All Writers Mess Up, Big Time (How to Earn a Career in Writing, Part 5)

Oops.

Disappointed.

That’s what they told me – that the spec article I’d worked so hard on left them “disappointed.”

I won’t get into how I feel about that choice of phrasing right now (people say things, it’s not personal, blah blah blah). Anyway.

This was a prospective project that was meant to challenge me, yet when I failed to deliver exactly what the client wanted (not always an easy thing to do in the health space), their response stirred something dark and unsettling inside me.

I write to impress. As you can hopefully guess, I don’t always impress. Who does? I’m just a human. I make human-like errors.

We all fail – yes, even me. It really sways your confidence, though, when you almost grab onto that bar you’ve set so high – your fingertips touch it, you almost have it – but you still end up facedown on the ground, red-faced and wanting nothing more than to crawl into a bottomless hole and never emerge.

I was bored. Freelancing hit a mundane patch for me, so I decided to stretch myself a little – thinking, of course, that I could do just fine.

That particular piece of feedback really messed me up. Not for long – not to the point where I considered quitting and settling for a different career path – but doubt is not friendly. It twists things around and makes you feel like you’re doing everything wrong, even when you’re not.

It scared me. Really. I remember thinking, “Are people just lying to me? Am I a terrible writer, and people are just being nice because they don’t want to hurt my feelings?”

I mean, for all I know, that could be true. Ignorance is bliss. I just don’t like doubt being the one thing that forces me to think about potential realities too hard.

Fear and doubt and self-consciousness brought on by negative commentary – these are the most dangerous obstacles for writers. They’re manipulative and suffocating. Bad, bad, bad.

But leave it to film editor Farah Khalid to say exactly what we all need to hear in situations like this:

“Fear can be an indicator of when you need to push yourself harder. When were you last afraid/uncomfortable? Not recently? Well then, are you really growing as an artist?” (Hustle Economy, p. 49)

Oh. OH. So I was on the right track, then? I did a good thing, even though I almost burst into tears because I started having flashbacks about that one time I disappointed my mom in like, middle school?

(Understand, this is the way the brain of an Anxious person works. I know a client’s feedback has actually nothing to do with me personally. I can’t think rationally when I’m Anxious.)

I was nervous about that spec assignment for days. I put it off for over 48 hours, something I never do when I’m writing to impress. It wasn’t that I was in over my head – it was just stretching me beyond what I was used to.

You see, you get too comfortable when you spend too much time at the same level of writing. I write for a few blogs, which, honestly, means they’re not always too picky about how many scientific studies you mention in your posts. I got a little lazy. I got a little cocky, maybe. And when I thought, “I need a challenge,” I sprinted headfirst into a brick wall of shame and disappointment. Awesome.

You can’t grow unless you work harder than you did yesterday. But you also can’t grow unless you fail – and unless you’re willing to look your mistakes in the eye, learn from them and move on.

I probably could have pushed myself a little harder to impress that client. I could have spent more time on that article. I could have asked more questions, could have put what would have felt like excessive effort into a trial assignment (I’d already spent more than two hours on it – more than usual for cases like this). There are plenty of things I could have done differently. The reason we fail is because we remember how much failing hurts – and we, hopefully, don’t continue to make the same mistakes when something like this comes around again.

I messed up. My biggest fear is messing up. So I’m really glad it happened. I’m not saying you should go out there and purposely make mistakes just to learn how to be a better writer – it’s never purposeful. Just don’t get discouraged when things like this happen (because they will).

We think we’re working as hard as we can, right up until it’s suddenly not quite good enough anymore – oops! Failure is a chance to return to your last checkpoint and evaluate whether or not you did everything you could have before you missed the bar. You’ll try again. Maybe you’ll fail a few more times. But you’ll work harder and harder each time, until you succeed. It’s how you earn the title of ‘writer.’ It’s not always fun. But it teaches you a lot about yourself along the way.


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.

Give Up, Or Change Your Goals?

