Money can’t buy happiness, but my god is it a stepping stone to it. I grew up believing my underwear wasn’t replaceable until it had a few well-worn holes. The same pair of workout shorts got me through middle school, high school, and university (last week I finally decided enough was enough and got rid of them). When I walked across the stage last year to receive my degree the house I grew up in went into foreclosure. Not having enough money felt like an everlasting curse that got worse for me and my family as time went on. And the cherry on top was the only thing I’m in love with doing is writing — which leads to a career infamously associated with struggle.
Being a writer was never a choice, but deciding to try and earn a living off of words was a whole other story.
I decided to study English Literature over Physical Therapy because I knew deep down all I wanted to do was tell stories. I didn’t want to be sensible when it came to my career because if I settled on such a vital decision I feared I’d develop a habit of settling for other big life choices. Going to university to improve my writing was the closest I’ve come to complete rebellion — don’t judge me too much, I was a shy kid. Choosing to be a writer as a career is a romantic notion I’ve since revisited over and over in my mind. For the past few months, I’ve been paralyzed with doubts if I’ll be able to live a comfortable life as a full-time writer. In all honesty, I often feel regret about not having a wider range of skills and a little sense of dread about the huge potential of failure.
Stability is what I desperately crave as each year passes.
I’m neck-deep in debt with a full-time job that pays me just enough to support myself and my family as we get back on our feet. In response to my fear of failure, I’ve been attempting to formulate contingency plans. At first, it pained me to feel like I needed a Plan B because maybe that meant I wasn’t cut out for this life of full-time writing. Because struggling is par for the course as a creative. If I don’t want to struggle does that mean I don’t deserve to call myself a writer? When I don’t pour every ounce of energy into writing will the result be never reaching my goal?
I need to put food on the table, keep the lights on, and water running, so I work a full-time job I hate. It cuts into my writing time immensely and makes me feel less like a “real creative.” You know, the kind that will risk it all for their craft even if it means couch surfing for years. It’s that blind faith I feel I lack. And, I think my lack of faith in my ability shows when I approach the page. I pour my energy into so many other worries in my life so, at the end of the day when I’m faced with a blank page, I have nothing left to give. I exchange energy for stability. I’m comfortable but never satisfied.
The realist in me compromises with my romance side so I can fall in love with creating again.
Over the years, my relationship with writing has changed tremendously. Writing was once a beautiful escape that turned into a skillset I needed to develop and eventually monetize. The love waned as the pressure to making a living and eventually, I wasn’t as enthralled with the idea of storytelling. To start writing again and release pressure to monetize my craft I’ve given myself three rules:
1. Pretend I am confident that my skills are (or, one day will be) worthy of decent compensation.
The biggest new flash after becoming an adult was the reality that people rarely know what they’re doing. And they rarely believe in their worth in terms of salary. And even if they have confidence in both their knowledge and how they negotiate their paycheck, they don’t know exactly how they’re going to get their end goal.
At work, I’ve learned that the people who speak without a falter in their voices are listened to longer and trusted more easily. Online I’ve learned writers who don’t have much technical skill but make up for it in prolificity get more opportunities. Life’s a game that I mistakenly thought had strict guidelines. Reality is you can speak with conviction on a topic you just learned yesterday. And you can share your writing even if it’s not fully developed to your liking.
Confidence won’t always get me the freelance position I want or that book deal I dream of, but it’ll open the door to the possibility of personal and career growth. At the very least, confidence will give me the push I need to write more content.
2. Write at least one paragraph a day.
I say these exact words to myself as I clock out of work: “Just write one paragraph. No more, no less.” Thinking of writing this way makes approaching my novel and unfinished articles much less intimidating. It’s a recipe for slow progress, but better than what I’ve been doing, which has been sporadic writing sessions sometimes split up by months.
After five sentences I usually get into some type of groove that makes me want to write more. It may not be the same as when I use to write 3,000 words daily as a teen, but it works for the person I am today. And that person wakes up a 4:30 AM to go to work. So, yes, there is cause for an adjustment in my writing habits.
3. Gradually learn to accept that writing may never fully support me financially and that’s okay
My family has suggested I transition to part-time work since I hate my job so much. My boyfriend encourages me to move in with him and relax for a bit while searching for a position I enjoy and has something to do with my degree. But, having a steady income that pays all my bills and allows me to save does wonder for my self-esteem. By keeping my self-esteem up I release some of the pressure to make writing my bread and butter.
I may never sell more than a few copies of my novel once I finally finish the dang thing. I may never get more than minimum wage writing content for companies who don’t care about underpaying for their outsourced content. Writing may never pay for more than a cup of tea and a few muffins. Accepting that will allow me to relinquish some of my fear. I’m going to stop thinking about potential gross income when it comes to finishing my projects. I can’t continue to let my fear about earning potential steal my time from writing. The craft gives me the emotional outlet that paychecks could never give me. So, it’s finally time to separate the two.
How do you deal with the battle of making a living and doing what you love? Are they always separate things or have you managed to meld the two?