There’s a big difference between writing productively and writing happily.
Let’s set aside the truth that writing isn’t always fun, just for a second. At the end of a long day of writing, you most likely feel tired. This is either because you’ve gotten a lot done and you’re proud of that … or you’ve gotten a lot done, but pretty much hated every second of it.
What does it mean when you’re not proud of the work you’ve accomplished?
How does that affect your writing?
And how do you stop hating what you’re writing?
Donna Salgado, dance artist, has some advice for you on this topic.
“Be proud of your hustle,” she says in her essay included in The Hustle Economy. “If you are ashamed of the [work] you are doing, it will just drag you down.”
But wait, you’re thinking: I’m ashamed of every single thing I write. So should I quit?
Salgado is talking about shame, though, not self-consciousness. If you are feeling ashamed, you feel you have done something wrong or stupid. It’s an internal cringe. If you’re self-conscious, you’re embarrassed by what others may or may not be thinking about you. It’s an external anxiety.
What we’re talking about here is knowing you’re not doing your best. You’re not working for the right people. You’re not where you want to be.
And that bothers you. Because obviously, you know you’re more capable than this.
It’s not confidence you lack. It’s a shortage of satisfying work that’s weighing you down.
And why aren’t you doing the work you want to? There are a handful of possible reasons. One: you’re not qualified yet to do the work you want to do. This probably means you need to focus on smaller writing goals until you’ve reached the skill/experience/education level required to work toward your larger, more ambitious goals.
Two: you don’t know where to look for better opportunities to do the kind of writing you like. I notice a lot of people have this problem — they want to do X kind of writing, but they don’t know how to find experience to be able to do that kind of work. It’s different for every specific niche under the professional writing umbrella, so you first have to know what kind of writing you want to do. The easiest way to figure this out is to survey your own writing: what kind of writing makes you happiest? What makes you tired, but not angry with the writing gods?
I had an atrocious time finding writing experience until I decided to focus on health writing. Only then could I build up a portfolio and an educational background that allowed me to do the kind of work that fulfills and energizes me.
(Some of you have asked how I went from starting a blog as a teenager to writing professionally three years after finishing college. There’s a lot to talk about. I’ll get to laying it all out for you at some point.)
Once you know what you have to do, well, Google is a great starting point when it comes to finding stuff to do. I’m serious. The internet is a great thing if you know how to use keywords.
It’s about who you know, what you’re trained to do, what you’re willing to try …
And being willing to say, “I don’t want to do this anymore,” and start looking for something better.
If the work you’re doing makes you feel like you have to hide, you’re doing the wrong work.
So what are you going to do to change that now?
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.