The One Thing That Changed When Writing Became My Job Instead of Just My Hobby

I am many different things. That is a kind of freedom I did not realize I needed to embrace.


I never thought it would happen to me.

No, really. I honestly never thought I would make it this far. Writing is one of those things many, many people say they want to do when they “grow up.” It is a common, seemingly ordinary dream. A career goal many people still shake their heads at. In high school, no one ever actually told me I couldn’t be a writer. They gently steered me toward an English major at a good college. After that, it was up to me to figure it all out for myself.

I almost gave up on writing as a career. I won’t go into the details right now. I didn’t give up, though. By the time I graduated, writing had become pretty much the only thing I was skilled and qualified enough to do. I figured I should at least try to find writing jobs, at least until I could figure out what my degree(s) could get me in the disaster that is the US job market.

Somehow I became the managing editor of a magazine. And a freelance writer. The first paycheck I received for writing something original wasn’t all that long ago, but it was one of the coolest days of my life. Granted, I’m not the best writer out there. But I’m pretty lucky to be able to, at least for the time being, live off of what I earn from dumping all the racing thoughts in my head onto blank virtual pages.

I almost didn’t do it. I almost changed my mind at the last minute. Because I was afraid … afraid that when writing became my job, I wouldn’t want to do it anymore.

In reality, being able to call writing my ‘profession’ has completely changed my life – for the better in most ways, for the worse in a few others. For years, all I wanted to be was a writer. And when you’re younger and you have responsibilities like school and other activities, you often only have time to write every once in awhile. And that was the case with me. Sometimes, it used to be really hard to force myself to write in my free time … because all I wanted to do was, well, not use my brain anymore.

When you spend all day writing, because you have to, there is a cutoff point, at which you do not have to write anymore until the next day if you don’t want to. Then you are free to do whatever you want to do from that point forward. There is less pressure to write on your own time, because you get your fix during the hours you spend working.

I am a writer. But writing as a job has shown me that writing is not all I do – and there is nothing wrong with that. I have other hobbies I truly enjoy pursuing. Now that there is far less pressure to ‘become a writer,’ I don’t have to push myself over the edge anymore just to get something published. If I feel like writing something extra on my own time, I can, and I do. But if I need a break, and just want to watch YouTube videos until three in the morning, technically I can. And I’m not missing out on any writing time, because my office hours are over for the day.

Identity is really confusing when you’re at that stage where you’re trying to define yourself as a writer but technically aren’t one yet. Now I can call myself a writer – it is my job. But because it’s my job, when I close out all my work for the day, I can be anything I want after that. I can be a bookworm and curl up with a Star Wars novel. I can be a musician and write a few songs just because it’s good for my mental health. I can be a runner, and run six miles just because it makes me feel good.

I love being a writer. I am grateful for everything I have and am proud of what I have achieved so far, and what I have yet to accomplish as I continue to grow and develop my skills. But that is not all I am. I am many different things. That is a kind of freedom I did not realize I needed to embrace. The pressure to be one thing and one thing only is gone.

It took 10+ years, but I have finally found balance in my life. I never thought getting a job could make that happen. I’m glad I was wrong.

If you’re feeling totally lost or stuck, just remember that writing does not have to be your everything. You are a writer. But you are also ___, and ___, and ____. Just because you put down your pen for awhile does not make you any less of a person. And if you do spend all your time writing, and that makes you happy, then you are allowed to find joy in that. Writing can be as little or as much a part of your life as you want it to be. It is completely your choice. But writing does not define you.

Never let yourself create an identity based on your writing unless you have an identity separate from that. That is one of the most important things I will probably ever tell you. Because if you are trapped in one of those cycles when you receive rejection after rejection, you can’t let yourself take that personally. It’s your writing that’s being rejected, not you as a person. Remember that. And if you are succeeding as a writer, feel good about that – but keep in mind that you cannot neglect other areas of your life just because your career is taking off.

You might think it will never happen to you. But I have one rule when it comes to writing as a career: never say never. Ever.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter.

