NON FICTION: Your Writing Journey Is Unique To You

Writing Journey Car Ride - Averie Woodard

Photo: Averie Woodard

Some people say writing’s the only thing that feels natural to them. Others call it cathartic. You’ve even heard people claiming that they’d die if they couldn’t write. You, on the other hand, do away with such frivolities. After all, you’re doing it just to earn a living.

The industry, in general, pays peanuts. But it’s your highest-paying career to date. This includes the six years you spent as a hairdresser and the one in auditing. Your first writing gig paid USD600 per month. Not exactly high-roller money, but it’s still double your salary during your hairdressing days.

You slowly discover you actually have a knack for writing. You write advertorials for the newspapers. Then you write for the business section of the papers. Then you freelance for the papers. You write whatever you have to, for whomever you have to write for — and that’s usually the person who pays the highest.

The next step

Then you score a travel-writing gig, and it’s off to Boracay. Hokkaido. India. You find yourself in expensive places without the money to actually enjoy the trips. The hotels comp your meals, but you don’t dare order anything above USD50, because you won’t be able to afford the checkout bill if they go back on their word.

After a few years at it, you receive calls asking if you’d like to be an editor, a manager, something beyond the void that is the rungs of ‘Writer’. You jump on that, because money. Your entire life was spent making up for all that lost time, and your chance is finally here. You’re really going places now. And all you needed to sacrifice were just your authorly dreams.

You get a bigger desk and you actually have the priority to choose which work laptop you want, but something just seems wrong. It’s not that you hate the job, but it doesn’t involve that much writing anymore, and you’re starting to feel a little antsy. Maybe you do need to write to live after all.

You hand in your resignation letter. You say you’re going to write a novel. “That’s stupid,” one colleague says. “I wouldn’t give up such a cushy job,” says another. You agree with them, but something’s just begging for you to give it a try. You’ve already put your novel off for eight years. You don’t want another eight years to pass without giving it a fair shot. So you go ahead. And you smack your face against a wall.

Chasing your dreams

First of all, you start freelancing to fund your time as a novelist. You spend some time on big projects, and the pay’s due in 2020. Then Covid-19 hits and no one’s answering the phone anymore. Fine. You focus on your novel. Freelancing was procrastination anyway.

Then, as it turns out, writing a novel isn’t as easy as ‘just doing it’. Your first chapter’s a cliché. Your main character — Calen — wakes up from a dream. You delete that draft, you try again. Calen looks at the weather. Then you finally get one: Calen sells drugs.

You don’t know what a character arc is, and your novel reads more like twenty short stories of Calen fumbling around rather than one whole journey, so you consider deleting that damn manuscript and going back to a desk job. But hey, you’re already 60,000 words in. Might as well polish it and send it out.

Queries and novel competitions take forever, and it’s a long three months of living frugally, and you get the email saying that they’d like to publish your work. All throughout your career, you’ve steeled yourself for countless queries and years of collecting rejection slips that you don’t actually believe you’re going to be traditionally published.

You look up to the likes of Neil Gaiman and David Sedaris, wondering if you’d ever be able to follow in their footsteps, but now you’re starting to realise that you have your unique writing journey to live. You might write hundreds of manuscripts and not sell another one, but you’ve made peace with it, because even that will be a part of your journey.

Embrace your path, wherever you are

Everyone has their place in the world, even in the writing industry. Some people become poster boys and girls for all things fiction. Others make a comfortable living ghostwriting memoirs, never to see their name on the books they’d so tirelessly worked on. 

There might be kids who’ve discovered their passion for writing when they were barely out of the womb, and there’ll also be people who stumble on this vocation later on in life. What binds all these writers together is that everybody has their own unique path to take.

And you want people to know that if you’re only now finding your stride in fiction—at the age of thirty-seven, in a country where publishing isn’t that great of an industry, after multiple failed careers—then perhaps they can in their own writerly journeys as well. The way of getting there might be different, but the destination is almost always the same.

