Can I write for pay and pleasure? It’s a difficult choice

Writing used to be my expression. A way for my introverted, emotionally guarded self to make sense of the tangle of thoughts in my head, to purge myself of pent up emotions, to communicate what I couldn’t say out loud. Expression turned to passion while studying English writing at St. Edward’s University, where I was continuously inspired by the heart-stirring words of successful novelists, poets and essayists. Inspired, that is, to write something that means something to me and hopefully, to someone else. But I also wanted to make a living, and I was dead set on a career that revolved around writing.

Two years later, I fear I’m falling out of love with writing. I struggle to find the right words, and I can’t feel an ounce of creativity inside of me. I force myself to write a poem, on the rare occasion I make the attempt. I have four blog posts on my four-month-old blog. And never mind coming up with a creative non-fiction essay topic that answers the question burning inside every reader: So what? My passion for writing dangles from a thin string, gnawed away by my own desperation: I used my ability to write purely for financial purposes and let writing become a job rather than a career.

Writing is what I know, and I needed to pay the bills, so I applied to any writing-related job, took what I could get and tricked myself into believing that it was all for my career (that any type of writing job – whether I enjoyed the writing or not – would kick-start my writing career.)

But it wasn’t until even my own writing started to feel like work that I realized I was pursuing a writing career all wrong. I was writing to pay rent, not writing to write, grow as a writer, figure out what I really want to write and work toward achieving that.

A big part of me no longer wants to pursue a writing career – not now, at least. I still dream of someday having a career as a writer, but the writing must come first, or else I won’t grow as a creative writer or reach an equal balance of writing because I want to and writing to support myself.

For now, I’m focusing on reigniting my passion for writing and gaining back the confidence to call myself a writer. Here’s the game plan (so far):

  • Join Professional Writers of Austin. I was hesitant to explore Austin’s writing community and get involved with PWA because I haven’t felt like I deserve the title of “professional writer,” let alone “writer.” But part of what created my passion for writing was interacting with other writers and volunteering my love for writing to writing and English-related organizations.
  • Write this blog post despite my shaken confidence and constantly battling myself – Is that the right word choice? Am I engaging my audience? Is my lack of passion obvious, or is it subtly lurking between the lines, and I’m just too far in my head to see it? But I’m writing, and while it’s frustrating at times, it’s also exhilarating. Most importantly, I want to write.
  • Separate writing from income by deafening my ears to the siren call of writing-related jobs. At least until I figure out whether or not a writing career is for me and what kind of professional writer I want to be.
  • Write, write and write – poems, blogs, essays, articles, short stories, a personal journal, anything…as long as I’m writing because I want to write, not because I have to and most certainly not to pay the bills.

Kaitlin Meilert is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, where she earned her BA in English Writing & Rhetoric from St. Edward’s University. Occasionally she works or writes poetry, but mostly she daydreams.



PWA’s May/June 2012 guest blog guest editor is Sandra Kleinsasser.