These days, it seems like every blog, YouTube channel and podcast related to writing has a common theme: how to make money as a writer. I’ve covered it here, plenty of times.
This is, obviously, because every creative person dreams of turning their art into a full-time career. Nothing at all wrong with that.
Except … what if you don’t really care about making writing your career? At least, not as much as you care about the writing itself?
What if you just want to write, whether you earn a paycheck doing it or not?
How do you motivate yourself to write when there’s not really any financial incentive?
What’s the motivation to do anything, really, if you’re not interested in selling hundreds of copies of your latest book, or whatever it is you’re trying to market for a profit?
For those of you who just want to continue writing as a hobby – and I know you’re out there – just because an income as a writer isn’t your main priority now, or never will be, doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy your work, measure your progress and lead a fulfilling life as a writer.
First, forget about anyone who bugs you about not wanting to make a career out of writing. You can get published without having to get a book deal or starting a blog with ads surrounding every page. Just because you write “for free” doesn’t mean what you’re writing is any less valuable. Sure, everyone would love to get paid for it. But if you’re not really interested, hey, that’s fine. You can still be proud of your accomplishments.
Measure your improvement through other metrics. While it’s not always all about the views or the followers or the subscribers, if you don’t have an income to measure how you’re doing, you still might need some kind of number to keep yourself on track. You can even measure how much you’ve written in the past week compared to the one before, or set a goal to write a certain number of words by the end of the month. Readers are often hard to come by, especially in the beginning, but tracking how many people are “paying attention” does help – and it’s a nice confidence-booster, too.
Challenge yourself. Don’t write about the same old things day after day. Mix it up. Set higher goals than you’re used to and see if you can reach them. Remember, a good writer never stops improving, never settles, never lets herself get too comfortable. You are allowed to work hard and do something you enjoy just on your own time, “for fun.”
Never lose sight of the drive to write. Writers who aren’t currently interested in making a full-time career out of their art almost (ALMOST) have an advantage over those trying to make a living doing the exact same thing: there’s less pressure. In some cases, that’s not great. But it also means you have the rare opportunity to focus more on the writing itself, and why you’re passionate about it. I’m glad I don’t make money writing fiction, because I’m honestly not sure I would still do it if someone was paying me to. It’s what reminds me I love to tell stories. Maybe it’s the same for you. Maybe not. But no matter what, never let go of that need to create. It’s a part of you, whether it becomes your career or not. Embrace it.
If you want to write because you love it, and that’s it, then go for it. Put all the energy you can into creating something – it’s a gift. Not everyone can or has the desire to do what you do. There is always a chance you might get paid to write someday, and that’s great – it’s the end goal for many people. But it’s OK not to want to, or be able to, focus on that right now. Just enjoy the ride. Maybe someday – or maybe not. Don’t stress yourself out TOO much. You’re doing this for a good reason. Keep it up.
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.