How Self-Care Fits into the Writing Success Equation


“Enjoy your life … [I]f you are so anxious or unhappy that you have to put tape over the warning lights with psychotropic drugs just to function like a person, then freelancing might not be for you. Find some hobbies or something that will help manage your anxiety.” – Thomas Leveritt (Hustle Economy, pp. 101-102)

There are many ways to define success as a writer. Writing can be many things for many different people: a business; a hobby; a side job to pay for their book-buying addiction (slowly sinks lower in chair). Success, then, can also be measured by many different things: money; page views; sales.

To me, success as a writer has always meant a combination of a number of different factors. I wanted to make enough money to feel secure (plus enough extra for, you know, uh, BOOKS). I wanted to have an audience, maybe some followers on Twitter that weren’t bots.

I also wanted to show up to work feeling excited, and leave looking forward to the start of the next work day.

I know these are everyone’s dreams. Especially creatives, who sometimes work their whole lives to be able to say, in some capacity, they succeeded – and doing something they love, no less.

I never, ever thought I’d be sitting here, slowly but truly coming to the realization that I’m achieving everything I’ve always wanted to achieve. The best part? Anxiety not included.

Well. As much as I can exclude it.

Writing is one of very few things that don’t make me anxious. Such is life: I can deal. Anxiety can be tamed, never slain. But when you’re in the very early drowning stages of freelancing, it’s nearly impossible to work your tail off and not chew all your fingernails off at the same time. Especially when you write all day, then continue to write on your own time … forgetting that you’re not required to write in your free time anymore if you don’t want to. You’re off the hook.

Pretty much the only thing that got me through a year of freelancing were the hours I spent not writing.

I love to write – I would not keep doing this if I didn’t love it. But I realized this year that I’ve officially used up all my Get Out of Sleep Free cards. I cannot function anymore (read: cannot get out of bed when the alarm goes off) when I do not get enough sleep. I can’t work for twelve hours straight (even when I want to). I can’t willingly force myself into too much work stress at one time, or I will fall apart.


I’ve watched many, many hours of Netlflix already this year – AND I’M HAPPY ABOUT IT.

I’ve read 20 books in the past three months. AND I LIKE IT.

I’ve also spent many hours working. And when I’m done working, I do fun stuff. I STOP WORKING, SO I DON’T GET TOO ANXIOUS ABOUT WORK, AND I RELAX.

To me, that is success. Figuring out how to work hard for 10 or so hours a day, and then do absolutely nothing productive until I ACTUALLY GO TO BED AND ACTUALLY SLEEP.

This is not lazy. Enjoying your life is not lazy.

When it’s time for work, I work very hard. I write many words. It is – and I am very fortunate to be able to say this, I know – my full-time career. I can’t let myself get anxious about work. The only things I’m allowed to get anxious about are (and I’m massively abbreviating the list here, for your sake): running out of coffee creamer in the middle of the day, not waking up when my alarm goes off, missing Grey’s Anatomy on Thursdays, forgetting to feed my cat, spelling a word wrong in a blog post …

You get the idea.

Fill your life with enough things that bring you joy, and you can manage. Writing is a big part of your life, but it is not your whole life. Take care of yourself. Success is possible only when you put as much effort into emphasizing the importance of your well-being as you do your job.

Trust me – it’s well worth it.

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.

This is How Confidence Gets You More Writing Jobs

Go for it.

“[E]xude confidence. If you lack it, think hard on why. Go find that problem, seek it out, and solve it. It’s OK to be confident … Confidence is often mistaken for bitchiness. If that’s the case, I’ll take it.” – Kelsey Hanson, founder of Vocal Design (Hustle Economy, p. 83)

What is your lack of confidence costing you?

Because it’s very easy to say, “Oh, I plan on being a successful writer someday – I’m just not confident enough yet,” before tucking your goals away and, let’s be honest, letting yet another lame excuse slow you down.

I can’t say for sure whether or not I’ve used this excuse myself, exactly. When I was very young, maybe. I have struggled with self-confidence in many areas of my life, but with my writing, it’s always been different. I will never forget the look on my college newspaper editor-in-chief’s face when I walked into her office as a sophomore and said I wanted to join her newswriting staff.

This isn’t something that seems all that surprising – unless you knew me then. Shyness wouldn’t even begin to describe it. Who was this person, walking up to a senior and basically saying, “Hey, I think you should give me a reporting job even though I haven’t technically applied for one.”

I can’t explain how I knew that was the right thing to do – speak up about a step I knew I needed to take in my yet-to-exist writing career. But I knew that a lack of confidence wasn’t going to bring me any closer to getting a real writing job after graduation. I needed to do something. I suppose, in a sense, I needed to be assertive for the sake of my future … even though it probably came off a little strong.

This happened several times in the two and a half years I was a part of our paper’s writing staff. My senior year, I proposed to exchange my position as a campus life reporter for a semi-weekly health column. I have that section of my portfolio to thank for most of the writing I did (though without pay) the summer after I graduated.

And it never would have happened without a little confidence. Or, bitchiness, I guess.

