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Year-End Review: On My Career as a Writer

December 30th, 2013 Leave a comment Go to comments

If I had to use Facebook to update my relationship status with my career in 2013, I would say it’s complicated.

Depending on who you ask, or when you ask, writing is either hard or easy. But no one who is a professional writer will ever tell you being a writer is easy. It isn’t. Being a writer is not doctor hard or lawyer hard or science hard or even maybe banking hard. It’s not emotionally draining like teaching or being a social worker, and it’s definitely not taking a toll on my body like construction does on my brother.

What makes being a writer so difficult is the way the profession fucks with my head. From wrestling with words and phrases (like when to curse and not to curse), to getting published, to chasing opportunity after opportunity only to be chasing check after check. From trying to write that article for the publication who said yes, to trying to write that pitch letter for the publication we want to say yes, to writing that book proposal to create our own work so we will no longer have to be begging to write for others….I could go on, but you see it, so I digress.

My life in some ways still moves like the way I just described, but this year I was able to smooth things out a little bit. I’m still at the New York Post, and this year, I even picked up another job in my profession as a contributing editor at The Root. There, I write a weekly column called “His Side,” which I encourage all of you to check out. And of course, I still have this blog, which many of you still read.

Thank you.

The biggest breakthrough I had this year as a writer was internal. For the first time ever, I finally found the confidence to say I’m a good writer. That’s something people have told me most of my life, and it was always nice to hear. Sometimes, I even believed those voices myself, but this year I was finally saying it to myself. It was a good feeling to have, and it was also very scary, which is why I say things were complicated this year.

For the first time ever, I started wondering if there was something else other than writing I could do.

I don’t know if the feeling I had was to give up on a writing career altogether (there is, other types of writing I could do, ones that are more profitable), but I have been more at peace than ever about that idea. For as good as I believe I am at this craft, I still struggle to make ends meet. Maybe that has more to do with my personal financial habits. Maybe I’m being too hard on the profession and not hard enough on myself, but I can’t help but feel like something is off between my abilities and my bank account. Sometimes I feel like if I was as good at anything else as I am at writing, I’d be living in a house right now instead of breaking my fingers over this keyboard in an effort to make rent on this one bedroom apartment. I could be totally wrong about that, but lately I’ve been curious to find out.

I talked to my mother about this very thing earlier this month. It wasn’t a difficult conversation to have, but when I told her I’ve been thinking about putting a time limit on this career, that I may pivot within the next couple of years to some other arena where the fruits compliment the labor, her response surprised me. She said she thought it was a good idea to consider. But like most mothers who are close to their children, she heard more than what I was saying, but how I was saying it. I love what I do, but I talk about what I do like people talk about folks who don’t love them back. And that’s the rub: I have put in the work, the mythical 10,000 hours at this craft (I’m 32, I started writing seriously when I was 12, don’t ask me how I know it’s been 10K hours, it’s been 10K hours damn it), and at most, this game has only given me brief moments of reciprocity for my commitment. That sometimes makes my efforts feel like a fool’s errand.

But all was not lost in 2013. This year, a lot of heavy lifting was done. I went out to L.A. for some exciting opportunities that are still on the table. Mediabistro found me worthy enough to feature me in one of their re-occurring sections called “So What Do You Do?” I finally found an agent who believes in my idea for my first book enough that he has been remarkably patient with me getting my proposal done. Kiese Laymon found one of my essays worthy enough to feature in Gawker’s Saturday series. Most importantly, like I said, I have finally found the self-confidence that has always eluded me as a writer. It’s not to say I never thought I was good, I just never had the consecutive days of certainty I have now, and I still remain very skeptical about this career ever loving me the way I have loved it.

I am excited to see what 2014 has in store for me and my career. Hopefully it won’t be defined by struggle the way it has in the past, but there is only one way to find out: Do more work. I may have told my mom I’ve been thinking about transitioning out of this career, but who am I kidding? It’s hard to end something when you feel like you’re just getting started.

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  • Kesia Monteith

    Good luck, man. Just recently found this blog. You’ve been doing a great job here and at The Root. Keep up the good work, and wish you all the best in the new year.

  • tiffanyinhouston

    I really enjoy your writing and hate that you don’t blog more. Can you update the post with links to the other pieces you wrote?

  • Zee

    Much love to you and this article. My upcoming journey will probably be similar to yours (hopefully). I’ve worked my way into “financial stability,” but I lack the joy I’ve always aspired to have when it comes to the work I do. Believe it or not, your article just gave me the boost to move forward. Thank you.

  • TG.

    Jozen, I relate from all corners. Your transparency is a gift. Surprisingly, this may have inspired me to get back into writing haha.

  • Kara

    Well first, I love your blog. I came across your blog a couple months ago while traveling overseas. I couldn’t sleep because of the time change and stress and then I found your blog. I stayed up the rest of the night reading and most nights thereafter. It took me about 3 weeks to read all of the entries starting back from 2009. I love it, please keep writing: blog, articles, book. I’m reading it.

  • Whitney

    I have followed your blog since it started but I have never commented before. I have read every crazy and thought provoking words you have posted on this blog. I have honestly seen you grow (from what you choose to share with us) and progress as a writer. You are inspiring in more ways than one; you continue to follow your dream and make something of yourself. Your dedication and passion is motivating and every time i read your post it reminds me to continue to move forward in my own dreams. You deserve every success that comes your way. When your first book comes out, i will buy it and I will get you autograph it at one of your book signings. 😉

  • Mr. SD

    Keep on trucking man..Cant stop if its ya dream…do that or just get into IT..LOL The money is grrrreat!

  • Janus

    Hey Jozen – this was a great post. It is very easy to get discouraged in this industry, but your commitment is commendable. I was wondering if you could talk (write) a little bit about the financial side of life as a writer. How does one translate the ability to write well into money?

  • monica

    I totally agree! Jozen you have even inspired me to start writing.

  • Metanoya

    I’d be lying if I told you I frequent your blog, nonetheless, I still love you, and respect your ability to evoke emotion with words. Your gift made me read this. Once I started with the first sentence, I couldn’t stop. I wanted more. Needed more. You had something to say that was honest and relatable, transparent and sensitive… As a fellow scriber, I overstand your struggle. The self-doubt, some progress met by some rejection, and through it all you keep going. We keep going. I remember when you use to edit my fashion commentary for the Hilltop–Kenneth Cole feature, N.E.R.D profile, trend pieces–you supported me, made my voice stronger, work more powerful and I’ll forever be grateful to you for this is and so much more. Keep writing Jozen. If not for you, for the people you empower. Stand. The universe got you. xx MZW

  • Yaa Yaa

    I am in the same boat as you about my career in public health. This post fits perfectly with my thoughts. Thanks for writing.