Last year, I intended to shovel the interest of writing again which was buried deeply for a long time. It would probably be easier for those who have writing as their passion since childhood, or those who landed their first job as a journalist – for me, it remained fuzzy. I absolutely have no clarity of what my dream is, let alone to answer the question of: “What should I do with my life?” Most of the time, I started writing (or journaling) whenever I have mixed emotions or when I felt motivated to achieve something. I wrote about how writing fits me when I was younger but as I grow older, I lost touch of the craft.
While I was still working on a regular day job (mostly in Computer/IT/Telco field), I tend to lean towards the idea of making writing as a full-time thing. I wondered what would it be like. I kept wishing that I could dedicate all of my time and energy solely into writing. But as times past, I realized it wasn’t a blink-of-an-eye wish. There are many important factors to consider other than talent – location, timing, luck, networking, rain money, knowledge and patience.
During the entire year, my journey in writing has been more or less like this:
- Engaged in several writers’ group and made new writer friends.
- Purchased tons of books/e-books about writing (general writing, freelancing, creative writing, publishing, etc).
- Had a list of favorite and inspiring writers.
- Tweaked this blog into Writer’s Profile and Portfolio.
- Created my own Writer’s Bible – list of web link references, publishers, contest, courses, books to buy/read, current and future planning, deadlines, etc.
- Created a Writing Log – journaling about the feeling and experience in writing, including some great tips and quotes from famous authors.
- Tracked the achievement and work in progress.
- Learned some of the writing tools, like Scrivener.
- Wrote several anthologies and short stories other than formal writings and blogging.
- Participated in few writing contests.
- Took online courses and signed up for webinars/newsletters.
Within a simple click of technology nowadays, I was blessed to have found many references to read. But in between, I faced a problem.
I got overwhelmed.
I did plenty of self-study, self-explore and observation. I didn’t have any writing coach/mentor that I could seek for. Ultimately, I found myself at a giant intersection of the writing path. I had second thought about going further. I’ve been battling with the evil self-doubt that keep sucking out my confidence; although they said self-doubt is something most writers will face throughout their careers, from the point when you started writing.
So I took several quizzes about personality and jobs. The results usually defined that I have an artistic personalities, that I love expressing myself and craving for freedom to unleash the creativity; that I should be on the creative side, and that I SHOULD BE a writer. As much as I wanted to deny the facts, I ended up procrastinating. I stopped writing for weeks. Perseverance wasn’t my greatest strength either. I felt like giving up and explore other fields.
In most cases, I find that whenever I wanted to escape from writing, there will be someone that came to me and said:
- “Hey, I miss your writings.”
- “I love reading your blog.”
- “I want to read more of your work please.”
- “Thanks for sharing, I bookmarked it.”
- “I could relate to how you write about your experience.”
- “Please participate in this contest and make us proud.”
Granted, my usual reaction was: “Why would anyone want to read what I write?” The truth is, no one is judging but my own self. It’s a constant struggle. You may not realize that whatever you do — as small as it may seem — will somehow or rather be an inspiration to others. As a matter of fact, people do read your stuff; as long as you keep writing.
On the subject of writing, there are wide range of areas in this field and the most commonly known is journalism, or the counterpart, a novelist. It seems that when you are either in these, most people will perceive you as the ‘successful writer’. In actual fact, there weren’t any predefined rules that you must achieve in order to be successful in writing.
Writing itself requires a massive, never-ending learning curve: from grammar to storytelling techniques, tools, editing and many others. There are also other aspect that you need to know such as contractual and copyrights, manuscript structuring, traditional or self-publishing, pitching to agents and marketing. There are almost endless set of skills and processes to learn. How society perceived when we talk about writing is that: it is as easy as it was, and that all we writers have to do is sit in front of the computer all day and make stuff up.
If only that’s something too good to be true.
Back then, my nature of work includes writing professionally for the company I worked with. Part of the job scope other than project management was to write manuals, project progress, financial and management reports, technical and operational guides, policies and procedures, business collateral and more. It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t entertaining at all. While I was toying about the idea of freelance writing, most work that can actually pays you were either in business blogging, content writing, or copywriting. I always prefer creative writing, but those formal writings were the one that can potentially brought income. Even if you could also win cash prizes from participating in several creative writing contests, it may not be a sustainable gain. After a while, it gets bored to write about something you are forced to do, especially when you have to write outside of your interest just because you need to support your bills.
The cold truth is, I learned that when you said you want to be a writer, it wasn’t just about getting writing assignments or essay topics from your teacher when you were back in school. Those were the glorious days where you don’t need to think about making income out of your writing. You basically just write. Freely.
Along the journey, I also learned and practiced some of these things:
- My writing niche – I observed this from the types of books that I read or movies that I liked to watch. I came to know that I love to write personal narrative essays, insightful thought-provoking or life-changing experience, travel writing, adventure/biographical-drama/romance and a slight touch of fantasy or mystery. It could also be reviews about books, games, music, movie and food.
- Bring a notebook and pen everywhere I go. Frankly, ideas usually came at a very odd timing and not when you are in front of your computer.
- Keep reading. A lot. Put your books/novels anywhere close to you – near your bed, in your office room, at your workstation desk, or when you are travelling or going somewhere, bring it with you. While waiting or queuing, they are your best buddy.
- Occasionally, read motivational books or listen to inspiring podcast. Doing this helps to regain the momentum to write again every time you fall off.
- You will eventually feel stressful and unsettled especially during occurrences like writer’s block or getting endless rejection slips. Meditate or recite the bible to help you feel relax and focus.
- To observe and learn from people who have big influence or inspires you. Follow them closely. Follow who inspires them as well.
- To keep searching for alternative platforms to publish your writings other than blog space (e.g: medium, instagram, wattpad, etc).
Within a short year, I took a few small steps including sending my first pitch out and applied some jobs. It wasn’t as scary as I thought it might be. I also submitted several pieces to publishers and participated in few writing contests for the past several months. I didn’t get the job that I wanted (specifically, a travel writer in Melbourne) and I got 3 rejection slips so far. It felt good that I did actually start. As said by Jeff Goins: ‘start by owning the title that you are a writer and earn it by writing’.
The thing is, when you have focus, the completion of your writings gives you the confidence to do more stuff in future. When you complete something and submit, you gain more and more confidence. I anticipated that I lost the vibe to continue every time I got rejected or if my entries or applications were not being selected. But in the process, I learned to accept that sometimes you’re going to fail. That you’re going to make mistakes. That it might take years to accomplish what you wanted. So I stopped beating myself too hard and took a break in between.
“Most great accomplishments were achieved by people who at first had no idea what they are doing.” – Brendon Burchard
I wanted to quit doing write-ups altogether but it turned out that I bought a simple set of furniture and set up another workstation. I called it my small hideout, a small cave at the corner. A place where I write. Mostly.
The journey continues I guess. Let’s see where it goes, next.
Currently Listening: Will You Smile Again For Me – Trail of Dead