Growing as a writer is both breathtaking and heart-stopping. In many ways, experiencing creative growth involves exploring stories no one has ever told; gaining the authority to spread messages that change the world, even. But it also means change – change in your writing process; even in the things you pursue, professionally, as a writer always-in-training.

I have written on several occasions this year about my decision to no longer make writing fiction a priority in my schedule. Perhaps I’ve played it off as though this was an easy choice. When you’ve held onto a dream for a very long time, it feels uncomfortable even considering the idea of setting it aside. I want to make it clear that in no way do I believe changing direction, in any hobby, academic setting or career, is or should be easy. It isn’t. It’s heartbreaking. In a freeing kind of way.

I must have been nine or ten years old when I first considered writing a book. I didn’t start taking it seriously until high school, which was the first time an authority figure told me to my face that I was a skilled writer, and actually meant it.

Before that, I’d had other considerations for creative-focused ways I wanted to spend my adult life. Dancing, drawing, singing being the most memorable. I was either extremely bad at or not seriously committed enough to any of these things (to this day I’d give anything to say I’m a good dancer, but trust me, that dream is as good as dead).

But writing always seemed to be the common thread that linked all of these hobbies together. I still have a journal I kept throughout elementary school. Most of the pages feature at least a few lines of writing, with (awful) drawings underneath to go along with the narratives above them. I have binders full of old song lyrics. I’ve written at least a few stories in the past about ballerinas.

So you would think that I would have stuck to fiction writing. And I did, for a really long time. Until I took my first and only creative writing class in college, which was challenging … and for reasons I couldn’t figure out, not the way I wanted to be spending my free writing time.

I still write fiction. I still dance and sing and sketch when nobody’s watching (who doesn’t?). But I figured out very early on in my writing ‘career’ that as much fun as it is to make up stories and create my own worlds and meet people that don’t actually exist, my heart is set on a very different kind of writing. And if you’re not aware of my background, I ended up getting a master’s degree in health communication, so that I could more credibly pursue a career in writing about health and nutrition – because that is what I want to wake up every morning and do.

The reason I first started pushing my desire to publish a novel further and further from my top priorities was that the idea of sitting in an office all day writing fiction did not excite me. I wasn’t even close to achieving that dream, and I was already bored.

I have never received an award or any kind of recognition for my creative writing, because while I might enjoy it, it’s not my strength. I am likely never going to make a career out of publishing novels. However, I have received more compliments on my nonfiction writing portfolio than I personally think I deserve, not because I’m the best, but because I enjoy it enough to have spent enough hours on those projects to develop the skill level necessary to create good work, consistently, in that niche.

The only thing that still makes me feel uneasy about this whole thing is that, this year, in a sense, I gave up on a dream. When I made my list of goals for 2016 at the end of last year, I included both querying and signing with an agent on that list. But my interest in both of those things has dropped significantly. Not because I do not like to write fiction, but because I would rather use my writing skills for something I am much more marketable for – and something I can make an enjoyable career out of.

This year, when I make my 2017 goals, other than a few Wrimos and finishing up old projects, fiction writing won’t have much of a presence there. And that’s OK.

Goals change. Just because you decide you want to focus on some other area of writing – or something completely unrelated to writing – does not mean you have failed, or that you’re not a good writer, or that you’re letting yourself or someone else down. What it means is that you are growing. You are figuring out what you do and don’t want to do with your time. It’s a sign of creative maturity. It also means that you’re going to enjoy your free time much more – because you can write whatever you want to. But you don’t have to. It’s completely up to you. You are free.

I do want to encourage you never to give up writing completely, though, even if your professional goals do shift and don’t take writing along with them. If you’re here, reading this, writing has an important place in your life and in your heart. I’m never going to stop writing fiction: it is part of who I am. I will always respond to the urge to tell stories, even if no one ever reads them. You can’t ignore that deep calling within yourself, no matter what kind of writing it is – not if you truly want to be happy, and satisfied with who you are as a person.

