Writing Isn't Working for Me

Writing Isn't Working for Me

Sometimes I wonder what the hell I was thinking when I decided to pursue a writing career.

Writing is hard. Really hard. There are the occasional days when the words flow, when it feels as though the Muse is sitting in my lap, doing all the work. “I got this,” she informs me. “You can relax.”

But most days, she’s nowhere to be found. I can’t come up with ideas. Or worse, I have a long list of ideas but no concept of how to turn them into fully-fledged pieces. I type out a few words, erase what I’ve written, type some more, curse, type some more, then give up and scroll mindlessly through Facebook.

I end the day feeling like a failure.

I wonder what happens if I get to the end of this tunnel and there isn’t a light.
— Ani DiFranco

My woes are exacerbated by the fact that I write full-time, from home, alone. Until my kid gets out of school, I have no one to talk to, so I’m stuck in my own head, which is a really scary place sometimes.

Then, there’s the reality that I’m never going to make any real money doing this. I’m never going to pull in even a quarter of what I was making while employed.

My fiction is going out to literary journals that charge a reading fee but don’t pay writers whose work they print. My blog posts are going up on Medium, which if I’m lucky pays me $150 a month through the Medium Partner Program — but only if I spend hours every single day promoting my own work.

My personal essay will be printed in a major publication later this week, and although I received a three-figure sum for the article, it was accepted back in November and I won’t get paid until the end of April.

I had a successful piece in a literary journal’s blog a few weeks back and I got loads of love from fellow writers, but nothing in monetary payment.

So, what the hell am I doing? Why do I keep pursuing something that at times eludes me, often frustrates me, and rarely pays me?

I guess…I do it because I love it. Honestly, I don’t know what else to do. This is the one thing I’m remotely good at. This is the thing that inspires me (when it goes well). It’s like a drug that keeps me coming back, always chasing that feeling of successfully putting words onto paper that can inspire or educate or entertain someone else in the world.

I don’t want to stop writing. I don’t even want to stop pursuing a career in writing. I just wish the circumstances were different. I wish it wasn’t such a solitary craft. I wish the Muse kept me company more often. I wish the ideas flowed like wine. And I truly wish I could generate a livable wage solely from my work.

When I was growing up I always wanted to be someone. Now I realize I should have been more specific.
— Lily Tomlin

A version of this post first appeared on Medium

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