Year-End Review: On My Career as a Writer
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.
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.