The Naked Truth About Being a Writer

I’m a freelance writer, which means I get paid to wake up and write everyday.

I write in my dining room, sipping a glass of cold brew coffee over ice, my goldendoodle Kaia laying under my chair.

I often wake up at 9AM and it’s okay, because no one is breathing down my neck. I get to research things I’m interested in, and people actually pay me to write about them.

Being a writer definitely has its perks. But then there are the hard parts, the dark parts, the parts every writer experiences but few enjoy sharing.

As writers, we need to walk through the forest of fear in order to emerge and share our voices.Click To Tweet

Writing can feel very lonely and isolating

While it’s great to be able to manage my own schedule and work in sweatpants, writing is also a lonely pursuit. Often, it’s just me and my keyboard. Sometimes I daydream about having an office job (seriously) because then I would be able to actually see other people and collaborate with them. (Imagine that!)

I’ve wrestled with the pain of being a writer who thrives on social connection. How do I do both? I’m still figuring that out. I hope that eventually I’ll be able to teach writing just as much as I do writing, that I’ll get more collaborative writing assignments. Until then, I have to intentionally make social time a vital part of each day.

I try to call at least 3 close friends a week and have long, thoughtful conversations with them so that I don’t get completely lonely and depressed. Those conversations keep me going.

I also try to do writing that involves interviewing and learning from others. As writers, we have to intentionally connect with other people. It’s not an integral part of our work. And that’s hard sometimes.

The claws of self doubt often sink into me when I want to write something new and different

I’m writing a soap opera series for one of my clients, 42 Dubonnet.

Unlike with the writing I do for my other clients, this is a creative project completely driven by my own imagination. Sometimes I wake up with every intention of writing another episode of The Adventures of Delilah Dubonnet, but my head junk gets in the way, and I just end up sitting on the couch and reading all day.

With my own blog, it’s also a challenge to push myself to write new and creative things. I will often think of a blog post idea and then immediately dismiss it. I will think, “No one will ‘get’ that.” Or “Who am I to write about that?” Then, instead of pushing through the haze and writing anyway, I let my own fear keep me from putting words on the page.

But when I do trust my voice, when I do push through and write something original, it feels really, really amazing.

It’s all too easy to fall into the trap of learning instead of doing

Have you ever had a brilliant idea for a blog post, writing project, or email, and then thought, “Let me just see if there’s a ‘right’ way to do this?” Then you probably went into the endless hole of the Internet, reading about all of the ‘proven’ ways to write a ‘successful’ post. 6 hours later, you resurfaced and realized you never wrote anything.

Unfortunately, Internet marketers know you’re afraid. They know you want to do it ‘right.’ And they’re all too eager to share what they’ve learned to save you time and effort. But following someone else’s process is a great way to lose your own voice and to join the crowds of people who sound the same.

When I started my blog, I wanted to help people find their voices. But then, without even meaning to, I got swept up in the wave of people teaching other people how to blog. It was so easy to follow the crowd instead of digging down and staying true to what I wanted to write about.

The bottom line? If you have a thread of curiosity in your heart, let that propel you forward. Don’t lose yourself in other people’s “best practices.” What’s best for them may not be best for you.

Sometimes I wonder if my writing really matters

Everyone in my family works in a helping profession. My dad is a divorce lawyer who also counsels his clients. My mom worked as a social worker with foster families for over 40 years, and my sister is a social worker who works with teens. My husband is a family doctor.

I’m the only one who doesn’t work directly with people on a daily basis. Sometimes I wonder if my writing really matters. I deeply want to make an impact with my work. And while I enjoy writing and I’m good at it, sometimes I wonder if it’s enough.

But then I read a blog post that makes me think about the world in a totally different way. I devour a novel that makes me question my beliefs. Or I hear a podcast that gives me hope and inspires me. They help me remember that what I’m doing matters, even if I don’t see the immediate impact of my work.

The other thing that gives my work purpose is knowing that even if no one else reads my writing, the act of writing itself transforms me and teaches me. Especially when I write something honest and original. Writing helps me see things I need to pay attention to. And if my writing makes an impact on me, that’s powerful on its own.

You can’t be a writer without experiencing rejection

No matter what type of writer you are, at some point you have to experience rejection.

I’ve had article pitches rejected. Clients have completely edited and changed articles I’ve written. Every time I send an email to my email list, a few people unsubscribe.

