This Is What It Took To See Myself As A Writer
An ongoing process of updating my beliefs.
We tend to think that what happens to us is our unique experience. That no one can possibly understand how we feel. It is especially in the moments of despair and sadness that we fall for this perceptual trap.
We believe that we are all alone.
This is, of course, only our perception of things. I have re-discovered many times that my most “challenging feelings”, “mental fixations”, “personality issues” or “internal conflicts” that I thought I owned, often match the experiences of other people.
In these moments of connection, I understand that I am never alone.
People around are going through similar — sometimes essentially the same — experiences. The reason why we think what happens to us is unique is that we each create our personal story around these events.
We give meaning to them — obviously, because this is how we can make sense of the world.
My writing journey is a story of constant belief update
The tale of how I managed to get where I am now as a writer is no different. It is a story which I tell myself so that I can make sense of my experience.
Because I believe that what lies underneath that story may be universal, I choose to share it. With my narrative, my interpretation and my words — because this is the only way I know how to. But if the experience is as universal as I suspect it to be, the underlying message shall not be lost on the way.
I see myself at the beginning of my writing journey — but even to arrive here, it took more than two years. I mean, actually, it took fifteen years of writing altogether. But only around two years ago some processes were set in motion that led me to the decision that I will pursue writing as a career.
Over that time I was obviously writing, hitting “publish” on many platforms, showing up and all that jazz. I couldn’t progress without doing the work and incrementally growing my skill. But besides that, I also credit the process of constantly updating my beliefs for where I am now.
Two years ago I didn’t believe what I believe today. My default perception of myself, my abilities, the realities of writing and about what is possible definitely upgraded.
I want to share with you how the process of my belief update has unfolded so far — and why I think it has been indispensable to my growth as a writer.
First major update: So it is possible for me to have a writing job!
What set things in motion was getting my first full-time writing position. It was remote work for an internet-based start-up. It paid $1,000/month for working 40 hours a week. At the time it felt as if I won a lottery.
Not only was I going to be paid for writing, but I was also not bound to one location! I could travel around, take my work with me and do whatever I wanted. $1000 is the amount with which I was able to sustain myself in most countries in Europe. Finally, I was free.
Or so I felt for the first week or so of my “new life”. After that time, I realised how boring and daunting the job was. I mean, sure, it was writing — but did I mention what kind of writing exactly?
I was repeatedly writing 3-sentence-long snippets that were supposed to promote specific services offered through the platform. So say, for a week straight, I would write as many snippets as I could, advertising a plumbing service offered by a different person. The point was to make each snippet “unique” and “tailored” to the service provider, contain at least three SEO keywords and… produce as many snippets as I could.
And really, there was only so much “uniqueness” that I was able to see in each of the plumbing companies.
But no matter how boring and brainwashing that job was, it made me update my beliefs about me and writing. For the first time in my life, I made a full-time income from writing. And that was quite something, taking that I always loved it, but couldn’t see a possibility of treating it more than just a hobby.
Luckily for me, because that company was a start-up, they fired me after three months. They said they were running low on their funding and had no more money to pay me. I say “luckily” because at the time I was still too insecure to leave that job myself — and it was really a brainwash.
So then all of a sudden, I was free, with some savings and an updated belief system. Why wouldn’t I give a shot to flying on my own and look for freelance writing gigs?
Second update: Freelance content writing is easier than I thought.
First days away from the start-up job made me realise how much I actually suffered doing it. It was only then, when I had no obligations and lots of free time, that I could finally see how drained I was from the past three months.
For a few weeks that followed, I allowed myself to enjoy the freedom. However, this didn’t mean that I was wasting my time.
What I was experiencing was the much-needed idle time that Markham Heid wrote about in his recent article. I indulged in letting my mind wander, dream and come up with ideas on what I could do next. And the ideas that kept popping up gradually led me to another major belief update.
I decided to hop on Upwork and see how difficult it would be to get myself a writing gig. I got a translation assignment in my first attempt — that was easy! The idea of working as a freelance content writer who juggles gigs, tasks and clients like a circus performer was gradually sinking into me. Soon, it became reality.
You know how they say that once you take a decision and commit yourself, the whole Universe starts conspiring to help you make it happen? I know this is cliché — but that doesn’t change the fact that this was exactly what I perceived was happening to me.
I mean — I thought that finding clients who would pay me for writing would be at least a bit of a hassle. I would have to create a portfolio and stuff. I would have to reach out to people, get out there, maybe work for free as an intern for a while? But as soon as I started coming out of my purposefully idle period, paid freelance work started coming my way merely because I spoke to people about it.
Within three months of my decision, I had two long-term clients and managed to publish two commissioned pieces for Better Humans on Medium.
That was the autumn of 2017, and I felt like I was on top of the world. Much of what I was writing was genuinely interesting to me. I was learning new things and had a monthly income again (barely enough to pay my bills, but still). I was slowly adjusting to my new belief: there was a demand for my writing. If I was willing to do the work, it seemed like I could easily find businesses that valued it enough to pay me.
