Do You Have a ‘Your Eyes Only’ Project?

Not everything you write has to go public.

Everyone has one – or they should, anyway. Something you’re writing that you want to keep to yourself. A story you need to write, but aren’t ready to share with the world – yet, or ever.

I’ve started writing novels I couldn’t wait to share, only to discover that I’m not ready to. A lot of my more recent stories are personal – obviously, for personal reasons. I don’t feel bad about choosing not to share some of my writing with the entire virtual universe. There is no law that says a writer who wants to build a successful career is required to share everything he or she creates. I’ve told you it’s OK to write terribly. I never said you have to share that terrible work with everyone you meet, if you don’t want to.

Sometimes, you need something that’s yours – and yours only. Something you can work on without feeling like there’s always someone else looking over your shoulder, judging every character you type. Practice does not make perfect – practice is about making mistake after mistake until you learn, through experience, not to make those mistakes as often.

Improvement is a rough balance between adapting your work based on the suggested parameters presented by a critique and learning from your own weaknesses. Sometimes you need to go off on your own, where no one can see you, interrupt or criticize you, and just go. It’s not about hiding your work; it’s about being brave enough to see what you can do; to try things you never have before; to give yourself time to get used to the colder, darker air of the places outside your comfort zone, before you’re ready to create work meant for other people to enjoy.

I recommend always having a ‘your eyes only’ project. Something you can work on in the background, when you need to express yourself but don’t want anyone else around to cloud your experience with their unsolicited opinions.

Practice. Take your stories in directions they have never gone before. Write something that has been on your mind, that one thing you can’t wait to start – even though you might be afraid no one else will love it as much as you already do. Keep some things to yourself. Be proud of them. Someday you might be okay with releasing them out into the world. Maybe you never will. Everyone starts out without an audience. You, the creator, have control over who sees what.

It’s OK to only want to show off your best work. It’s OK if you’re not ready to show off anything at all – yet. You’ll get there. The more time you spend writing, the better writing you’ll do – and the more confident you will become. Stick with it, no matter how public or private. Get it out of your head. You can decide who to show it to later. Now, it’s time to write.

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

When Your Hard Work Goes Unnoticed (Again)

Everyone starts at the bottom.


Yesterday, scrolling through my Facebook feed, I saw a health expert, who I’ve followed for a few years now, post an article she had written and shared with her audience.

This caught my eye because I had written an article on the exact same subject with almost an identical title not even a week before. Seeing how much praise and attention the expert’s post got, while mine didn’t get any – it brought back those feelings of insignificance and failure I – yes, even I – have worked so hard to destroy over the past two years.

I’m over it now, obviously. But I think we encounter situations like this more often than we care to admit. You work so hard to create something good, and it goes virtually unnoticed while someone with more money, more experience, more resources and a bigger audience does something similar and makes you feel invisible. They’re not doing it on purpose. They’re just doing, literally, what they do best.

But it still seems unfair.

It’s important to remember, first of all, that every ‘expert’ out there doing what you’re trying to do has been where you are before. They started with nothing – no followers, no credibility – nothing. Over time, they worked their way up to the place they hold now. You’re not always going to know every single person’s backstory – but always keep in mind there is one, and many times, it will sound a lot like yours. You’re broke, you hate your job, you’re struggling to turn your side project into something bigger (okay, not ALL of you, but you get the idea). You’re either going to make it or you’re not. But there is only one way to absolutely guarantee you never will – and that’s deciding not to try.

The best advice I have for you is to embrace these feelings of unimportance. Take this time to work on getting better, and figure out your niche, your style, the kind of audience you want. It doesn’t feel good to feel small. But it’s important that you have faith in yourself and in the future, regardless of the possible outcomes. Faith will never hurt you. Disappointment will string – but that’s what you sign up for when you decide you want to create original work for other people to consume. This is how it goes. There will be moments you feel like you don’t matter. But I like to believe there will be moments you feel like you do matter, too.

So you’re here, in the shadows. It’s a tired and lonely place to be. But it’s not your forever home. There are bigger and better things still to come. You can’t see them, but they’re coming. I promise.

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 for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.