On writing: a stream of consciousness

It’s one of those nights when you can’t make yourself write whatever it is you’re supposed to be writing. When you lay on the couch and press the button that says, “Yes Netflix, I am still watching. Yes, I know I’ve been watching for multiple consecutive hours. Yes, I know there’s definitely something better I should be doing with my time. But right now, right this minute, I’m going to continue watching West Wing and running away from my crippling insecurities.”

It’s one of those days when you know you haven’t written anything good. You know you haven’t written anything worth reading. You wrote an article, yes. It met the word count and it was submitted long before deadline, not at 2 or 3am when you normally turn in an article. But it wasn’t anything worth reading. It wasn’t particularly good writing. It was decent writing, submitted on deadline, content to entice readers, to gain views. You’re Hemingway when he wrote for the newspaper, before he published any stories. You’re writing to get paid.

It’s been one of those days when you wonder if you’ll ever actually be a writer who’s worth anything at all. When you wonder if you’ll ever write that one great article. When you wonder if you’re ever actually going to write the novel you keep telling everyone you’re going to write. When you wonder all day if anyone’s going to publish that story you think is really good.

When you fear that one day you’ll run out of ideas entirely. When you fear that someday you won’t be able to put words together anymore. And what if that day is today? What if I’ve run dry before I’ve even started?

It’s been one of those days when you wonder if you’re actually a good writer at all or if everyone else is just humoring you. If you’re just better than some and not truly extraordinary. Because that’s all you’ve ever wanted to be is extraordinary. Is that too much to ask? Perhaps.

It’s been one of those days when you wonder why you wanted to do this at all. Why you abandoned all other pursuits and chose to write. Do you really love it at all? Actually, that’s not even a question. You know you love it, but is it worth all this anguish? With a brain like yours, is writing really something you should be devoting your life to? A career that’s so based inside your head, which isn’t the best place to be. A career that’s so dependent on the acceptance and validation of others, where rejection is much more common than acceptance. Is this really what’s best for you, a hypercritical, overly sensitive fragile creature?

This would be agonizing if I didn’t know that this is the struggle of all writers. A constant paradox: the conviction that your voice is special enough to be worth hearing balanced with the conviction that nothing you write is worth reading. Walking the fine line between believing that you’re everything and that you’re nothing. Walking the tightrope of arrogance and self-loathing. I’m glad so many writers have written about these feelings because if I thought I was alone in this struggle I’d never have made it to my desk tonight. I’d never have sat down and put together words. And in the end that’s all that matters. Sitting down and putting words together to express a thought, a feeling. Hopefully in an order that makes sense to somebody.

I am a writer. I struggle to internally justify that existence to myself and the world. I want so badly to write that one thing that proves to everyone that I am a real writer, that I am really worth it. But I am already a writer. My mental anguish over being so proves it.

Humbled and a Little Overwhelmed

I absolutely could not have anticipated the response to my second article published on XOJane. In a few days the article has received over 600 shares and over 100 comments. I’ve had to stop reading the comments because it’s too much for me. Not because people have been saying mean things, though some have. For the most part the comments have been incredibly supportive and positive. I just can’t keep up with the amount.

The biggest surprise has been the direct responses I have gotten from people. Friends sent me screenshots of the article on their Yahoo homepages. Friends told me that friends of theirs who had never met me or even been to Vermont were seeing the article on their Yahoo homepages. Friends and family shared the article on Facebook. Friends and family commented on the article. Even more shocking were the people that started to reach out to me via Facebook Messenger. People I hadn’t spoken to since high school reached out to congratulate me and share their experiences. Then people I had never met started reaching out to me and telling me their stories. They poured out their hearts, sharing in intimate detail their struggles with food and exercise. They thanked me for sharing my experience and told me how much it helped.

I never thought anything like this would happen. I didn’t expect one article would touch so many people. I never imagined that people would track me down and trust me with their stories and their secrets. I am honored to be so trusted. I am humbled that my words touched so many people. I’m a little overwhelmed by the entire experience. I didn’t think that putting my work out there would create such a responsibility to the readers. I guess I couldn’t have known that without having an article really out there. I’m not so overwhelmed that I want it to stop. I am happy to have a voice.

 

I’m a Freelancer for Real!

It’s been too long since I’ve written here, but I promise there’s a good reason for that. Yesterday, I got my first paycheck from writing and had my first piece published, and the money wasn’t even for the article that was published! That’s right. In one day I turned in three articles and got paid for the first time and got my first piece published. They’re paying me too, it just hasn’t come through yet. After all my hard work I am finally a real freelance writer! I wanted to share some reflections on my first experiences freelancing, more to process myself than anything else.

About a month ago I pitched a story to XOJane and had it accepted. I wrote the article in one sitting the weekend that it was approved and submitted the story. Then I waited. I checked my email obsessively. I was always looking for something from the editor, some indication that the story was going to be published or some sort of rejection after the fact because my writing wasn’t as good as they’d hoped. Nothing. I basically wrote them off. I figured something wasn’t right and the article would never see the light of day. Then out of the blue yesterday, I received the email that my article was being published, that day! I freaked out. The editor I worked with was amazing and she even checked on another pitch I had and agreed to work with me on that one as well!

