After about 7 years of writing every single day in various formats (a few novels, thousands of poems, hundreds of articles and essays) and still being unable to make a living from it, I spent the last year or so taking a break from writing.
Now, I’m back, and here are a few things I’ve learned.
Why Did I Start Writing in the First Place?
First of all, I had lost sight of the reason I was writing in the first place. I started writing stories and fictions because I felt like I needed to. I had ideas and I wanted to express them, and writing was the best way for me to do it. Writing was fun, making characters and plots and settings was time well spent. When I started trying to make money from the thing by catering to certain magazines and news organizations, it started to lose its glamour, and then I lost track of the joy of the thing altogether.
Sometimes, you have to separate your passion from your career, because if you try to force the two to combine when they aren’t ready to be combined, the result will be a frustrating pile of dumpster-fire shit.
To balance this out, I think it’s important to have two disciplines. One is the professional discipline, which earns money. For example, I spend a little over 40 hours a week working on cars and making a living that way. It’s great, because I enjoy mechanical work and working with my hands, plus it is a consistent paycheck.
Then, I come home, turn on the computer, and exercise a different part of my brain by writing articles and stories without the added pressure of trying to make a living from the writing. I’ve already made my living for the day by doing oil changes and replacing tires, now I am just writing because I want to, and because I am disciplined enough to do it everyday, not because I have a fear of not being able to make rent or not having a professional career laid out for me. The reduced external pressure on the writing makes for better writing.
Everything in Moderation
The second thing I learned is that breaks are good. Even long breaks. Even long breaks from things that you love. Spending a year away from any serious kind of writing made me realize just how much I love it. Throughout that year off I still would scribble in my journal, and even wrote some silly stories long-hand, but they were all just for me. I had no intentions of publishing them, and because of that, they were not only more enjoyable, but they were of better quality than some of the absolute bullshit I had been churning out when I was trying to validate myself from the opinions of others and the amount of money people were willing to pay me. The time away from writing made me return to it with more of an open mind, less of an opinion on the reception of my writing, and a better understanding of myself.
Can’t Stop Won’t Stop
Third thing I learned: I would genuinely love to have been able to just stop writing completely and instead focus my attention elsewhere. In the past I have tormented myself over my lack of success after years and tens of thousands of hours practicing the trade, but I can’t stop. Not in an unhealthy way, or in an overly romantic way, I’m not here to tell you writing is equivalent to breathing or drinking water, but it is important to me. My life is significantly better with it than it without it, as long as I maintain a healthy relationship with it.
There were many other things I learned, too, but this isn’t a fucking listicle, and I’m not some “journalist” working for Daily Beast writing a “10 Things I learned from …” article. So, I’ll end it here, and if I feel like writing more about this in the future… I will.
Until then, happy writing everybody.