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Writing for a Living

Updated: Apr 20


Books on a long library shelf

Sometimes I feel self-conscious about how much I like my life and career. It feels unfair to talk or write about. There are big problems in the world. So many people hate what they do for a living. Or even if they like their work, they dream of the day they can move on to something bigger and better.


Don't get me wrong. I have dreams too. I’m ambitious and sometimes feel stir-crazy trying to pack all my ambitions into one lifetime. 


But my situation feels different. My ambitions are just variations of the same work I already do today. I don’t dream of quitting my job. It’s more like I just envision tweaking my work along the edges to continuously do things I’m proud of with people who inspire me. 


If you fast-forward my life a few decades, I’ll be surprised if you don’t find me still writing.


A few weeks ago, some friends and I spoke in a circle about our big dreams for when we all strike it rich. Retire. Start businesses. Everyone’s answers were inspiring. 


My answer was that I want to keep doing some variation of what I do today: Write, read, invest, host parties with friends, and get outdoors. 


I'm 31 now. I started freelance writing in my early twenties. At the time, I felt incredible imposter syndrome. I didn’t have a degree or any formal writing training. (Still don't.) My only “credentials” were that I’d loved writing all my life. My only samples came from work I'd done for friends.


Over the years, writing started to work. I created real credentials by serving clients to the best of my ability. The more work I did, the more people wanted to work with me. The more people wanted to work with me, the more choice I had about whom I worked with (and how much I charged). 


Writing is a reputation business in that way. The easiest way to find future work is to do good work today with the opportunities that are in front of you. 


I feel immensely lucky to have found a career that checks all my personal boxes: I earn a good living on a simple schedule writing for clients I admire.

The problem is that writing about how good my life is doesn’t make for very interesting prose.


Still, when I was in my early twenties and struggling to find work as a writer, I motivated myself by reading blogs from other freelancers who had “made it”. Reading their reflections encouraged me to push through the imposter syndrome of those dreaded early years.


Well, young Alex, you did it. This career is as fun as you imagined.


But the work's not over. There's no rest for the freelancer. If you get too comfortable, you'll squander this gift. And to write for a living is indeed a great gift.



 

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