Are You Doing the Wrong Kind of Writing?

You’re doing the wrong work. Probably.

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.

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.

The In-Between: Why It’s Good to Daydream (How to Earn a Career in Writing, Part 7)

Be open to new ideas.

You can picture it in your mind. All of it.

It’s different for everyone – maybe you see yourself sitting at a table, signing some books. Maybe you picture arriving on a website and seeing your story on the home page. Maybe you can see yourself just living comfortably, making a living doing this writing thing, happy.

We all daydream. We think about what we want, what it will feel like when we finally get there.

What are you doing as you’re losing yourself in these imaginary futures? Struggling through late nights so you can get enough writing in before you have to go to sleep, only to wake up before the sun tomorrow so you can get to your day job on time? Wondering why you have to take this random class you don’t care about just so you can get a degree? Submitting pitch after pitch, always hearing nothing or having to face rejection – again?

Maybe you try to keep yourself busy … because the thought of never actually getting what you want is just too much to deal with.

Maybe you need to just take things slow … and let your brain work its magic.

Because while it’s true that you can’t succeed without first working harder than you ever have before, you can end up crushing your creativity under the weight of your stress if you aren’t careful.

You need to give yourself time to think, time to plan, time to dream.

Television writer Emma Koenig puts it like this:

“When you give up external stimulation for a minute, your brain is freed to stimulate itself… That is exactly when you are going to have your amazing idea. That is when you are going to decide you want to try something new. That is when you are going to talk yourself into doing something you are afraid of.” (Hustle Economy, p. 67)

So it’s late at night, you’re tired from your job, you’re too wired to write – yet your mind is racing and you can’t sleep. Daydream.

You’re bored during class, you feel like you have a decent grasp on the material yet you still have to sit there and wait. Daydream.

It’s lunch time, you have about 20 minutes to submit another pitch to another busy editor, but you’re feeling low on ideas. Daydream.

Don’t just sit around and wonder what success might look like for you. Think about what you need to do to create it. There’s a Big Idea in there somewhere, waiting for you to notice it. Take a moment to sit back, to let your thoughts run around. It will appear. You will recognize it. It will change everything.

I get my best ideas for posts and articles when I have a slow freelancing day. Ideas pop up when I’m working, too, but I give myself a lot more down time than I used to. It’s necessary for creativity to thrive.

You know where you want to be – and if you don’t, you need to give yourself time to think hard about what you really want. It takes time to figure out how you’re going to get from where you are to whichever daydream sticks the most in your mind. It takes strategy and pro-con lists and all this brain power you’re using up just trying to make it through the day.

I know it’s frustrating. I know it’s not what you want to hear – but maybe instead of always worrying about what you’re supposed to be writing, and complaining about how you’re spending hours upon hours doing something other than writing, you should just stop. No TV, internet, phone – just stop. Just exist. Face your thoughts. Be open to new ideas. Be honest with yourself.

If you really want this to work out, it’s going to take some serious balancing of effort and brain stimulation-only time. Can you do that? The better question is – will you try?

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)



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.

Writing is Always Work – But That’s Good (How to Earn a Career in Writing, Part 4)

Want it? Work for it. Write what and why you want to.

“Consider the creation of an individual human and all the processes and events required for this new person to exist… conscious life as we know it, is just a culmination of a bunch of random separate entities that got what they wanted. So while you certainly can kick back and enjoy the life… you can’t knock the hustle.” – Adrian Sanders, cofounder of Beacon (Hustle Economy, p. 40)

Some of you write professionally. Many of you don’t. There are a lot of people who work extremely hard to use their words to pay for necessities. I’m proud of you. You’re working very hard. You know you are. You feel it in your bones. It kind of aches. But it’s an ache you put up with, because survival is essential.

There are also many people out there who write for fun. I applaud you, all of you. You’re also working very hard, and you don’t even realize that’s what you’re doing.


It’s still work, even when it doesn’t feel like work. Writing a novel? That’s work. Blogging? Work. Poetry? Work. At the end of a long writing session, you feel drained – yet elated. The adrenaline wears off, and you migrate toward your bed – even though you’re extremely proud of what you’ve just done.

Writing, whether you know it or not, is always work. You are creating something out of nothing – a story, a product that could potentially be sold. You are developing a skill you may be able to someday offer as a service to someone who doesn’t want to do all the writing themselves.

It doesn’t feel like work because it’s the kind of work you WANT to be doing. All that effort is so much more likely to pay off, because you’re giving it all you can give – yet you’re having fun (almost).

We all need to work, writing about things that fulfill us and encourage us to create change in the world. I see no reason why we can’t – all of us.

Now you’re yelling at your screen: “This isn’t possible for everyone! Some people don’t have the option to do writing they enjoy!”

Well why not?

Because I’m pretty confident that if you really wanted to – if you were willing to do whatever it took to earn a successful writing career – you’d do it. You’d make the necessary sacrifices.

Surviving in this industry is about doing whatever it takes. Setting aside things that are blocking your way. Making it work, whatever that means for you.

Making time for writing things that matter to you.

