It’s been a little bit more than a year since I started my blog and decided to seriously pursue a career in writing. It’s been quite an experience. There are days when I feel perfectly content where I am, but there are also days when I cringe at everything I’ve done so far and wonder if I’m better off being a lady of leisure.
One thing’s for sure though, I learned a lot of life lessons from my attempts to start a second career.
ON TRUSTING MYSELF
When I first decided to try to write for a living my goals were clear:
I wanted to make it as a children’s book writer, that’s pretty much self-explanatory.
As for my blog, to be honest, this started out as more of a passion project. I was getting a bit tired of the curated stuff that I was reading online, so I wanted to write entertaining, relatable essays I guess to show that you don’t have to edit your life to make it interesting. Yes, sometimes, life is fun and Instagram-mable, but sometimes it’s also messy and ugly, or boring and lackluster; and the combination of these experiences is what makes each person unique.
The blog has a slight children’s book theme because I really believe that adulting can be made easier if we find the same sense of wonder for life that we used to have when we were children.
Sounds nice naman right? But how do I propose to make a living out of it? That is a good question. 😛
Initially, I just wanted to use my blog as an online resume to get more writing jobs. I wasn’t out to get sponsorships from companies, nor was I out to gain Kim-Kardashian-level-number of followers. Simply put, I just wanted something to show to potential clients; so when people ask me for a sample of my work, I can be all like, “Oh, here’s the link to my blog.”
In my head, my blog site was not supposed to make money in and by itself, but I wanted to use it as a means to get work that will actually pay the bills. At the very least it will show to people that I can string a few sentences together. At most, somebody might go, “Hey you write so well! Here’s some money! Go write a book!”
It seemed clear when I started. But as I met more and more bloggers, I started getting acquainted with techniques for getting more hits. And the more I listened to them, the more I started panicking. I didn’t know crap about what I was doing!
And then, miraculously, I started getting followers. (Would you believe I haven’t quite figured out how to check how many exactly though? I tried following myself using another account to see if I would get an alert. I didn’t. So for all I know I have bazillions! Or more likely, I probably have 3.) Some of them (were strangers!!!) would take the time to message me and say how they can relate to a particular post. Very cool, I should be happy, right?
Here’s the thing that I never realized about myself until recently. I’m very good at taking constructive criticism. Years of having a pragmatic, non-complimenting dad and a self-deprecating mom would do that to you. BUT I cannot deal with compliments.
The more feedback that I got, the more psyched out I became. Don’t get me wrong, the tech-skills and comments were helpful. But it also got to the point where it just started to get paralyzing.
What will people think about this particular post? Maybe I should veer from this, because it didn’t get hits the last time. It was driving me nuts. And giving me major writer’s block.
After a while, I realized should just go back to basics and write. I said from the beginning that I wanted to write authentic, unfiltered posts. If I start agonizing on how each word is phrased in order to optimize hits, then I wouldn’t be staying true to what I set out to do.
I realised that I need to trust my own judgment, to filter the things I’m learning and to make sure I’m always in line with my goals.
ON DISCIPLINE AND SAYING NO
Here’s another thing about me, I am super kaladkarin. Despite my reclusive, crabby tendencies, I genuinely like people. Likewise, despite my crabby, reclusive tendencies, people seem to like me back. So I get kaladkad-ed a lot.
Most of the time, saying no just simply means saying no to hanging out.
Now that I’m freelancing, my friends don’t seem to get that I have work to do. For one thing, I keep my own time, and most of the work that I do, I do in the house. So I guess, in their heads, I can pretty much go out whenever I want to, I just choose not to.
This may not seem to be a problem for regular adults with high EQ, but again- kaladkarin.
It is especially difficult for me when I’m writing for myself. When I have clients, and have external targets to deal with my OC tendencies get the better of me and I’m always on time. But when it comes to updating my blog or writing my children’s stories, then writing becomes a moving deadline.
I finally decided that I needed to put my foot down. I need to keep a set schedule. No more spontaneous lunches and binge-drinking in the evenings (ok fine, maybe once, no twice a week). I realized that if I’m serious about making a career out of writing, I have to stop treating it as a hobby.
Saying no to socials is one thing. But, I also started getting a few job and business venture offers that have nothing to do with writing.
I’ve had to say no to those too. Those were particularly excruciating because some seemed like good opportunities.
