In early April of this fateful year, I completely rearranged my life. I left a job I had been working at for nearly two years, I moved back to my hometown, and I decided to start a new career. Or rather, to start a career in general.
As a 21-year-old college drop out, I had only worked in fast-food related jobs. From the age of eight, however, I had wanted to be a writer.
I wrote novel-length stories that I would show to my family. I wrote poetry and short stories that I kept to myself. As I grew older, I passed all of my English classes with an A or above(thank you extra credit!). I devoted all of my time to things that involved writing, or reading.
At 16, I got my first job at a local fast-food restaurant in my hometown. I told myself it was a stepping stone into my writing career, as I worked long nights for minimum wage.
At 18, I was a waitress, and I felt that it was a thing that all young writers did. It felt fitting, being the young adult waitress who went home at night to write her next big story. But my story didn’t come, I was too busy crying at night over how much I hated my job.
At 19, I moved out on my own and started a job that would become my new home for the next nearly two years. As the realities of being an adult took hold, I started to write less and less. I went to college for a semester but lacked the funding to continue on, so I dropped out and poured myself into my work.
In that short-lived college semester, I remember that English class very well. We met twice a week, and I looked forward to that class more than anything. I showed up early, participated in class(which was unheard of for me, who was usually so shy), and took pride in my final presentation.
My job was an incredibly stressful and busy one, which left little time for anything other than working. On my darkest days, and any time that I felt lost in life, I would pick up my pen and start to write again.
For a minute, or an hour. For a week at a time.
I would start to write until I got too busy again. My laptop and notebooks always waited for me.
As the pandemic started, I got a very strange urge to run. So did my friends; we were almost all in a fight-or-flight state. I left the life I had built up on my own and came home, one of my best friends left the state to go back to her family. I returned to my first job and left just as quickly. I was unhappy with everything I had known before.
I remember waking up one morning feeling deeply unsatisfied. I was anxious about finding a new job but resistant to spend another year working towards something I did not truly love.
An advertisement on the TV played. It went on to lecture anyone who stumbled across it about how difficult these trying times are(as if we didn’t already know)but not to fear! Many of the biggest businesses today got their start in some of the darkest moments in history.
I shut off the TV, feeling annoyed at first. But I started to grow curious. Was it really possible to build a life out of nothing? I am seldom one to back down from a challenge, and with nothing but uncertainty looming around each corner, I decided to dive head-first into pursuing my writing career.
Here is the rather unfortunate-or fortunate, depending on how you look at it-truth. I got rejected a lot. Such is life.
Until September of 2020, I had never worked professionally as a writer or even had much of a portfolio, to begin with. The majority of the writing I had created, I kept to myself. My first daunting task was to put myself out there.
My second task was to be welcoming towards rejection. My skin was as thin as I could be when it came to my writing. Years of passing English classes with all As did little to teach me how to receive criticism. But I took it, whether I wanted to or not.
I applied to jobs that I knew were well out of my reach. I applied to content farms, ghostwriting positions, blogging jobs. I kept a little journal full of the feedback companies sent to me. Though I hated to read the book, I forced myself to study my wrongdoings and apply them to the next possible job.
As writers, we tend to view our work with both too much pride and too much shame. We are proud of how we have expressed ourselves in our work, but we are hindered from putting ourselves out there by the fear of rejection. Writing, technical or not, is an incredibly personal process. Our writing is our child.
However, if our writing is our child, then critics are their teachers. Realistically speaking, our children are not as wonderful and as cute as we have made them up in our heads to be. We dote on our children because they are the products of us. To have people tell us our children are not perfect can be jarring at first.
I started to realize that I only wanted the best for my ‘children’. So instead of dismissing feedback, I started to internalize it. I wrote down each common critique on my writing over and over again, the way a school teacher might force a student to.
One day in mid-September, I got an offer. Then in October, another offer. Humbling myself was starting to pay off.
These were not what could be described as ‘dream jobs’, by any means. But through them, I learned very shakily how to navigate my way through the world of freelance writing. I was tired and frustrated every day. I knew in my heart that I was being underpaid, but I also knew that I needed this blunt experience. I needed to start from the ground up.
I set up a desk for myself. Drawers of notebooks and folders of projects and coffee cups littering my workspace. I certainly looked and felt the part of a starving writer. While I appeared stressed(and I most definitely was)I was content in knowing that I was stressing over something I was passionate about. I was where I was meant to be, the road to my future was being carved out by my own hands, and I felt satisfied.
I am still carving out my own path. The path is short and jagged, but it is much more defined than it was two months ago. Things are becoming more regular in my day-to-day life, and that void of dissatisfaction is slowly closing up. I know that as much as I’d like to think I have grown in terms of my intuition, I still have very little foresight into my future.
But I have a lot more trust in myself.