. There are many, many good writers out there. That’s not to say being able to write well doesn’t matter or that good writers are somehow “less than” because of market oversaturation. Having “a way with words” is just one small piece in the puzzle that makes up a writer’s journey toward their goals.

What makes a writer unique? Their experiences, for one — typically, the more you’ve lived through and seen or felt firsthand in the real world, the more credible you are in being able to write from a particular perspective.

A writer also has to be able to work well with others, communicate effectively both in writing and out loud face to face, and tell stories others can relate to and find comfort in.

These are generally things you, as a writer, can control. Experience-wise, if you’re not familiar with a specific topic, you can reach out to those who are and gather information the way a journalist in the field might. You can practice good internet etiquette (e.g., not responding five seconds after someone tweets at you and saying something you’re going to regret) and going out into the world and interacting with other people instead of always sitting alone in front of your keyboard.

And then there are the things you cannot change — the situations that rely on outside circumstances that could result in you losing out on an opportunity of no fault of your own.

Sometimes whether or not you “stand out” isn’t completely under your control. You could have years of writing experience and be really good at what you do and still find yourself missing out.

Being a skilled, experienced writer isn’t always enough. And that’s a reality all of us have to both accept and figure out how to thrive in spite of.

Sometimes, editors and agents and publishers reject your work on grounds completely unrelated to how skilled of a writer you are. I’ve lost count of how many clients have told me, “You’re an excellent writer and we’ve found great value in your work — we just can no longer afford it.”

I’ve also had a manager come to me and say, “You’re so good at writing, and I wish that was translating into more pageviews to meet your threshold, but it isn’t, and I can’t figure out why … want to edit instead?”

Good writing is absolutely essential as a foundation for anything and everything you might want to do throughout your career — whether it be online publishing, novel-writing, or using your written communication skills as part of a large company with much bigger goals.

You will not get hired to do work that requires superior writing skills if you do not have those skills. And of course that means you’re going to have to put in the time, effort, and resources to develop and refine your writing abilities. For you that might mean getting a degree or two, doing an internship, taking an online course, religiously following someone’s writing advice blog, or just practicing your writing every free moment you have. A combination of two or more of thse things or others probably wouldn’t hurt either.

But being a good writer doesn’t not make you immune to any of the unfavorable things that may happen to you throughout your career. You may still write things that aren’t great between the things that are. Clients and employers will probably still let you go do to financial or similar reasons that have nothing to do with your ability to form nice, coherent sentences.

An agent, prospective client or editor still might write back to you, “You’re a great writer, but …”

… what you’ve written isn’t really what we’re looking for right now.

… we’ve hired a more qualified candidate.

… we went with a client who proposed a more affordable rate.

Even if you don’t directly receive honest reasons why something didn’t work out in one way or another, if you’re a good writer, it’s very possible rejection happens in many forms for completely unrelated reasons.

This shouldn’t discourage you in the slightest. In fact, it’s my hope that it encourages you as much as it can — especially if you’ve just been told “You’re a good writer. But …”

Let this be a reminder that most of the time, these unfavorable circumstances have nothing to do with your writing skills. It’s not because you aren’t good at writing and it’s not because the majority of writers are better than you (though it’s likely many are — there will always be someone better than you, that does not mean you aren’t good).

If someone compliments your writing but gives another reason why they can’t work with you, need to stop working with you, didn’t like your work, whatever it may be, take it as an opportunity to keep trying. If you’re as good as they say you are, you will find the organization or publication or agent that will be a much better fit for you.

Is it hard to take every rejection as an excuse to try harder? Of course. Rejection is tough. No one handles it well, especially at first. It takes practice and many, many rejections to get to a point where you’re comfortable saying, “Okay, they didn’t want me. Time to find someone who does.”

You can do this. The best thing you can do for yourself now is to refuse to give up.

Don’t even treat giving up as an option. Just keep writing. You. Got. 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.

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.