How I Stopped Feeling Like a Failure Creatively

If you feel like you’re failing, professionally or creatively, I’ve been there too. Here are ways to break out of a negativity spiral and stay positive.


At the end of 2013, I felt like a failure. Admittedly, I’m a member of the Millennial “I want it now” generation and up until that year being the over-achieving straight-A’s-multiple-extracurricular types was my thing. I’d had a solid run of getting everything I ever wanted scholastically and professionally.

From being accepted into my first choice university and top 3 choice MFA program to landing amazing internships at renowned magazines to getting my dream job immediately out of both college and graduate school in the music business and television industry, respectively, I got what I wanted.

I’d also wanted to be a writer ever since I realized that it was a career option. But due to the wonderfully rocky world of television employment and the desire to experience life abroad, by the middle of 2013, I’d found myself temping as an administrative assistant at a hospital to pay the bills.

It was hard to wrap my mind around being a creative writer working at a hospital. Let me rephrase that…it was impossible for me to wrap my mind around being a creative writer working at a hospital. When my new colleagues asked questions about my background, they’d accidentally set off a furious mini existential crisis when I answered that I’d studied journalism and writing. With a puzzled look they’d reply, “Wow. Why are you working here?”

Never mind that the economic recession, student loan debt, and job shortage had forced not just me, but thousands of other college-educated Millenials into jobs for which we were either super overqualified or jobs that had nothing to do with our professional goals.

Despite the steady paycheck, I couldn’t find a way to spin working at the hospital into something positive in my mind. I felt it was a glaring blemish on my otherwise pristine and impressive resume.

And thus began a spiral of negativity that demolished any creative energy I could have used to write after work, like I’d always done while working in entertainment. For the first year in my life, I didn’t write anything new. And for a writer not to be writing — let’s just say, it felt like I’d died on the inside.

While I’ll be the first to admit that the brooding, neurotic writer cliché has its own charm, it was no longer working for me.

So at the start of 2014, I came up with a new mantra.

Stay positive. Stay present. Stay patient. And most importantly, try.

After adopting this mantra, I fought to live every day from a place of gratitude and happiness, instead of negativity. And the cool thing is once I played to my strengths and focused my energy on becoming a full-time writer, instead of focusing on what I didn’t have, things started falling into place. In 2014, I got my first script consulting clients, script ghostwriting clients, a freelance gig at an established magazine, and landed my first business copywriting client. Now, in 2015, I’m a full-time freelance writer.

I guess I’m sharing all of this because I’m thankful I learned these lessons at 28, rather than 38 or 48.

So if you too have writerly, entrepreneurial, artistic, or world domination ambitions, and you feel the way I did after what was arguably the worst year of my professional life know that:

- You are not a failure unless you give up on your dreams. So don’t.

- You are not your day job. (Especially if said day job has nothing to do with what you really want to do.)

- Instead of being your own worst enemy, try to be your own biggest fan in a reasonable, non-Kanye way.

- Don’t compare yourself to other writers/artists/entrepreneurs who are gaining success at a young age. We really do all have our own paths. Just because you’re not getting book publishing deals, bought out by corporations for billions, or selling shows to HBO at 26, doesn’t mean you are too old and never will.


Originally published at joycmitchell.com on January 12, 2015.

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