A little over 24 hours later the article has received over 350 shares and over 40 comments, almost all of them positive. Of course, being the perfectionist I am I have focused in one the single negative comment. I keep reminding myself that the article has been incredibly well received and that one person’s opinion of my work does not make or break me as a writer. Time to get a thicker skin.

Takeaways from my experience with XOJane: don’t give up if you don’t hear back. The editors you’re working with are incredibly busy. No news may be better than good news. Move on, submit another pitch, and keep trying to get your work out there. And don’t let the haters get to you. It’s impossible to please everyone.

The other articles I submitted yesterday were for a job I found on a writers job board, ghostwriting for a health blog. I was so excited that they wanted me for the job that I agreed before really understanding what they wanted me to write. I thought they wanted me to write about the danger of elimination diets, which I was totally on board with, but what they really wanted was weight loss listicles. I wasn’t comfortable with the assignment, but I’d already agreed to write for them, so I went ahead. It was really difficult. I was completely uncomfortable most of the time I was writing. Because I was so uncomfortable I was slow to finish the articles. What I could have written in a few days took me a week. I found myself reluctant to sit down to write. I knew that I was doing something that was against my values and it didn’t feel good.

I finished the articles and followed up with the editor. I liked her a lot. She was very helpful and easy to work with, so I decided to be completely honest when I turned in the article. I told her that I had really enjoyed working with her as an editor, but that the content had made me really uncomfortable. I told her I would love to work with her again, but that I would not write anything related to diets or weight loss again. I needed to stick to my values. She was incredibly receptive and told me she’d let me know if she needed any other work done for the blog.

Takeaways from my freelance job: Always understand the job before you commit. Don’t just write something for the money. Feel free to turn down jobs that don’t line up with your viewpoints or values. Never compromise yourself.

I’m glad to finally be among the published. I’m psyched that I actually made some money writing. Now on to the next job.

The Challenge Comes to an End

Today is post 30 for my 30 day blogging challenge. I didn’t do 30 in 30 days, but I did complete all 30 posts in 34 days. I never thought I’d make it that far at all. I figured I’d give up around halfway through. I’m not very good at sticking things out, especially if they’re difficult, and this challenge was, but I made it all the way through.

So what have I learned? First blogging every day is really hard. There were days when I just didn’t feel like I had anything to say. There were other days where I was so emotionally drained that sitting down and writing felt like torture. There were other days where sitting down and writing just felt like an annoying chore I wanted to blow off, like cleaning the bathroom. But I wrote anyway. Each day that I just didn’t feel like writing, I did it anyway. I remembered that I had made a commitment to myself, I took out my laptop, and I just wrote. And I am proud of every single piece I wrote for this challenge.

I also learned that it’s not super sustainable for me to write every day. I need to take days off for self care. I need to focus on my wants and needs in order to put out good writing. Instead of powering through on a couple of days, I recognized  and honored my limits. I know that posting every day is not the level of blogging that I can maintain. I’m going to try to stick to a four day a week schedule going forward. I do think that writing on a schedule has helped me a lot, but that schedule needs to be less than daily.

I discovered that I actually have a lot to say. When I started the challenge I didn’t have a list of 30 topics to write about. I had a pretty sizeable list, but it certainly was not 30 topics. I was legitimately concerned that I wouldn’t have enough to write about to fill 30 days. I still have topics left on that list because other topics felt appropriate on certain days. There wasn’t a single day that I felt like I didn’t have something to say, and I have a lot more to say. Having to come up with things to write about every day got me really comfortable with writing about my feminist journey. I’ve had to do a lot more learning and a lot more thinking, and I feel like I really discovered my voice on feminist topics.

I also discovered that I have so much more left to learn. Feminism is so broad. I’ve barely scratched the surface of intersectional feminism, which is what I really want to focus on right now. I want to expand my understanding of the topics I’ve already covered and learn completely new things. After 30 posts in 34 days I’m still passionately learning and writing.

Lastly, and most importantly, I learned that I can be a real writer. From a very young age my writing was praised and many a high school English teacher told me that they hoped I would pursue a career in writing. Life got in the way, as it often does, and writing fell completely off my radar. I kind of assumed that I’d lost my touch, and certainly that I lost my passion. This challenge has reignited my fire for writing. I really love it and I really want to continue.

So where do I go from here? Like I said, I want to stick to a 4 day a week schedule. Probably Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday. Weekends off and a break in the middle sounds good for me right now. I want to continue cranking out content and building up my portfolio. My original plan for the challenge was to build up a portfolio of my own work and then begin pitching major online publications. I intend to do this. I will be working on a couple of pitches and projects and sending them out by the end of April. Maybe I’ll get to see this dream of being a real writer come true. I’ve struggled in so many ways in my life, but I have always come out the other side and seen my dreams come true, so here’s hoping.

Thanks for coming along on this ride with me. Thank you for reading over and over again. The support I have received has been overwhelming and it’s kept me going. Please stick around and let’s see where this goes together.