Let’s not look at this as giving up on a dream. Let’s look at it as an active choice to change our goals as writers. Just because you might decide against trying to make a living as an author, for example, doesn’t mean writing has any less meaning in your life. Our desires change as we grow. Maybe this is only a temporary shift, and as your life continues to change, someday you’ll feel the desire to pursue this kind of dream again. Or not. We can never know exactly what the future holds.

You are allowed to pursue whatever dream ignites passion inside you. If you wake up one day and realize that dream has changed, run with it. See where it takes you. Hold on to small pieces of what made that old dream so important to you. They don’t disappear. They’re part of your story, the one you write as you move through life, balancing everything, doing what needs to be done and doing what you can’t live without.

Whatever you decide to do, best of luck to you. Your passion for Your Thing, and your willingness to work hard to earn it, are going to take you farther than you ever expected someone like you could go.


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.

Let Your Writing Processes Evolve as You Do

You are not the same person you once were.

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There is almost nothing better than realizing you’ve finally figured it out.

No, not your fastest winter commute route, not your true calling or the perfect blend of milk, sugar and coffee for your homemade latte (well, maybe you’ve figured all those things out – kudos to you).

I’m talking about your writing process. The perfect routine that has made you the most productive, fulfilled, maybe even the happiest you have ever been since you decided you wanted to be a writer.

A writer, at least from what I can tell based on my own experience, will hit these points in their writing life multiple times. It’s that week you accidentally work 60 hours and don’t even feel it because you’re writing and you’ve dreamed of this since forever. It’s that Saturday you wake up, intending to write for an hour or so before taking the rest of the weekend off – but instead you encounter a rush of creativity and end up writing until it’s suddenly dark out again.

Unfortunately, a writer will hit these points in their writing life just as often as things will fall apart. As much as you would love to continue on the way things are, life just doesn’t work like that. Things change. Not just externally – major life events that sometimes force you to hit the pause button on even your most fulfilling creative projects – but internally as well. Suddenly you can’t wake up at 4 a.m. like you used to. You can’t concentrate on the subway anymore. When you get home from work, you’re often too tired to spend your evenings writing. Saturdays become unproductive, at least in a creative sense.

I have a feeling this stops many writers from pursuing their greatest ambitions. As much as they would love to keep at it, the world spins too fast, and there no longer seems to be enough time; enough energy; enough drive to work as hard as they once did on something so uncertain.

This happens because things change, but many neglect to change their processes along with life’s twists and turns. In college I used to wake up at 3 in the morning so I had time for homework, extracurriculars and writing. I would love to be able to continue to do that, but I found out pretty soon after graduating that I could no longer handle it. I had to shift my entire routine to make room for writing and come to terms with the fact that my mind and body demanded more sleep. Even if it meant rearranging my entire life to make writing fit, I knew I had to do it. And I did. I still do. If I tried to keep everything the same as my life shifted, I would have to give up writing completely, because it does not work the same way now, in terms of timing and efficiency, as it has in the past.

As writers, we evolve. Once a night owl, you may now find that you get most of your writing done before 8 a.m. – because that is now what works best for you. While you used to completely despise outlines, now you depend on them to keep all your projects organized and moving forward.

There is no rule that says what works for you right now has to continue to work for you forever. As you grow, you have to be willing to let your writing processes shift around to accommodate that. Physically; emotionally; mentally. You are not the same person you once were. You are not the same writer you once were. Change is a sign of growth. Embrace it. Use it to your advantage. Whatever you need to do to keep writing, do it. Especially if it’s what you want, if it fills you up, if you need it, as many of us do.

If what you’re trying to do now isn’t working, don’t give up writing. Sit down and figure out how to make writing fit comfortably into your life again. If you have to give up something unessential along the way – weeknight TV, or going out to dinner twice a week – do it. If writing means that much to you, you will make room for it in your life. Trust me.


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.

