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.

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.

Are You Deadline Dependent?

Time is running out. Probably.

writing

Deadlines. You either love them or you hate them. And by that, I mean everyone hates them, even though, for many, they are a lifeline.

Some writers cannot function without deadlines. They need a set endpoint to work toward in a timely manner (or not), if they ever plan on getting any writing done. Some writers absolutely crumble in the face of deadlines. It’s too much pressure. They need to work on their own time, at their own pace, or, once again, nothing will ever get done.

There is nothing ‘wrong’ with either of these two things, unless of course you are trying to write professionally but can’t make deadlines to save your life. In that case, you need to find some kind of balance between writing consistently without feeling too pressured to rush through your writing simply for the sake of getting it done.

For those who really want to be better at meeting deadlines, know that setting your own deadlines and trying to hold yourself accountable does not always work. The best recommendation I have is to, in one way or another, start writing on behalf of someone who will hold you to a deadline. I’ve had writers in the past who have told me that if it wasn’t for my strict deadlines, they would have never learned how to manage their time to avoid being late. Of course, that might mean you miss a deadline and get penalized. It happens. It’s happened to me. Failure is one of the best ways to learn to NOT do something (and/or how to do something else better).

It’s OK to be dependent on deadlines. After awhile, you really do get used to quicker turnarounds. And if you are a procrastinator, you learn how far you can push yourself, and how to utilize pressure to drive your creativity, and energy, forward, especially when it’s crunch time.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have 10,000 words to write before midnight. BRB.


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.