I guess what keeps me resolute is that after years of searching, I finally found my real, legit passion. And I had to give up another career, one that I’ve actually trained for, in order to go all- in with this. So it seems like a total cop out in my eyes to focus my energies on other things, just when I’ve just starting to gain momentum.
I guess that’s one of the hard lessons I learned in adulting: Making deliberate choices (wrote a blog post about this, in case you’re interested). Sometimes, you just can’t have it all. If I want to thrive in my chosen path, I need to funnel all energies into it. And that can mean discarding attractive opportunities that will not bring me closer to my goals. It may not be instantly gratifying, but I owe it to myself and to the people who supported me to at least give it a shot.
ON COMFORT ZONES AND COMPROMISING
That being said though, I get that at this point, I can’t also be artsy-fartsy about the jobs that I take. I like writing my personal essays, for sure. But, I’m not delusional. No person would pay some rando to write about herself. So I’ve been taking different writing jobs – from menus, articles, press releases, even reports and power point presentations. It’s challenging because sometimes I’m way over my head and know zilch about the particular thing that I’m supposed to write about.
And, to be honest, the topics aren’t always exciting. (I once had to write press releases about mineral bottles. Joy! ) But – it’s work. And, at this point, I’m just super grateful that even with my inexperience, people are still willing to give me a shot.
The great thing about it is, because it is a passion, no matter what I’m writing about, I still derive some sort of enjoyment from it. I love how writing for a variety of people has helped me gain a better appreciation for things that aren’t immediately interesting for me. (When I became a writer for a canine-related NGO, I started warming up to dogs. That is a huge deal. I’ve been a non-animal lover ever since my childhood pet gave me ticks.)
It’s also a welcome challenge to be presented with something staid and straightforward and finding a way to write about it in a more appealing manner.
Through these projects, I learned to stretch myself beyond my comfort zone. I also learned that by being open to writing opportunities that may not initially be what I had in mind, I end furthering and expanding my knowledge and my skills.
MAKING SOMETHING OUT OF OPPORTUNITIES GIVEN
A few months before I started my blog, a friend invited me to start this company that specialized in making educational tools and apps for kids. It seemed like a perfect avenue to be able to write children’s stories, so I was totally game.
Much my disappointment however, I wasn’t able to do a lot of writing at all. For one thing, everyone else was busy with other endeavors, so nobody was focused on really making things happen. Plus, the few projects that we’ve gotten into were joint ventures with other companies – we provided the technology and the graphics, other people provided the copy and content.
After a while, I started feeling a little bit displaced. I was raring to write my books – but so far the only substantial thing I’ve been writing were minutes to company meetings.
Then, out of nowhere, my friend asks if I was willing to take charge of our company. She explained that we needed someone who can sort out the direction of the company and to set the pace of the team.
I’m not going to lie. I didn’t want to. People have this mistaken notion that because I’m bossy and OC, I like leading sh*t. I don’t.
When you put me in charge of something, I get anal and Nazi-ish. And I go through sleepless nights thinking about the project. I literally get obsessed. And while that was totally fine when I was younger, now that I’m a tita, I would rather lead a minimal-stress lifestyle. I just wanted to be handed over projects, do my part and then turn them over to someone else. I didn’t want to the extra responsibility of leading.
Besides, starting this company was not even my idea to begin with. Hell, I haven’t even contributed substantially to any of the projects- most of the time, I felt like a saling-pusa. So how the hell did I go from writing minutes to leading a team of more skilled and more knowledgeable individuals?
To be perfectly logical about it though, I’m the most obvious choice- not because I exhibit exemplary leadership potential, but because among everyone, I had the most time to spare. If nobody steps up, we’ll just end up fizzling. I like our team and believe in our objectives too much to let things fizzle. So, I reluctantly said yes.
It’s only been a few weeks since I tentatively “took charge” (air quotes because we’re a very democratic group), but as predicted I’m getting obsessive and losing sleep trying to come up with new ideas.
And, although it’s too soon to say if I’m even going to be effective, I’m proud to say, that in that short period of time, we have come up with a concept that I could totally sink my teeth into.
This experience taught me, albeit begrudgingly, that I can’t just sit on my laurels waiting for someone to hand me the perfect opportunity. It’s when I take take charge of what I’m given that I have the chance to make it a bit more my own.
My second career journey is far from over. And there are still more stuff that I would like to share. But this is already a mouthful. So will save the next part of the post for next week.