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.

Write Like You’re Seven Years Old Again

Set your imagination free.

“When I begin my work with a period of play … I tend to like the result.” – Monica Guzman, columnist (Hustle Economy, p. 93)

When you first started writing, you weren’t really writing. You were playing.

You don’t remember this well: you were a child then. But it happened.

Yes, technically, you were scribbling words on paper. (If for whatever reason you’re young enough to have started out writing on a computer without ever having to handwrite, I don’t want to hear it.) But really, you were more so playing a game. Writing was just a cooler way to play make-believe.

Then something happened. You grew up.

And with that growth, sure, came a lot of knowledge, and a lot of practice, and a lot of pretty decent stories, blog posts, poems, etc.

But you started worrying a lot more. Worrying about how other people would react to your work. About whether or not you’re good enough at this whole “being creative” thing.

Writing stopped being about play, and started being about work. Metrics, improvement, productivity.

You might not remember what it was like, writing when you were young. But I do.

I remember being seven years old, looking forward to every free moment I had to write in my diary.

I remember writing in school – what about, I’m not sure. I remember my teachers talking to my parents about how I wasn’t the best at reading out loud in class … but I could write.

And I liked it. Stories made me feel whole in a way I didn’t yet understand. Now, of course, I know that feeling to be the satisfaction I feel when I create. It runs deep; it’s embedded into my soul. It always has been. It always will be.

We wrote without shame, when we were seven. We didn’t let anything hold us back.

There is a time to be serious – a time when we need to say, “Writing brings me joy, but at this particular moment, this is business and I need to focus on doing this exactly right.”

But that only makes free writing all the more enjoyable. You don’t know what freedom is if you’ve never had to force yourself to spend time locked inside a box.

If you really want to earn a career in writing, this is how you do it. You learn to identify and take advantage of the moments when it’s OK to dive into a stream of consciousness writing session. Sometimes, you have to pretend it’s (well, in my case) 1999 again. You have an idea for a story. You’re not sure about most of the things that happen in that story or how to start writing it or who you’re going to show it to when it’s done. But you sit down and you just start writing anyway.

When you let your imagination run free, amazing things happen. Ideas explode (in a good way).

Really – what do you have to lose?

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 Do You Explain to People What You Do for a Living?

I’m a writer, dang it!

There’s a reason I’ve stopped calling myself “a writer,” and it’s because 80 percent of the people I know still have no idea what I do.

Because I don’t sit around all day writing books. I chip away at unfinished novels, but that’s about it.

I don’t just write occasional articles. That is literally what I get paid to do, soon to be daily.

But I also have one blog (soon to be two) which I update daily and plan to expand with courses and a mentorship program.

Sometimes I write scripts and record videos and podcasts.

My clients occasionally ask me to write marketing emails, social media posts, etc.

I do a little bit of everything – because that’s pretty much what you have to do, now that everyone on the internet is trying to do the same things you are, but better.

Being well-rounded as a creator is extremely important. But it also makes it that much harder for people who don’t do what you do to understand what the heck you’re doing with your life.

I’ve resorted to telling people I write for online magazines, because that’s the easiest way to explain the confusing landscape that is “lifestyle websites.”

I do blog, but not all that successfully at the moment, so calling myself a blogger seems dishonest, in a way.

I don’t know. How do YOU explain what you do to the clueless?

There’s also the negative assumptions that come along with saying you’re a writer – that doesn’t help much, either. Because when you say, “Oh, I write for a living,” a lot of people automatically assume you freelance – and in the can’t-get-any-other-writing-job, making-pennies-per-hour kind of way. At least that’s what happened to me when I signed on with my first client.

I hate that. I hate people thinking I’m lazy, whether I know them well or not. This stuff isn’t easy. People you’re writing for demand a lot from you and don’t really pay you much for it – that’s not criticism, that’s just the reality of the business. Good writers are in high demand, but writing doesn’t really make businesses money – selling stuff does. Hmph.

It’s even harder to explain that I am what I prefer to call myself, an internet creator – I make things on the internet, sometimes I get paid for them, sometimes I do them for free (or at least pennies in monthly AdSense revenue). That’s what I’m always going to do, whether it’s only my words people see on a screen or my voice through speakers or both my face and voice simultaneously.

But I do not get up in the morning, write one article or blog post and then spend the rest of the day browsing Netflx. This is a real job, these are important hobbies, and if more people understood that, I don’t know, maybe we’d all stress a little less about those “so what are you up to these days” questions at family gatherings. The same thing. Really. I’m still writing. It’s what I do. It’s what I will continue to do for a very long time.

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.