This isn’t to say that being bold will always get you what you want, especially when it comes to writing. Certainly not. I’ve written a handful of very long email proposals – really good ones – that have been shot down within hours of hitting send. It happens.

But if you don’t try – if you always let this or that hold you back – you’re always going to stay in the exact same place you are right now. If you do advance at all, it will be very, very slow.

Gathering up enough confidence to just “go for it” still terrifies me. But in an environment where editors expect you to bring new ideas to the table daily, we have no choice but to “go for it” whether it’s comfortable or not.

Everyone has different reasons for struggling with confidence. I earnestly believe I am a skilled writer – it’s what happens when you do this consistently for as long as I have – my iffy relationship with confidence is rooted in my anxiety, and for the most part, the only thing I can do about that is run headfirst into everything I do and cry about it later if I have to (you think I’m exaggerating, or being funny … nah).

But maybe you’ve just been told one too many times that you’re not good at anything. Or you have recurring nightmares about walking through a crowd and everyone you pass is holding a copy of your manuscript, laughing at you.

I don’t know. Only you know why you feel the way you do. It’s up to you to figure out how to overcome just one or all of your barriers to confidence as a writer. The best advice I can give you is to just go for it. It’s scary – I know. My knees were probably (noticeably) shaking as I talked to that editor about giving me a job. But I honestly don’t know where I would be today, writing-wise, if I hadn’t taken a chance and asked. It’s almost never going to be easy. But it will reward you in much greater volumes than it will burn you.

Some people might think you’re too pushy. They might even call you – gasp! – entitled. Well, let them. You know what you need to do, the chances you need to take, to make it in this business. Some will take your confidence the wrong way. Expect that. But keep moving forward. As long as you’re doing this for the right reasons, and going about it the right way, you’ll be glad you went against all your instincts, screaming at you to not press send, and earned yourself the right to succeed.

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.

Don’t Stop Trying When You Start Succeeding (How to Earn a Career in Writing, Part 8)

Things aren’t going to get any easier – but that’s okay.

For many people, writing is a long, exhausting struggle. Some writers never get past the ‘write like everyone is listening even though only two and a half people are reading’ phase of writing professionally.

Often, that has nothing to do with talent, and everything to do with the amount of effort a person channels into a very draining task.

This is the part where I would normally spend a few paragraphs using inspiring language to remind you that no matter how hard it may seem, you should keep going, even if success seems very far away.

And while that is all valid, and you SHOULD keep writing even if it seems pointless right now, I’m going to spend the rest of my time with you today talking about what happens when things, writing-wise, start going right.

Because it does happen. Contracts are signed, books get published, articles go viral, blogs erupt in more daily pageviews than their founders can believe.

And the one thing you don’t want to do, when you find yourself surrounded by success, is let yourself relax.

Now, I’m not saying you’re not allowed to celebrate your success – by all means, make that a top priority, because hard work is worth raising a glass to.

What I mean is, you can’t let your guard down just because you’ve surpassed the battlefield that is Trying to Write for a Living. Now, more than ever, it’s very important that you focus on working even harder to give your success a solid foundation so it doesn’t suddenly crumble beneath you. Asha Dornfest, founder of Parent Hacks, explains it like this:

“The thing about quick success is that it can’t last, at least not in its initial form. Making a real go of it takes persistence. And therein lies the secret of my hustle, the quieter, less glamorous months and years that followed the early salad days of my blog. The part where I kept going after the initial flash bulbs faded.” (The Hustle Economy, p. 76)

When success hits, it usually hits hard. It’s exciting, it gives you an irresistible adrenaline rush – nothing can ruin these good feelings! Except one thing actually can, and that’s deciding that you’ve made it, you’ve put in all the hard work you needed to, you don’t have to work hard anymore.

The truth is, virtually anyone can get a publishing contract, publish a book, write a viral article or attract a wave of new subscribers to their blog. Anyone can catch the interest of an audience. The key to success that lasts is putting in the work that keeps people around, even after the buzz dies down.

Because the internet and its ever-connected users move so fast, what interests someone today might not catch their attention tomorrow. So success in writing in its many forms is a constant game of aligning what people want to read about with what you’re prompted to write about. Always. Every day.

It takes a lot of time and effort to consistently create content that resonates with people. So while it might feel now as though you’ve created something so good people will never ignore you again, keep in mind that if you really want to succeed, you can’t just do that once. You’re going to have to do it again. And again. And again.

It feels very warm and fuzzy to realize you’ve succeeded, in one way or another. Cherish that feeling. Really take a moment to recognize how good it makes you feel. Because this is one of the things you have to hold onto when the pressure to perform starts to feel a lot more like stress (it happens to everyone at some point – it’s normal).

Success feels really good. If you want that feeling to last, it’s not going to come free.

You put in at least some amount of work to get here. If you’ve earned your success, that’s proof that you are going to be able to achieve really great things at some point. Don’t give up now. Your journey isn’t over yet. It’s more than likely just beginning.

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.

How to Earn a Career in Writing – Part 1

Taking wisdom from The Hustle Economy, a book about building a creative career, to help you earn your way to a successful career in writing.