So I settled in for a few months and enjoyed my upgraded freedom. I didn’t have to work 40h/week anymore — although sometimes I chose to work even more. But, most importantly, my sense of freedom was built upon a new mindset, which included the certainty that I would be fine no matter what.
Third update: I start to consider my own writing valuable.
Knowing that others value my work was reassuring — but it was not the same as me valuing my own writing. That was the next big step I was preparing for during the quiet and rather lonely winter of 2017/2018.
I guess the main reason I struggled to appreciate my own work was that it was mostly done to satisfy the needs of other businesses and people. That was still far from connecting to my authentic writing voice. I was working to meet somebody’s expectations, rather than to express myself.
I still didn’t believe that me authentically expressing myself can, or should, be a part of my writing. I didn’t see my ideas as valuable enough to make the core of my articles. I also doubted whether I was capable of maintaining my creative flow to the extent that I could rely on it.
How did this set of beliefs finally upgraded to the point where I finally started writing pieces I loved? This is something I can’t pinpoint as one event or even a single-themed process.
I guess continuing to write on Medium, even if irregularly, empowered me a lot. I published some personal pieces that I enjoyed writing and at the same time seemed to resonate with readers — like Spirituality And Science Need To Marry or Wearing Hair On My Legs Is A Powerful Way To Love Myself More.
With those posts, I experientially grasped the importance of emotions in the writer-reader relationship. I repeatedly discovered that me feeling strongly about a story often resulted in the reader feeling something while reading it, too.
I started easing into the idea that work and pleasure are not contradictory and can go hand in hand. Maybe they even should go hand in hand, if I really cared about putting out my best writing. And I did care, more and more. Therefore, I had to stay engaged — and engaging.
From there, there was just one more step separating me from where I am now. This step was believing that I can make a career out of writing about whatever I want — and however I want to do it.
Fourth update: It is completely within my reach to fly on my own.
As I began seeing that my writing can be in and of itself valuable, I still kept my freelancing gigs. On top of that, last summer I also went (for the third time already) to work in a mountain lodge in the Alps as a housekeeper and waitress. For some reason, I decided the summer of 2018 to be “the summer of work”. I planned to juggle hospitality work, content writing and my own creative stuff at the same time.
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what happened. Yep, I burned out and hit the wall. I mean — of course, it was not the kind of peak-career burnout that you get after 20 years of overworking in a corporate environment.
But I was exhausted to the point that everything and everyone around angered me and I couldn’t find joy in anything I was doing. At the end of the summer, I also fell sick with bronchitis — that’s how much my body needed to rest.
It was obvious at that point that I had to let some of the work go. The tourist season was finishing anyway and I was surely never coming to work in hospitality until I have my own place. Only then could I again be serving guests for 12 hours a day.
But leaving the job at the lodge was not enough. I also had to let some of the writing gigs go to make new space in my life.
The space I needed for writing things I truly care about.
After giving it a few days of thought, I decided to give up writing a blog for a software company. I learned a lot from these guys and from working for them. Maybe the most important thing was that I was able to write about whatever the hell I wanted to if I did my research.
I mean, me writing about computer software and blockchain? It sounded ridiculous at the beginning. But over time I proved to myself that I could do at least okay if I only put effort into it.
But it was time to let it go. As I was growing as a person (and the adversities of last summer definitely helped with that!), I became increasingly aware of what I cared and didn’t care about. And as that awareness grew, it became more and more painful to see myself still doing things I didn’t whole-heartedly care about.
That’s why I felt I couldn’t put up with writing about software anymore. I was also repeatedly getting a feeling that I would want to abandon content and copywriting altogether, in favour of a “freestyle writer” career.
I just had to get myself to believe that this was possible for me to do.
Because I knew I needed to establish this belief, that also eventually came my way. At this point, I want to give credits to my dear coaching friends, Sílvia Bastos and Michal Korzonek, for making me do a simple exercise this last summer which definitely contributed to my most recent belief update.
After hearing of my writing dreams YET AGAIN, they helped me work out a short routine that I would do every morning after waking up. My task was to simply answer one question: How does my ideal life as a writer look like? I had to answer this question out loud, to make the affirmation of my dream career more real and pronounced.
The first day I did it, nothing seemed to happen. For a few days straight I was answering it rather mindlessly, not really knowing where it could lead me.
But I persevered — it was such a simple exercise, and it took literally two minutes of my morning. Over time, I realised that saying what I wanted out loud brought a whole new quality to how I approached my dream career. It was no longer just in the mental realm. The words I repeated every day seemed to carve the intention into my mind, deeper and deeper every time, until a point when I started believing it was possible.
I am a writer who runs her own blog, writes about whatever she feels like / finds important, and comfortably makes a living out of it. I maintain relationships with my readers who come back to read more of my stuff because they find real value in it. There is nobody but me deciding what is worth publishing and what is not.
The words I imprinted in my mind over the last summer are still with me today. And although I am only at the beginning of my writing journey, I already have the two most important things: I know what I want and I believe it is possible. And that’s all I need to proceed.
At least until the next big update of my beliefs.