Every writer I’ve read, even the best ones, have negative reviews on Goodreads. The most provocative, stirring articles always have people complaining about them in their comment sections.

While being a writer has made me better at taking criticism and dismissing rejection, it still hurts. I still just want people to tell me they love what I’m doing. I don’t know if that’s ever going to change.

On the other hand, the more I’m rejected, the more I realize that rejection doesn’t hurt me. My writing isn’t me, so when someone doesn’t like it, it doesn’t mean they don’t like me. And even if they don’t like me, that’s okay, too. My dog will love me no matter what.

Getting comfortable with rejection lets me take more risks — both in my work and in my life. And that means I have a fuller life than I would otherwise.

Being a writer takes tremendous self-discipline

I could just binge on Netflix while eating Talenti gelato everyday, because I don’t have a boss other than myself. That means I have to motivate myself to get off the couch, sit down at my computer, and write. Sometimes, I just don’t have it in me to do that.

Don’t get me wrong, if I have a deadline, I meet it.

But if I don’t, it’s all too easy to procrastinate. It’s so tempting to clean my kitchen when I know I should be pitching to new publications instead. Sometimes I’d rather listen to a podcast and dream about being a successful writing teacher instead of doing the actual work of writing. And sometimes, I let myself off the hook.

On the other hand, the fact that more often than not, I get off the couch and do my work means that I’ve built up a well of self-discipline I can draw from. I know that I do my work not because someone else told me to, but because I choose to. And that is a powerful realization.

It’s too easy to ‘disqualify’ yourself from being a writer

I’ve been writing for my entire life. I even have a Creative Writing degree. Yet sometimes, I still think, “Am I really qualified to call myself a writer? Am I qualified to help other people write?”

I’m pretty confident in my writer-ness most of the time. But I know plenty of people (maybe you?) who find a million ways to disqualify themselves.

They say, “Well, I write on my blog, but I’m not really a writer” or “I don’t have a degree so I’m not a true writer” or “I haven’t published anything so I’m not a writer.”

Unlike other professions where if you have a degree, you can add some fancy initials next to your name, no degree can truly make you a “licensed writer.” That means you have to own your writer-ness yourself. You have to have the strength and the confidence to say, “Yeah, I’m a writer.”

And if you write, even if it’s just in your journal, you are a writer. I promise.

Despite all the hardships, I am still a writer.

Honestly, I can’t help it. It’s like there’s an inner voice that pushes me to write. If I haven’t written anything in a long time, it gently nudges me. It says, “Daniela, you need to get your words on the page.”

Being a writer is part of me, like being a woman or having curly hair. For better or worse, I’ll be a writer until I die.

I shared all of these hard, naked truths for a few reasons:

  1. I’m clearing out the cobwebs to give myself space to write with greater depth and clarity
  2. I believe that the dark forest of writing is just as important to acknowledge as the bright flashes of insight, the brilliantly written poems, the incredibly crafted articles.
  3. I think you may have experienced similar hardships to mine. And I want you to know I’m in the scary forest with you. We’ll get through this together.

Here’s a thought to take with you into the future:

It’s normal to feel lonely, fearful, rejected, and frustrated as a writer.

And the thing that will keep you going, more than anything else, is that quiet voice inside you, that playful, creative voice, that whispers “I have something to say.”

Listen to it. Let it out. Your voice wants to be heard.

  • Well, I loved your new word “writerness”. I am in the same boat as you right now and it is so weird, fulfilling, and crazy at the same time

    • Daniela Uslan

      Thanks for your comment Orana! What do you find weird about it?

  • Natasha Botkin

    I’ve dabbled in the same cocerns and got over it. Write my way and have fun. Those who love my style will find me those who do not, well that’s okay, too. Xoxo

    • Daniela Uslan

      I’m glad you got over those concerns. For me the loneliness is the hardest part. That’s why blogging is so great – you get to write and have a community!

  • Omg, I am a writer too and everything you said here I identify with. Espeically your points about self doubt and learning instead of doing. I struggle with those things big time, thank you for writing this, It was a refreshing read.

    • Daniela Uslan

      Thanks Olivia, I’m glad you enjoyed the post. It’s so easy to get caught up in the learning trap, isn’t it?

  • Jessica Araus

    I loved this article! The isolation, the doubt, and rejection, I agree with you in all of that. <3 It's good to know I am not alone in this journey. Thanks for the good read.

    • Daniela Uslan

      Thanks Jessica! I’m glad you related to this!