Keeping your eye on what your seemingly small, insignificant effort could turn into.

I’ve always said writing is like raising a child. Maybe the baby-making analogy works too. You put in the effort to make something, you give up whatever you need to give up to let it thrive, you just keep working until there’s an outcome, because that’s what hustling is.

But the hard work doesn’t stop when the outcome plays out. What if I’d just stopped blogging once we hit 50 followers? 100? 300? Where would that have gotten us?

Just because you do happen to get what you’ve been working so hard for doesn’t mean you can quit. All your dreams coming true is a sign you should keep up the pace. Keep building upon your successes and learning from your failures.

Whether you write for someone else for a paycheck or yourself for free, writing is work. Make the work good. Interesting. Make it count. Put in the effort. Don’t just sit back and wonder what to do next – get up and do it. Hustle. Even if you’re having the time of your life and it feels easy and you’re not stressed. Keep writing. It’s worth it. Always.

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 3

Work your butt off.

A single success is just an open door. It is not a free ride to happy town. Anything worth doing is tons of work… When that door opens, that is when you start working your patoot off. And when your patoot falls off, staple it back on until you work it off again.

– Ben Grelle, internet comedian, writer (Hustle Economy, p. 32)

I have successfully answered to the (loud, terrifying, unwanted) call of my 6 a.m. alarm for nine days in a row.

I do not particularly enjoy emerging from my pillow and blanket haven this early in the day. Currently, it is still dark out when my alarm goes off.

This morning, I was dreaming about impressing a former professor with cupcakes (#cookingforagradescarredmeforlife).

I’m doing squats daily. My butt is very confused and would prefer for me to move as little as possible for the next 72 hours.

I would have gladly returned to my warm and comfy sanctuary. But I didn’t.

People who say you have to wake up early to be successful are wrong. I don’t do it because it’s somehow magically going to get me a job or win me awards or something.

Nope. I do it so I can spend six uninterrupted hours every night watching Netflix.

Netflix is not work. I don’t generally talk about how many hours I spend per week streaming shows, because it makes me sound lazy.

Except I’m not. Because when I wake up at 6 a.m., I spend the first three hours of my day in preparation – making lists, reading, journaling, exercising (squaaaaats), caffeinating – not working. But working my way up to working.

And then, from nine to five, guess what I do? I work.

Sometimes I spend an hour after that on what some would call “passion projects,” but I prefer to call them, “things I’m going to launch at some point but still have no idea what exactly they are so not yet.”

The point is, I spend a solid eight hours working – meeting the reasonable demands of my clients, hunting for small projects to take on, keeping this blog on the radar, slowly (sloooooowly) still trying to finish novels from the past two Novembers.

Work. I work. Hard. And then I give my brain (and butt) a rest. Because, right now, I am very fortunate to be able to do that – leave some space in the schedule for myself.

Here’s the thing about work: no two people work in the exact same way. So what I’ve just told you might be interesting, but it’s probably not the way you prefer to do things. And that’s OK.

You might love sleeping in. Someone who works from home, as I do, has the luxury of doing that. You might be completely fine not starting your work until lunchtime and working late into the evening. There is nothing wrong with that. That is what works for YOU.

So far in this series we’ve talked about working for free and about finishing what you start, whether the work is good or bad. But now we have to talk about the work itself – or the process of working, rather. Because you have a zero percent chance of success as a writer if you do not work to earn what you want.

You have to work the way that works for you – and I mean REALLY works. If you can only find time to do the bulk of your writing on weekends, then the generic non-inclusive advice to take weekends off from working does not apply to you. As long as you are spending that time doing quality work, and you are proud of that work, then keep working like that. It’s no one’s place to say you can’t.

The more you work, the more likely you are to earn one success. And once you earn one success, you have a choice: let it go to your head and get lazy, or use the momentum to kick your work up a notch.

I could probably work more than 40 hours a week if I wanted to. I would make more money and publish more content. But that is not what is going to work for me right now. I spent the past 20 years in school and I deserve a few months of not having to constantly staple my butt back on, thank you very much. But this is not typical for me, and I don’t plan on letting squats alone kick me into shape for long. There will come a point when the work that I am doing now pays off in a very small way (slow and steady), and when that happens, I will have built up enough stamina to take off running again, stapler at the ready. Not now. But soon enough.

People don’t like figuring out for themselves what they need to do to make work work. I’m not completely sure why that is, but reality check: if you’re not working the way that works, you’re not going to want to keep doing it. Going back to last week – giving up happens when you’re not willing to follow through. Hard work ALWAYS pays off. Not always immediately, not always in the exact way you want. But your success is a path unlike anyone else’s. No one has succeeded in the way you will before. The more you work, the more efficiently you organize your work, the further down your own personal path to success you will go.

Here – these are all the resources you’ll need to get better at working. Work your butt off. Or if you’ve just literally worked your butt off, take a short breather, grab your stapler and get back to it. It’s your work. It’s your success you’re going after here. You have to make the conscious decision to go for it, to make the necessary sacrifices, to earn 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.

How to Earn a Career in Writing – Part 2

Don’t just start – finish.