“Creative work is undervalued. Clients underpay, customers pirate, tax systems are poorly structured – capitalism all around is mostly shitty to all but the most successful creative artists. And you shouldn’t work for free as often as people want you to. But you will have to do some work for free… this is the work you do to get known.”

 – Nick Douglas, comedy writer (Hustle Economy, p. 14)

Near the end of 2016, I finally dove headfirst into a book that had been sitting untouched on my shelf since August – a book that completely renewed my faith in the possibility that creative people really can “make it.”

I read The Hustle Economy of my own desire, after Mike Rugnetta recommended it on IDEA CHANNEL. I’m not being paid to talk about or promote it – I just really freaking loved this book. So over the next six months or so, I’m going to pull a quote from each of its essays once a week and apply it to a concept I like to call, “how to succeed in writing without going broke, getting sad or obliterating all your hopes and dreams.” Or, for space’s sake, “how to earn a career in writing.”

First on the agenda is, of course, everyone’s favorite topic – writing for free. That thing everyone wants you to do, and you keep doing, even though you’re 95 percent sure you’re being taken advantage of.

As we’ve discussed before, writing for free, when you’re first starting out as a writer, is essential. There’s no way around it. It’s going to be very difficult for you to find someone who will pay you to write when you have no experience. Meaning, you have to write for free before you can make a career out of it.

Why is this a thing? Because you’re trained to think about money pretty much before anything else. You’re taught that if you work hard and get a quality education, you can graduate and land a job, continue to work hard and eventually make good money doing whatever it is you do.

You just can’t assume that you’re going to get all your training as a writer while in school. Maybe, MAYBE, if you get a degree specifically focused in writing, but many of you won’t. I spent all of high school telling people I was going to major in creative writing in college. I now have bachelor’s degrees in nutrition and English and an MS in health comm. Many people don’t major in writing because they’re afraid they’ll get sick of it. I would have.

That’s actually a very logical fear. I think people are much better off majoring in a specific subject or discipline while getting writing experience elsewhere. It keeps them well-rounded and, usually, grounded. But this does, of course, mean you have to get writing experience outside of more traditional coursework. How you get this experience, I’ve learned, depends on many different factors.

It matters who you know. As the essay this week’s post is based on urges, who you know is everything. I landed my first unpaid writing internship in college because one of my dietetics professors received a virtual flyer in an email. Writers are dependent on the relationships they have with other people. A simple, “Hey, I’m looking for opportunities, if you see anything, let me know” can make all the difference. Believe it or not, people remember.

It matters where you live. I went to college at a university in the Midwestern U.S., in the middle of nowhere (north – corn; south – corn). Opportunities like local writing internships just weren’t available. I also got to know students in my online writing internship who went to school close to New York City – close enough that they could commute to dozens of different internships, so that by the time they were ready to graduate, some of them had over three years’ worth of real-world writing experience. It’s possible to get experience online – often, you have to rely on it. But location is much more of an advantage than you think.

It matters how good you are at time management. Thomas Frank (College Info Geek) did a podcast interview awhile ago featuring someone who managed to, or was about to, graduate college without any student loans – all from starting a freelance writing career while also earning a full-time undergraduate degree. Admittedly, I was pretty jealous when I heard that. That’s something that never even crossed my mind. Looking back, though, I never could have managed to do that – I am a time management disaster. Just think of all the experience you could get, though, if you trained yourself to be better at not wasting time. Something to think about, if you need experience but don’t feel like you have the time for it.

Writing for free sucks. I did it for three years before I earned my first paid freelance job – seven, if you count all the blogging I did before I started interning for a magazine. No one wants to do it – everyone thinks because they blog and write stories on their own time, they deserve paid work.

Nah – you have to earn that. You have to build up your credibility and form relationships and prove that you’re good enough to get paid. And even then, people are going to try to pay you much less than you’re worth, or not at all. It’s the least fun part of the business. That’s not to say you can’t make a good living as a writer. You just can’t do it if you’re not willing to “write for exposure” – a lot, and then less, and then only every once in awhile.

Life isn’t like the movies. You know the ones – a talent kept secret turned into a breakout career no one expected. You have to “get known” before you have a good chance of making it. I know that’s not what you want to hear. I know just the idea of sitting alone with your laptop, struggling to build up an audience, feeling like no one hears you makes you feel nauseous. Reality check: WE ALL HAVE TO START HERE.

Sometimes it takes a long time to figure out what works and build a following and get confident. That’s called earning your right to succeed as a creator. Start from the bottom, working for free. Work your way up. Take your time. Let yourself get frustrated. Question your motives. Keep writing, even if you don’t make any money doing it. The longer you do it, the greater your chances are of earning the paychecks you deserve.

You like to create things. So create things. It starts here, where your name is unrecognizable and everything you publish gets only a few hits every two weeks and you’re not earning even a cent. It starts now, when you know this is what you want to do but you can’t see two feet in front of you because you’re so worried about things out of your control. Writing for free is temporary. You don’t know its worth now, and won’t for months, maybe even years down the road. That’s why you can’t just wait for success to find you. You have to move. You have to do. The money comes later. Shift your focus; make a plan. Write like no one’s watching – because, right now, it’s likely nobody is. Yet.

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.