How to Be Realistic About Your Writing Dreams Without Giving Up On Them


There are two kinds of people in this world: those who will encourage you to chase your dreams regardless of their magnitude and those who will try to “be real” with you about the things you want to accomplish.

As writers, we need to surround ourselves with both types of friends, mentors and family members. We need to be encouraged while still bracing ourselves for the worst (even if the best or worst outcome never actually hits us). We need to be able to believe in ourselves while still remembering the publishing industry is a great place to be – if you make it into the club.

And that’s a big IF.

Balance is key. Here’s how to keep your feet on the ground while still pursuing a writing career, whatever your specific niche might entail.

Be prepared to balance writing for work with writing for fun

Most successful writers you’ve probably heard of didn’t start out writing whatever they wanted (within reason) because someone paid them to do it. They probably started out as a freelancer or a reporter, or they had a completely different job (teacher, marketing manager, scientist, who knows). Everyone has a crappy entry-level copywriting job of some sort at some point. It’s like a prerequisite. Like having to take a math class before you can get into your chosen degree program.

Even when you are sloshing through one job or another, you still need to make time for the kind of writing you really want to do – or for more of the kind of writing you’re already doing at your job, if you’re super lucky and get to do what you like at work when you’re first starting out. You really have to make the most of where you are and figure out how to do what you have to do in order to be able to afford to do what you want to do full-time.

Search for experience, not recognition

You might be convinced building a stellar online presence, blogging daily and writing a lot will eventually be enough to get you noticed. It’s not a wrong assumption, it’s just a little overrated. Everyone is online, everyone blogs and everyone wants to write for Huff Post and Forbes. If you didn’t catch the new blogging wave back in the early 2000s, you’re far less likely to rise to the top of search engine results. In a virtual nutshell: what you’re doing, everyone else has already done.

When searching for writing opportunities, go in with an “experience mindset.” Treat every opportunity as another chance to get more writing experience, build your portfolio and showcase that you’re not just a writer: you are able to write a lot, for a diverse array of audiences every single week. The more experience you have, the more you will learn what it takes to have people reach out to you for contributions, not the other way around. (They’ll still ask you to write for free, but it’s better than nothing at the start.)

Write what you want when you can, for the sake of doing what you love

Everyone would love to be able to write something audiences across the globe fall in love with. Everyone. That doesn’t mean having that kind of dream is wrong. It just means you have to not only commit to it, but do so for reasons much deeper than having your name in print. You are a writer because you want to tell stories. You are a writer because you believe in the power of words. And maybe you have other, more personal reasons as well.

Write often and write what you want to write, even if it means coming home to your laptop after a full workday of writing website copy or whatever you’re lucky enough to get paid to do. Write short stories, write poetry, write a novel. Will anyone else ever read it? It’s impossible to say for sure. Write it anyway. If you love something enough, you will stick with it, even when it feels like no one will ever notice how much time and effort you put into your art.

There is no definite yes or no when considering whether or not you’ll ever get published for real. That doesn’t mean you can’t still chase that dream. Maybe you won’t be the next J. K. Rowling, but with enough writing experience, you might end up doing something for a decent living that reaches people who use your words to lean, to grow, to feel inspired or to make positive changes in their lives.

Your words are powerful and you can still make a difference. You never know what’s out there until you put all your heart and soul into heading in that direction, even if you can’t see what’s coming.

Don’t you dare give up. You are a writer. You have a unique voice and you have a passion for something very specific. Use your art. You will not regret it.

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

You Don’t Need to Be a Full-Time Writer to Be Successful


I was convinced I knew exactly what college would be like for me.

I know. Hilarious.

Let me tell you my original plan, because it’s a great one. Unique. Realistic. (Smell the sarcasm. Smell it.) Then allow me to show you what really happened, and why I’m not cut out for the full-time life of a writer (and why that’s fine with me).

Getting paid to write, that would be nice. But I don’t. And honestly, I’m not sure I would be the same writer if I did.