Read Part 1

“What you make won’t always be good, make you money, or reach your desired audience. But if you finish it, it will at the very least be done… that’s the only way it has a chance of checking any of those boxes. Do things. Do them until they are done.”

– Jason Oberholtzer, editor and producer (Hustle Economy, pp. 23-24)

Out of all the creative projects you have started in the past year, how many have you actually finished? How many are you still working on? How many have you had to put to rest, unfinished?

I, as I’m sure many others do, can name past and current projects in each of these categories. The abandoned, unfinished ones being the most difficult to admit.

But I am not a chronic unfinisher. Unless there is a reasonable roadblock preventing me from finishing something, and I am forced to admit defeat, I finish what I start.

But many don’t. Which is why so many complain that they just can’t seem to ever finish anything.

Many writers and creatives struggle with something I like to call a Finishing Complex. They tangle themselves so unnecessarily in worries about What Happens When This Is Over that they stop before they ever get to Over.

I’m all for the claim that starting is better than nothing – you deserve all the praise and then some for acting on an idea. But you can’t just go through life dragging all your unfinished projects behind you. Not if you want to earn the right to call yourself a Successful Professional – whatever that means.

There are likely dozens of reasons why people start things but don’t finish them. The two plaguing writers the most, I’m going to guess, are these:

  • The euphoria that comes with Starting Something New wears off – it stops being fun, so usually you just end up taking the easy way out and quitting, usually passively (gradually working on something less and less until it lays eternally forgotten)
  • Other things get in the way – usually distractions you’re for whatever reason unable to overcome. You start binge-watching a new show on Netflix (DON’T DO IT) or you make the mistake of deciding to work on a new project without planning out how you’re also going to simultaneously work on finishing the current one.

There’s a possible third – you don’t think it’s good enough, so you just give up.

Here’s the cliche reality you’ve heard too many times already: writing is hard, getting published is harder, it’s not always going to be fun, it sometimes takes years to break into the business.

Here’s what you don’t hear often enough: the more often you quit before you’re done, the less likely you are to break that cycle someday.

If you want to succeed in writing, you have to train yourself to work until you’re done. This takes a lot of discipline – something else you’ll need to overcome this habit of just not wanting to get it done. You’re not lazy – you just have a weak skill. All weak skills can be strengthened – with effort, and hard work. It’s essential, if you want to be a finisher. Finishers, eventually, make money, and reach larger audiences, and are more proud of what they’ve accomplished.

Yeah, it’s too hard, you’re tired, you keep getting rejected, all the feedback you get feels like needles in your chest. None of that even matters if you aren’t able to follow through. Finishing is a skill – not just in writing, but all over the professional landscape. If you don’t know how to consistently finish things, who’s going to be able to rely on you to do so regularly – and pay you for it? Nobody.

You never know how a particular piece of writing will turn out. You might think something in progress is the worst thing you’ve ever written. Finish it anyway. If nothing else, finishing makes you feel more accomplished. It boosts your confidence. It helps build up your resilience. There are going to be times you’re responsible for writing something, and you don’t want to keep going, but you have to anyway. It’s not an option. What are you going to do when you get to that point?

Why should I keep writing when I’m bored?

Here’s the thing … if you’re bored writing it, someone else will be bored reading it. So if you’re losing interest, it’s up to you to reignite some kind of spark. You have all the power in the world to spice up your own work – use it. The thing is, you had an idea. Your brain came up with something good enough that you made the conscious decision to sit down and start writing. Just because it’s no longer shiny and new doesn’t mean you should abandon ship when you still have plenty of sailing to do. Just keep writing. Make it interesting – overly dramatic, if you have to. You’re not THAT bored – you’re looking for an easy way out. Stop making excuses.

I’m good at meeting deadlines – just not my own

If you’re someone who works well on deadline but can’t push yourself to finish anything on your own, you’re probably accountability dependent – you need someone or something to hold you accountable for doing your work and following through, or it’ll never happen. There’s nothing wrong with that – but if external accountability isn’t available, you do need to take some steps to learn how to set and meet your own deadlines. Otherwise, scout Facebook groups and other writing forums to see if a reliable accountability buddy is ready and willing to partner up.

But my writing really is awful!

Really – says who? Has anyone ever straight up told you, “You are a bad writer?” I highly doubt it. If you’re going off of your own opinions of your work, stop it. We’re not allowed to officially judge our own work, because 95 percent of the time, we’ll hate it and think it’s the worst piece of writing ever created. It’s normal to cringe at your own writing, but that doesn’t mean your writing is bad. If you’ve received negative feedback on your work from someone else, that also doesn’t mean you’ve done a bad job. It’s actually more disappointing if critics have nothing bad to say about your writing. There’s always going to be someone who feels the need to point out a flaw. Get over it.

How do you make money and grow your audience as a writer? By finishing what you start. Every project you finish is another chance at success. Pick one thing from your long list of Things You Want to Start and focus on finishing that one thing. Finishing doesn’t mean it has to be perfect. It means it has to be done. Done, in first-draft terms, still means a lot. Get to that point, so you can go even further.

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.