Maybe that’s why you write. You want to inspire people, to tell stories, to show other writers what’s possible. So you write another book. And another one. And you continue biting your nails through those long waiting times. And maybe you’ll make it, and maybe you won’t.

But you’ve given it a fair shot now, and you wish for others to do the same. Because no matter which path you’re on in your writing journey, the worst thing you could do is not taking a single step at all.


How’s your writing journey been so far? I’d love to know. Do share them in the comments below :)

52 thoughts on “NON FICTION: Your Writing Journey Is Unique To You

  1. I enjoyed reading this! “Embrace your path, wherever you are” yes please 🙌🏾

    To answer your question, I’m not where I’d love to be in my writing journey. I’m only now figuring out how to “take my first step” but hopefully I’ll get there… as soon as I figure out exactly what story I want to tell.
    Great post!

    • Really? Your blog reads like you’re way beyond your first steps already. But yes, take your time to figure out what works for you, because no one else can do you like you can.

      What does your dream writing journey look like?

  2. Hi Stuart! Great piece!

    I agree with Wonani, “Embrace your path, wherever you are” is so important. I started writing about 6 months ago and it’s brought so much to my life is so little time. I feel like I’m continuing to learn and grow with every piece that I write.

    Thanks for the inspiration! :)

    • And the great thing is we all have our collection of experiences to infuse our articles with. I used to climb myself, but I’m sure I have less climbing stories and experiences compared to you (especially on natural rock).

      Also, how’s your 2020 journey so far? How far along are you on your 2020 goals?

      Thanks for stopping by!

      • 2020 is going great! Thanks for asking.

        I’m focusing on learning, writing, and trying new things! I didn’t have a formal list, so I decided to write one up and post it on my site for accountability. I would say they’re all going really well though. Just focusing on the process. :)

        How about you, Stuart? How’s your year and 2020 goals going?

      • It’s going pretty well, 2020 surprises included. Have to deal with the monster that is procrastination though. By the way, I dropped a comment on your site and I think it got sent to the spam folder, so do let me know if it’s there because I might have some problems with Askimet lol.

  3. I finally decided to say “F it” and officially start my journey instead of hemming and hawing, waiting for someone else to give me permission. I’ve been 1000x happier.

    • Doesn’t it feel empowering? I totally relate to you on that ‘permission’ thing. I waited eight whole years before I just gritted my teeth and stated on my book. Now I wonder why I hadn’t done it sooner.

      How far along are you in your journey, and what has been your biggest lessons so far?

  4. Hey Stuart! Great post. I’m still plugging along. Loving the scenery along the journey. All inspiration. Keep writing.

  5. I enjoyed this one, Stuart. I often see myself in your words.

    I wrote some poetry in high school. Then, I took a break for 15+ years. Hardly wrote a single word. About two years ago, I decided I wanted to be a writer. I started journaling, wrote a couple of short stories, and got back into poetry. I somehow put together about 40,000 words towards a first draft for a novel, but I’m kidding myself writing fiction. I realized that nonfiction is more my style.

    Today, I’ve written about 70 poems, 30 articles, a fairly large journal, and plenty of things not worth mentioning. It’s about 280,000 words total — which I think is an accomplishment. I’m about to start a new blog series that focuses on local history and culture, which is the nonfiction writing that excites me.

    • You’ve found what you’re excited to write about, and that’s much more than most writers can ever ask for. But I’m sure you wouldn’t have come to that conclusion without your rich writing journey that led you there!

      But like you said on your site, what it all really comes down to is that you ‘start writing, one word at a time’. Am wishing you success on your new blog project!

      Why do you think fiction writing isn’t for you?

      • Thanks for the kind words! Yeah, I think writing has a lot of trial and error. It takes time to figure out what you like and don’t like.

        I don’t think fiction is for me because I have very little experience with it. I realize, though, it would get easier with more experience. Plus, I like reading nonfiction books more than novels and watching documentaries more than movies. So maybe that has something to do with it.