Let’s Write, Learn and Grow Together

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About seven months ago, I published this post. Which, at first glance, doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, right? It’s not much different than the daily posts you’ve seen appear here every day since June (that’s a lot of posts). It’s not like you haven’t seen plenty of posts like this before.

There’s something special about it, though. Can you guess what it is?

It was, officially, the first post I ever published on Novelty Revisions.

That was a big deal, seven months ago. Because even though I had been blogging aimlessly for six years and had about 20 or so subscribers, I hadn’t been posting regularly. My posts weren’t really about anything, and the posts about writing didn’t really have a clear audience. I wanted to keep blogging, but I needed structure. I needed something new, without completely getting rid of the old stuff.

It took me weeks of long train rides and late nights in February trying to figure out what I wanted my blog to be. Seven months ago, though, I figured it out. And at some point, you showed up. Since March, subscribers have quadrupled. Site hits are consistently, well, not zero.

It’s not about numbers, though. I don’t want you to think that’s all I care about. The reason I spend so much time on my work for Novelty is that, in doing so, I get to help other writers. I get to share my experiences and put an honest, yet motivational spin on writing advice. It’s a tough gig. The majority of writers don’t get paid to do what they do. I don’t make money doing this. Numbers aren’t important to me, unless I’m trying to measure growth, and how many people I am able to help with each daily post.

That’s how we improve. As writers and as humans. We look at where we used to be, so we can motivate ourselves to continue to improve.

Our number of readers is slowly, but steadily growing. I really do appreciate the kind comments you all take the time to leave in that handy dandy little box down there. I’m here to help you, but really, we help each other. I don’t always know the kind of content you want to read, but I’m learning. I’m learning that change is actually one of the many keys to successful growth, in anything.

We are growing, which is great. But if I just kept doing what I’ve been doing the last seven months, that growth will eventually level off. I don’t want things to stay the same. And I’m sure you don’t, either.

That’s right, Noveltiers. Change is coming. And it’s coming soon.

Our flow of content and the content itself will stay the same. I’m not going anywhere. It’s still my mission to help you put your ideas into words, whether I’m talking about a literary concept or time management or just motivating you to keep going and stay strong when you want to burn all your manuscripts (don’t do that). But I think this blog, website, whatever you prefer to call it, can do more than that. I want to do more than that, for you.

You’ve given me a lot, over the past seven months. I owe you.

So starting next month, for the first time in the history of this blog and all its transformations over the past six and a half years, I will be sending a weekly newsletter straight to your inboxes. This newsletter (one of many “novelty” add-ons coming your way) will contain weekly top favorites, for those who don’t get the chance to visit daily (I don’t expect you to, that’s a lot of reading). And plenty of more exciting updates, both about my personal writing updates and more stuff you can apply to your own crazy awesome writing life.

There’s only one thing you need to do to get these updates. You guessed it this time. If you sign up for my weekly newsletter by tomorrow, you’ll receive the first-ever weekly issue, in which you’ll get even more news about what I’m planning. Including the exclusive option for you to guest post and a preview of an upcoming project I will refer to only as “Brain Rush.”

If you want to take any guesses as to what that might be, go ahead. Guess. You might even get it right. And I might even have a special prize for you.

That’s all you get. It’s free. It’s written by me. But it’s not for me or even really about me. It’s still all about you. That’s what I’m here for. If I only did this for me, quite honestly, I would have stopped a long time ago. I have a lot of ideas. All I want is to be able to share them with you, in hopes you’ll be able to get something out of them, too.

Check back in tomorrow for some tips on how to stay healthy during NaNoWriMo, and if you hit that signup button, you’ll be hearing even more from me then, too.

Until then, though – write on!

Love&hugs, Meg<3

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

Meg is a twenty-something workaholic with a passion for writing, coffee and health. In addition to her status as an aspiring novelist, Meg is the managing editor at College Lifestyles magazine, a guest contributor with Lifehack and a guest blogger for Food & Nutrition Magazine. She is a seven-time NaNoWriMo winner and has also written for Teen Ink and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter.