Wednesday, July 6, 2011

What If My Whole Writing Career Has Been Wrong?

By Beth Erickson

I've been writing professionally for nearly 15 years. I've seen a lot of ups and downs, triumphs and disasters.

As an industry, freelancing has transformed more times than I can count, the big-wigs of yesteryear have been replaced and today's big-wigs will invariably be a fond memory someday.

Overall, freelancing has been good, helped me achieve many of the objectives I set out to achieve.

One thing I didn't expect, however, is how easy it is to fall off track. I share this story with you in the hopes that you don't fall into the same trap(s) I did.

Back when I was working with my Creative Mindset Group, I always emphasized the importance of Polaris. If you're unaware with this concept, here's a quick explanation: Sailors worldwide could navigate earth's vast oceans (at least in the Northern Hemisphere) because they fixed their heading based on the position of Polaris, our North Star.

Polaris is positioned directly above the North Pole. This means that despite the earth's continual rotation, Polaris is the only star that doesn't appear to move across the night sky. Instead, it remains fixed in its position, allowing reliable ship navigation.

So, theoretically speaking, no matter where you are (in the Northern Hemisphere), if you can't find your way, all you need to do is look up, find Polaris, and you'll be able to navigate your way back on track. Cool, eh?

Now, time for my quick story.

I begin my writing career with a message in my soul and a song in my heart. Along the way, I discovered that making a living as a freelancer was a little more challenging than I expected. Turns out, I'm not only expected to know how to write, I must spin a great yarn, I must persevere in a tough profession, and most horrifying of all, I must learn to sell my writing.

It's a tall order.

So, setting my ultimate dream (my Polaris) aside, I embarked on the long process of perfecting my craft (still have a ways to go on that count, I'm sure), keeping my mindset strong, and mastering various components of the persuasive process, i.e. marketing, just to name a few challenges.

That's about the time things started going a bit amok for me.

While I rather enjoy exploring these techniques, they are mere tools to propel me towards my ultimate goal... my Polaris. However, none of them are my "official" Polaris.

Sadly, for far too many years, my life rotated around these exact activities. I studied writing, I immersed myself in mindset issues, I lived, breathed, and ate everything I could get my hands on when it came to mastering marketing techniques. In fact, I even became a professional copywriter for a time.

Ah, the incredible detours we take.

Bad part was that my ultimate dream, my Polaris,languished, patiently waiting for me to come to my senses.

And here's where it gets really interesting.

I firmly believe that we're born with in in-born navigation system, a way we can instantly know when we're on a path contrary to our Polaris. Whenever I'm working on a project that is in harmony, something that is leading me closer to my ultimate goal, I feel great. I'm in the creative zone. I love it. Challenges hardly feel like challenges because I find the whole process so invigorating.

When I'm working on a project that isn't in harmony with my Polaris, I feel a resistance, an annoying niggling feeling that makes it hard to write. I have to force myself to the computer to get moving. The whole process has a dark pallor about it.

When I experience these negative sensations, I know I need to reevaluate the project and examine whether it will enhance my ultimate goal, or whether I should pass the project on to another writer who may find joy working on it.

I know. Easier said than done.

It's hard to turn down projects. It's only the daring who have courage to run after their own dreams, especially when you've got a few dollars at stake.

My theory is that talented people are capable of a lot. However, just because you have the ability to do something doesn't mean you should. We have a finite amount of time per day. How will you spend that time; writing something truly heart felt and empowering, or slaving over a project you took on for the sole purpose of earning a few bucks. The old adage is true: You earn every cent when you take on a project solely for the money.

Somewhere along the line, you'll have to decide whether you'll follow your personal Polaris, your life purpose, or allow yourself to be side tracked by the myriad of possibilities that could, in essence, be valuable, but may leave you wondering at the end of your career, "What if my whole writing career has been wrong?"

Beth Ann Erickson is a compulsive writer, author of seven titles, and editor of Writing Etc., the free zine for writers. Get her first novel when you sign up as a VIP member of new newsletter. It's free, fabulous, and fun.