If I’m going to be completely honest, I am often jealous of more successful writers. Today I read an article entitled “After a Year of Blogging: 9 Things I Wish I’d Known From the Start.” Number one on the list: That she wasn’t prepared for the huge influx of traffic from her very first blog post, which was featured on WordPress’s Freshly Pressed.
Maybe the writer didn’t mean it like that. And I should be happy for a fellow blogger’s success, right? But I couldn’t help it—I felt annoyance, jealousy, even anger. I’ve been blogging for a year. I’ve never had a Freshly Pressed post. The author of this article also worked in that she was accepted to Scary Mommy (which I have as well) and BLUNTmoms (which I have not). There it is again, that competitive feeling. Why haven’t I written for BLUNTmoms?
Reading this purportedly helpful article about blogging had the effect of sucking me into a downward spiral of, “Why haven’t I published more? Why aren’t I as successful as these other writers? Am I even good writer? Maybe I just suck.”
Sometimes I feel like I’m just playing at writing. Before becoming a blogger, I was an honest-to-goodness magazine editor. I had interviewed celebrities, gone to movie sets (OK, they were TV movies, but still [EDIT: How could I have forgotten? I have done a set visit of a big-screen movie: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince!]) and attended Fashion Week (at which, I can assure you, I was the least fashionable person). I had a pretty cool job, and I felt semi-legit.
But this blogging, freelancing thing is different. I worry that I’ve fallen into the black hole that is Writing For Free, like for this blog and for Huffington Post, for example—which is apparently something “real” writers don’t do. “No, I won’t work for dog treats,” one writer whose career I admire lamented on Facebook after she was offered a gig writing for a pet product company that would only pay her in said animal biscuits.
This writer had a similar trajectory as me. She was an editor, then became a blogger for a magazine’s website (OK, not exactly the same as me), then parlayed that into a book that was favorably reviewed by The New York Times (hm, definitely not the same as me), and now writes mainly about parenting for a number of magazines and websites. The green-eyed monster has wielded his piercing gaze at her for a while—but the icing on the cake came when I found out she is now writing for a magazine that I also freelance for (one of my two regular paying gigs). That’s my turf, I thought. Don’t you have enough of your own stuff? I’m struggling to hang on here, give me a break!
Of course that’s now how it works. And if I’m confident in my own work, why should I see her as a threat?
My husband says that I only see the glass half-full, that I don’t recognize my accomplishments and only see what I haven’t done, not what I have. I know that’s true. As soon as I am have one piece accepted I’m off to accomplish the next goal, without stopping to take pride in what I’ve just done. But there are so many more goals to achieve.
Some would say that crippling self-doubt is one of the hallmarks of being a writer. Maybe that’s true. But sometimes I wonder if I even deserve the label of “writer.” True, I am a published writer—so by the technical definition, yes, I am. But I still feel like somehow I don’t measure up, that I don’t have the formal training. I didn’t do internships at big magazines. I haven’t attended writers’ workshops. I am (probably) not known in the wider circle of who’s who in the writing world. I fly under the radar, working in my pajamas as my toddler naps. I’m a dime-a-dozen mommy blogger.
I’m not just fishing for compliments. I really don’t know how to feel about my so-called writing career at this point in my life. Maybe if I just had more time to write, I think. Maybe I need a little garret in an attic somewhere where I could hunker down and just “hone my craft” or something. But would that fly for my husband and toddler? I already feel guilty that so much of my “work” doesn’t make actual money. Does it even, therefore, count as “work”? What the hell am I doing with my time anyway? Should I just go back to working full-time in a “real job”? Is this just a first-world problem that people who have to work for actual money would scoff at?
But if I’m going to go for it, I need to know that my family supports me in this endeavor, because in order to be successful in this kind of creative field, you have to go whole hog. Half-assing it won’t work. Then I will fail for sure.
So dare I put down in writing my goals, my writers’ bucket list, if you will? OK, here goes:
- Write a book, probably a memoir based on my many years of infertility and pregnancy loss.
- Get published in The New York Times Motherlode column.
- Write for Brain, Child magazine (they keep rejecting me).
- Branch out into travel writing, something I love but have no experience in.
- Make a living out of paid, yes PAID, writing assignments.
- Achieve some kind of award or recognition that will reassure me once and for all that I am, in fact, an honest-to-goodness, “real” writer.
- Stop doubting that I am an honest-to-goodness, “real” writer.
That last one, I know, will be the hardest of all. Maybe the title of “writer” is not something you earn, but rather something you believe yourself to be. Something you own. Something you just are.
Fellow bloggers, can you identify with what I’m feeling? Let me know I’m not alone!