  6. Inspiring post! I really enjoy this one, especially as I’m trying to turn a corner on my writing career into making it more a full-time endeavor. This is so great: “Because no matter which path you’re on in your writing journey, the worst thing you could do is not taking a single step at all.” Good luck on your journey; I hope it takes you where you want to go!

    • Philosophical fiction writing sounds like an interesting path to tread indeed. I’m sure you’ll kill it in your niche. I read your free-reading novel section too, and I found your prose to be succint and easy on the eyes.

      Thanks for stopping by and posting such a great comment. What’s next on your journey?

      • Thanks. I’ll be working on a new fantasy novel. Then look for the best way to publish it. That’s the plan, anyway. Just got to stick to it no matter what! The person who gives up can’t get anything that they want, after all.

      • Yeah, for sure. Things are always done better together than alone. There’s a power to the collective. Good luck again with your journey!

  7. Thank you so much for this post. I really enjoyed reading it! It’s quite fitting for where I’m at in my writing journey right now. I especially love that last line as it’s something I keep telling myself whenever I feel like giving up.

    • Glad you enjoyed it! What is it about writing that makes you want to quit? Other than the dreaded feeling that what you’re doing that day won’t amount to anything, that is.

      • That, definitely, and also that even if I do succeed and get published, I won’t be able to handle the stress and pressure that comes with marketing a book.

  8. This is great. I have been writing for years now (only for myself) but what I struggle with the most, is grammar. I envy people such as yourself, that can write and it just flows. Meanwhile, I could re-write until cows come home and there will still be errors. But I will keep on and keep on improving.

    • Aww, that’s such a kind thing for you to say. Your content is amazing though, and you seem to have lived an exciting life! Also, I think you grammar is fine. Are you a perfectionist when it comes to doing other tasks?

      Thanks for stopping by, by the way!

  9. Ahhhh it’s like this post was written for me! LOL. I feel like a lot of writers constantly feel like this way, no matter which part of the journey they’re on. I’m been feeling so doubtful of my writing abilities but embracing the journey where you are is probably what I should really be EMBRACING.

    I’ve been on/off my writing journey for so long, I sometimes feel like an imposter telling people I’m a writer “on the side.” Are you even a writer if you’re writing so little? I’m trying to get back into it now that my small business is shut down because of COVID and get back to something that brings me genuine joy — but I’m having so much trouble picking which route/niche I wanna go. I’m all over the place on what I wanna do — blogging about life or nonfiction, food recipes, or freelancing for (digital) publications or all of that, and more!? It’s been exhausting but then again, maybe it’s just about starting somewhere and seeing where it leads you.

    • Impostor syndrome is real, and you should be embracing that very thing as part of your journey as well. Do know what whatever niche you choose to be in, they’re all the right decision, in that they’ll be uniquely yours. So don’t fret too much about choosing the perfect niche. Like you said, it’s about starting somewhere and seeing where things go. As long as you take those steps each day—no matter how few—you’re golden.

      Thanks for dropping by and leaving such a thoughtful comment!

  10. Hi Stuart,
    I really enjoyed your blog. Insightful, honest, and gives people hope to carry on their journey in the world of writing, in whatever capacity. Thank you very much for your comment on my first post. Look forward to reading more of your work.

    • Yup, the most important yardstick is yourself, that’s what I like to say, because in my case, that yardstick tends to be pretty short, so overcoming it daily is easy :P. Thanks for stopping by!

  11. Stuart, this is a fabulous post. You really do write stuff. Good stuff. I have written for years, books – some published most not, articles, blog posts, newsletters, even emails take some thought and skill if you have to deal with sticky problems. I consider myself a writer, not the best maybe, but legitimate. I’d like to somehow finish my fiction works, but that is not something that seems to come as naturally as I thought it did before I sent it to an editor. You have had some huge successes and I wish you hundreds more. Marsha :) Thanks for stopping by my blog, Always Write today.