I was on the fast track to making my dreams come true.

When your high school creative writing teacher tells you on your graduation day to publish a book within five years (or else?), you don’t take that lightly.

I had my doubts and insecurities (all of us do), but he made me believe I could do it, and back then, that was really important for me. So I had this plan: at 17 I started college, and I wanted to finish by the time I turned 21. I was going to graduate with a degree in English and a creative writing minor, because, goals. At some point between then and turning 22, I was going to write, sell and publish my first novel.

I’ll be honest with you: I think, if everything had gone according to that original plan, I just might have done it.

I turn 23 next month. I’ve been out of college for six months. I’m still working on writing a story I started three years ago.

Here’s what went down. 

I thought writing for a living was what I really wanted.

I flaunted my English major badge even before I was qualified to officially declare it. Anyone who would listen to me knew I was going to “be a writer.” And of course, back then, “being a writer” meant publishing a book and somehow miraculously making a living off the success.

It wasn’t that I believed one success would make, not break me. I don’t think I understood what being a writer truly meant. I think I believed college would consist of reading and writing and meeting other writers along the way. We were all going to have the same goals. We were all going to make it.

Except, it didn’t happen the way I thought it would. College, I mean.

I made great friends my first year, I really did. But the thing was … they all had career goals. Real ones. These were education and science and journalism majors. I was the only one who wanted just to “be a writer.” Unfortunately, school got really busy. Being an English major was … hard. There wasn’t all that much time for writing for fun.

As much as I wanted to write, I started craving more than sitting in a desk chair typing by myself. Adventure. Excitement. More than reading out of an anthology could provide. There wasn’t a lot of writing involved that first year, not the kind of writing I had expected. Not only did I feel I wasn’t learning, but I wanted to learn more than what my professors were teaching me.

Fast forward. This is June 2015.

I finished college with two degrees, no literary agent and no clue where I belonged.

Nutrition and fitness have always interested me, so I picked up that major my sophomore year to give me something to do. I started writing part-time for a magazine. Not until earlier this year, fresh out of school, did I completely revamp my blog to focus on helping writers achieve their dreams when I had all but abandoned mine.

I haven’t, though. The thing is, I love writing. Yet I don’t do it for a living. I don’t get paid and sometimes I’d just rather do other things. To really be a successful author you have to be really good at writing. I’m okay. I’m allowed to improve and refine my skills on my own time without being pressured to do so.

Yet a lot of people ask me what writing has to do with health, and why I’m studying for an MS in health communication and why all I ever seem to talk about is writing.

I recently interviewed for a nutrition communications job; they were confused when I explained that I write and edit for a magazine and run my own blog about writing, even though I’d just spent a good 10 minutes going through my health and fitness experience (there’s a lot) and my passion for promoting healthy lifestyles.

I’m not sure they understood that passion spans across disciplines.

I’ll share more of this some other time. This post is getting long (bad habit).

I’ve accomplished a lot even though I haven’t published much fiction.

Dietetics is hard. Just trust me on that one. Add to that an entire cluster of professors trying to figure out why your two areas of study have nothing to do with each other. I had instructors tell me I needed to choose one or the other (nope). Because no one ever really sees how me teaching you how to “be a writer” has anything to do with teaching you how to live a healthier life.

Look deeper. A lot deeper. Just for a minute.

If you’re a writer, you know how important writing is in the grand scheme of your life.

Just as important as diet and exercise and being as happy as you can be.

I will always face the challenge of balancing my two loves. I’ve blogged about it before and I know it’s hard for most of you to understand. But writing full-time just wouldn’t satisfy me. I am one of those introverts who needs her people time just as much as she needs her don’t-bother-me-I’m-introverting time. I need to use the scientific part of my brain, the problem-solving part, the logistical mindset. The kind you can’t get from sitting at your computer all day.

Which means I need a job, a real job, that meets all those needs. And writing full-time just isn’t it. At least not right now, not at my experience level (or lack thereof).

