Over the last few weeks, I have had a fair few experiences that have made me feel insecure about my writing career and I have started to wonder if the way society measures success is accurate, never mind fair.
When I say to people that I am a writer, I don’t always say it with confidence because I know that sometimes the response I get will be judgemental. For the most part, people are incredibly positive about what I do and incredibly proud of me for doing it, but sometimes in certain conversations I feel I have to justify myself and what I do. Sometimes as soon as I say I’m a writer I am written off by eye rolls and sarcastic nods. I am often asked what I earn or told that if I work from home then it’s a hobby not a career. It’s almost as if I get patted on the head and told ‘there, there – this is just a dream, not a real job’. My writing, the thing I enjoy and work so incredibly hard on, is trivialised. This leaves me feeling stung, belittled and embarrassed.
But why am I made to feel like I should be ashamed to call writing my career? What is so different about what I am doing than what everyone else is?
The truth is that I work every day, even on weekends. I try to work less on weekends, sure, but I have emails and social media to keep up to. I write my blog, write articles for different groups and organisations, reply to comments, share my writing on various social media platforms, submit pieces to different websites and magazines, interview various people and work on my novel. When Jack leaves for his job in the city, I sit down at my desk and write. If I take a part of the day off to meet a friend or do something then I work later the next day. My writing hours are the equivalent of full time hours, if not longer.
To some people, because I don’t earn millions or haven’t had a book published yet or haven’t won an Emmy for a TV show I have written, it is not enough. I am just messing around. It’s just a hobby.
But it isn’t.
I know how hard I work every day and I am so proud of myself – I just wish some people wouldn’t make me feel bad about it. I tend to find that a lot of the creative industries where people don’t have a fixed income, can work from home and don’t have set hours are labelled with this stigma. What you’re doing isn’t ‘real’. What you’re doing isn’t ‘work’, even if you work harder than anyone else you know. People just don’t see you as a success.
But what even is success, and how do you measure it?
When I started this blog, I said I wanted to be published by someone other than myself just once. That has happened on multiple times now. My writing has been shared by global charities and read in countries I can only dream of visiting. My blog view count goes up daily and is on a higher number than I could have hoped for in such a short space of time. Just this week, I was published by Ramona magazine (to read my article, click here). I have been interviewed by a charity about my birthmark. I earn money through my writing. I’m not making millions, but I’m most definitely not messing around and doing nothing with my time. It’s just a shame that some people don’t see it that way and even more of a shame that I let their questions and attitude upset me.
The fact is that society measures success by money. You have this job that brings in this money and means you can buy this thing. His job is better than hers because it earns more, hers is better than his because it earns even more than that. No one ever stops to question if you’re happy, just checks the label of your handbag and judges from there.
To me, happiness and success are so much more than what you earn or what you own. Being chained to a desk working a job you hate doesn’t make you successful. Working 9-5 and making no effort to do anything with your free time because you’re so drained by work doesn’t sound like a happy life. Living for the weekend doesn’t make you better anyone else. You might have a certain wage, but don’t tell me that that equals success. A wage is a lifestyle level, not happiness, not success.
It really upsets me that a few comments have made me feel insecure about what I am doing when I compare them to the many, many positive comments I have received. Beyond comments from others, when I think of how happy I am to be doing this it upsets me even more to think that I have then let someone else’s words and opinions dim that happiness.
The truth is that I am not ashamed to label myself a writer. I am a writer now. I love what I do. This gamble might pay off, it might not, but the goals I have set out to achieve this year I have already met and exceeded. I work every day, just like you, but in a field I feel passionate about. I wake up excited to write my next post, to see what my stats say, to read responses to my writing, to connect with new people and groups online.
So the next time you meet someone who is doing something a little different, who is going for a goal and trying to pursue a passion, don’t ask them what they earn. Don’t belittle their path. Don’t make them doubt what they are doing. Instead, support them. Ask them about their successes, about where they wish to go with their venture next. Tell them you’re proud of them for taking the risk. Their version of success might not be the same as how you measure success, but that doesn’t make what they do any less worthwhile.
We’re all just people trying to get by the best we can. Maybe if we all supported each other, it would make getting there a little easier.