Six months ago I gave up on writing. Now I do it for a living
How I bounced back from a job that made me feel like a failure.
I’ve always been a writer. I wasn’t always a very good one. I’m still not convinced I’m “good.” But as someone who gets paid to write words on the internet, I’m in a position that, just a few months ago, seemed utterly outrageous.
Having worked in marketing and communications my entire career, I’ve always had to write as a part of my job. Words are what compel and inspire those audiences we’re always trying to grow. I often reflect back to a time when the idea of writing a blog post made me nauseous because, in my mind, it would never be good enough for the people above me.
In my mind, my problem was my editor. They were out to get me. They had a personal vendetta against me and my writing and my ideas. At least that’s what I told myself every day as an excuse for my own complacency towards my job and my life.
It wasn’t until recently that I was able to look back at that time and recognize my own self-sabotage that was manifesting itself into the quality of my work. I took such little joy in my job and the content I was creating that it reflected in my work.
The worst realization of all was that I let criticism from an editor translate into me not thinking I was a good writer. I didn’t know it yet, but the critiques I received are what made me the writer I am today, always willing to grow and learn. I’m not able to appreciate the process, and I recognize what the real problems where that caused me to question my future as a writer.
The voice wasn’t mine.
As freelance writers, we’re taught to learn and write in the clients’ voice. This is important for continuity and brand consistency, but it also needs to sound authentic and like it’s coming from a real person. Before I found my voice, I was writing to appease three different editors with different writing styles, different backgrounds, and different voices. I knew that once the content was published the words would no longer be my own after having gone through numerous rounds of intense edits. This created a disconnect in my initial writing process because I was always writing with the idea that my words were going to inevitably be changed. It usually was, and I took it very personally. Which brings me to my next point.
I took everything personally.
I was TOO connected to writing that wasn’t even my own. I was spending too much time and energy on my professional work that I wasn’t writing for fun or about topics I was passionate about. I had forgotten that writing COULD be fun because I had stopped doing it as a hobby and only wrote at work. It wasn’t until I learned to disconnect my personal feelings from the writing I do professionally, that I realized the criticism wasn’t personal at all. Every editor is just trying to create the best content for their audience, it’s not personal. It’s business.
I wasn’t passionate about the content.
I began to notice the correlation between my writing and my passions when I started writing on Medium back in November. My first few articles fell flat because I was trying to find the perfect formula to write a successful (cough…viral…cough) article. Once I let go of the idea of going viral and just WROTE, then I realized how much passion translates into writing. Now I think less, write more and let the words flow out the way they want to.
I had failed to find deeper meaning.
WHY was I writing this content? My answer was always “because it’s my job” or “because I was told to.” The answer wasn’t “to inspire” or “to help people.” These days, all of my content has to meet those two requirements. I recognized that I need to keep the bigger picture in mind to stay grounded in my work. My content needs to add value to people’s lives and identifying my “WHY” has allowed me to regain perspective in moments where I’m buried by technicalities and rules. Always remembering who I do this for and the tiny impact I can make in people’s lives, helped me find deeper meaning in my work besides pressing keys on a keyboard.
Let this be a lesson that rejection and challenges are a part of life. How you choose to handle criticism in a moment can be a difficult call to make when your ideas are being challenged. But learning to embrace the critique and using it to empower your future and further fuel your passion.
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Sarah Aboulhosn is a writer and content strategist who loves murder podcasts, flying over oceans, and stand-up comedy. Learn more about how her and how she helps businesses grow at www.sarahaboulhosn.com.