I do not want to have a lot of money for the sake of having money. I want to be able to afford to travel and continue my education. I think I want to be able to write on my own time, for my own enjoyment, and not have to worry that I’m not getting paid.

It doesn’t mean I won’t ever publish something. Or that I don’t want to. I think there are a lot of different ways to measure success. And I think waiting until I have a book ready for the world to see, even if I can’t spend all day every day working on it, would still be considered success to me.

We make a lot of plans, us humans.

I think we make plans because we know they’ll never turn out the way we expect.

Real life plot twists. That’s what we live for, isn’t it?

Huh. That sure explains a lot.

Love&hugs, Meg<3

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

A recent graduate with a B.A. in English and a completed major in nutrition, currently seeking a graduate degree in health communication, Meg is a twenty-something workaholic with a passion for writing, coffee and dietetics. In addition to her status as an aspiring novelist and Grammar Nazi (and the mastermind behind this site), Meg is an editor for College Lifestyles magazine and a guest blogger for Food & Nutrition Magazine’s Stone Soup.  She is a seven-time NaNoWriMo winner and has written several creative pieces for Teen Ink magazine. Follow Meg on Twitter.

Three Ways Keeping a Journal Makes You a Better Writer


Everyone writes, often because they have to. If you’ve fallen in love with writing for pleasure, it’s easy to forget you don’t have to stick to one medium to do it. Just because you spend most of your writing time weaving together short stories doesn’t mean you can’t try your hand at a poem or two every now and then.

Journaling is a beautiful and somewhat neglected tactic that turns talented writers into successful ones. Having a private place to organize your thoughts and giving yourself the freedom to cross out words, doodle and tear out pages you never want to look at again might be your next step toward … well, finishing that book you’ve been working on for the past three years (cough, cough).

Keeping a journal isn’t for everyone. But if you’re up to trying new things, journaling more often might do more to improve your writing skills than you think.

Defining Your Audience

Learning how to write for an audience is an essential skill if you want to become a well-rounded and successful writer (how you define well-rounded and successful, well, that’s often up to you). You’re always writing to someone; if you’re freelancing, you don’t always get to choose whom that someone is. A journal is much different.

Similar to Anne Frank’s “Kitty,” you have the freedom to give your journal its own identity, an identity to which you can thereafter direct all your thoughts, frustrations and triumphs to. Doing this often can, over time, help you learn how to balance writing for different audiences, especially if who you’re writing for at your day job and the persona you assign to your journal are polar opposites.

Providing A Safe Storyboard

Sometimes staring at a screen all day can get old. Sometimes sharing ideas with friends makes us feel vulnerable and self-conscious about something we want very desperately to be proud of. When all else fails, a journal might be the next best tool.

Putting your ideas down onto pages no one else can touch can be both refreshing and freeing. Opening to a new blank page and scratching out even a few words by hand can help you see those ideas in a completely new light. Those pages can quickly and easily become the place where all your ideas burst open into thoughts you can better put into words, and if you make a mistake or start going in a direction you don’t like, it’s very easy to simply flip to another blank page and start over.

Teaching You to Be Honest with Yourself

There are plenty of ways to hold ourselves accountable for getting our work done (like blogging about that book we still haven’t finished writing). Things like posting on social media and pestering your followers to push you to make consistent progress on your latest project are still public, though, and it’s easy to get caught up in what you really want to accomplish versus what you can feasibly achieve. 

Writing in a journal is one way to teach yourself to stay honest. If those private pages are the first place you admit you don’t want to finish what you’ve spent so many years of your life working on, that’s an ideal place to start. A journal does not judge. A journal listens. And though it won’t tell you you’re being dumb, it’s much easier to look back at your own words and decide for yourself what you want to do with them.

Whether it’s the leftover pages of a high school composition notebook or a Moleskine®, pick up paper and pen and let your thoughts roam free. Some of your best ideas may come from those few illegible paragraphs you crank out before bed tonight.

Years later, you might go back, struggle to read those same words, and thank yourself for putting them on paper.

Image courtesy of Novel Revisions.