I Wanted to Be A Writer

James, personal

Last year, I decided I wanted to be a writer.

In these difficult times, writing has been a real comfort to me. In a way it has been my outlet to connect with the outside world, sharing a window of my life with those who I don’t interact with regularly, or those who I have stopped interacting with during lockdown. Sometimes I write fairly personally, and I find that incredibly cathartic. Writing things down makes you feel better about them, in least in my experience.

What sort of writer I wanted to be, I didn’t really know, but I knew that I wanted to be doing more of it and getting paid to do it seemed a good option. Maybe technical writing? Maybe I wanted to write a book? It was a thought I put to the back of my mind at least for a little while to revisit later.

Funnily enough, soon after all of this, someone reached out and wanted me to write for them. I jumped at the opportunity. After a few conversations it was decided that I would be contributing technical articles to their blog, focused on engineering analytics and metrics. It was something I could focus on outside of my usual working hours, which was fine with me, and it would bring in a small amount of extra income, which was a double bonus. It seemed the perfect opportunity to get started and grow my writing ability and presence.

Upon writing the first article though, I could tell something wasn’t right. Typically, my articles form themselves over time when I tend and prune my digital garden/Zettelkasten, and I already have the basis of an article when I sit down to write, or I sporadically shoot from the hip and free form an article and let the words flow when I feel as though I had something to say (like this one!).

This felt strange though - I jotted down a few ideas and started to form the skeleton of what I wanted the article to look like, but it wasn’t enjoyable in the slightest. I wanted to stop and walk away, but I persisted. It took about five or six hours in total to form something that I was happy with over the weekend, which is typical of one of my blog posts, but I felt drained. Every bit of excitement and joy I got usually from putting virtual pen to paper seemed to dissipate. When I write for myself, it doesn’t matter if I screw up. I don’t pay much attention to the technicalities or whether an article is considered ‘good’ or not, I just write how I want it to be written, however when this was for someone else, it felt like a completely different matter entirely. I second guessed myself, I over-thought and analysed how I was writing and what I was saying. It was stressful, and writing for me usually wasn’t stressful, it was relaxing and enjoyable.

At this point I couldn’t begin to imagine sitting down and writing the next article and with my tail between my legs I messaged the folk that had originally reached out and informed them that this was something I couldn’t keep up as intended, pouring my heart out into an email. They were so nice about it consistently, and I am glad I was met with so much understanding. I cannot thank them enough for taking a chance with me.

At that point my consistency of writing dropped off a bit, I wanted a break from my blog and articles in general. Of course, I have been keeping up with my Zettel’s, and I journal nearly every day, but in a way it felt nice not to have to worry about what blog post I would be working on next.

I have given this situation some thought recently and done some exploration into what I think happened.

Writing for me is a hobby, something that I do in my own free time and enjoy doing. We can be quick to want to monetise our hobbies because it seems as if it is the dream come true getting paid to do what we truly love, but as soon as we do, we lose that safe space or that haven to escape to. As soon as I lost my freedom into how and when I needed to write, it lost some of the appeal that it held for me before. It was no longer cathartic, or a way of expressing myself when I felt I had something on my chest I needed to get out into the world. It turned into another job, and for me, one job is enough.

We need something to do to escape from our work and from when life gets tough, even if we enjoy and our passionate about our jobs (as I am with mine). For me, amongst other things, that is writing.

I am slowly getting back into writing more regularly and am looking for ways to make my content better and more appealing for folk, but for now it is definitely going to be on my terms and stay as a hobby. I am glad that I experienced this first hand though, because it has shown me with more clarity what my relationship with writing is, and for me that is something to be cherished and protected.

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