    • Aww, it’s amazing to wake up to thoughtful comments like this, and I’m grateful that you decided to take the time to write this here. Indeed, we’ll write every day, together! Thanks again stopping by!

      • It was my pleasure. It takes a while to explore a blog. I had a chance to explore Colleen’s more deeply because of the interview. I had know her for years, but this gave me several hours of exploring on her blog. If you’d ever like to do an interview or a guest post, let me know. Marsha :)

  12. Hi Stuart, this is such a lovely piece writing. Sometimes, well many times, I have doubted myself as a writer and don’t really think much of myself as one.. but recently I’ve decided to do the work and read read read. I’m still trying to find my flow and working towards achieving that. Maybe one day I might write my own novel, maybe not but it would be silly to not give it a shot. Thank you for the hope in your words and for commenting on my post earlier.

    • What makes you think you’re not a writer? Your writing’s beautiful and I think you’d be doing the world a disservice by not writing that novel. Thanks for stopping by and wishing you all the best in discovering your flow!

      • I guess that fear of not being intelligent enough to be one? I’m a work in progress 🤪 but yeah thank you and best wishes to you too, happy writing!

  13. Around 2016 I’m on Grade 6, when I started thinking about writing. My cousin was the one asked me to write a story together with him. We both had our note books together where we wrote a genre of fantasy. He did write it correctly when I wrote mine as a script and I really thought that I write it perfectly. My English that time was a mess. But still trying to work on my English grammars because on that time I hate English and I don’t know about noun, verbs and adjectives. I didn’t listen. Like nothing. I know nothing about English. It was my second language. I suck at it and now I didn’t expect it to be this way. That I’ve been using it like a lot. I started making books in my current language but I do prefer English. My first book was one shot story that I published on a publishing app the genre was Fanfiction. I really expect it the be sold in bookstore or whatever but that was just a dream it turns out Fanfiction was never like that… Hehe. I’ve stop writing. Because I end up having too much ideas that I can’t end. But not I’m currently working on new my novel that I’m willing to end this time and not give up on writing. Because my dream is become a good writer the rest of my life.

    • Yes, you should definitely pursue it, and great on you for taking up the challenge of writing in English even though it’s not your first language. Even that is a unique story in itself. Am wishing you all the best for your novel and hope you really finish it, because it really is worth it. Thanks for stopping by and here’s to one day selling your novel in bookstores!

  14. first may I say, great use and implementation of second-person POV. that’s not easy to pull off in such a compelling way. as for my writing journey. I’m working full-time as a copywriter for a cruise company. and writing my novel has taken a major backseat. But I still work on it over the weekends, usually write about 1,000 words every Saturday. so, major slow down. But at least I’m still going. At least this manuscript I’m working on, too, is a revision rather than a brand new novel. Small miracles haha. Best of luck in your endeavors!

    • Thanks for the thoughtful reply, Meagan. Yes! As long as you’re taking steps towards your personal goal, it’s still progress. 1,000 words every week means you’ll probably be done in a year or so, and God knows I’ve spent many a year doing nothing at all.

      Copywriting for a cruise company sounds like a sweet gig, though it must be tough during these challenging times. Wishing you all the best with your WIP too, and thanks again for stopping by :)

  15. Pingback: NON FICTION: Things You Should Know Before Trying To Write For A Living | Stuart Danker – I Write Stuff

  16. I really like your beautiful blog. A pleasure to come stroll on your pages. A great discovery and a very interesting blog. I will come back to visit you. Do not hesitate to visit my universe. See you soon. 🙂

  17. It’s difficult not to write about what you really want to write about, and just write what others would like. Gotta stick to my guns and not be too easily swayed by popular culture. This is my writing journey so far. I now don’t care if my articles will be read or not, or if it’s too controversial. I write what I want. If I can touch the lives of the few who read it, then I’m happy :)

    • That’s the way to go. What’s more important is that you write what you feel should be said, instead of what you think would be the most popular. Thanks for stopping by and being part of the conversation!

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