Two people asked me this question today: my sister and an old friend–also a writer–when we were talking about colleagues from workplaces past.
While the conversation with a friend brought back some painful memories in my career, I realized that I like where I am now. I have a great job that pays well (it could pay more–hint, hint, boss) and teaches me so many new things. Now, I do more than writing–I also do e-mail marketing. It’s exciting and it keeps me on my feet.
On top of that, I have an equally exciting site on arts and culture–it gives me this happy feeling of being alive. And the projects haven’t stopped coming! (Thank God!) Right now, I’m writing a comic strip for a financial management book. I’m learning so much, not just with the nuances of writing for comics but also about managing my finances well.
We have different ideas of where we want to be, but in the course of life, our routes change and steer to another direction. I don’t think I am where I wanted to be (I wanted to be a novelist and a reporter for Time magazine when I was younger), but I am loving where I am now. And I think that matters a lot.
Are you happy where you are now, career wise?
I’ve been writing for close to 10 years, but I’ve never started writing an article with the idea that I could breeze through it in an hour. Starting is almost always the hardest thing to do when you’re writing, so sometimes when I’m stuck without a lead, I move on to the middle part simply because I refuse to stare at my monitor for hours thinking of a good intro. When I upload an article online or send it off to a managing editor, there’s always this idea at the back of my mind that I could have done better.
I should cut myself some slack, I know. Writing, like any other type of work, doesn’t come easily. (Well, sometimes the best leads come to you in the middle of the night, so you have to listen to those voices in your head–hopefully not the sort urging you to kill someone.)
William Zinsser, writer and teacher, in his book On Writing Well gives this advice on fighting off those fears of disapproval and failure: “Write about subjects that interest you and that you care about.”
That’s why I make it a point to write about writers and artists and works that I believe in so the writing doesn’t feel so difficult. Of course, it isn’t always the case, and if you’re a professional writer, you’ll have to come up with articles on things that you have had no previous interest in, say promotional products, Christmas lights in mainland China, or a designer whose philosophy I don’t understand.
But to add to Zinsser’s idea, if you have to write about something that doesn’t interest you, approach it with a mindset of “What do I take away from this?” or “How will this change my life?” or even “How will this help other people?” You never know what you’ll learn.
This year, I’ve made it a resolution to face this fear of writing and tackle new topics. What’s your writing resolution?