I had an eye opening experience this week, which, should not have been at all eye opening and was completely avoidable.
I’ve been trying to really make this writing thing take off, like really trying, for the better part of a year. I’ve been writing pretty regularly for the past five years, but it wasn’t until I started PA Weekend Fun (my travel blog) that I really starting thinking I could pursue this as some kind of possible full-time (or at least part-time) career options.
The problem, which I’ve been told before but have willingly chosen to ignore up until this point, is that I feel like I’m lacking focus, trying to do too much, and at the same time possibly spreading myself a bit too thin.
My first priority is always going to be my job. I’m lucky to be employed and although I have my gripes with it, I truly do believe that what I do, teaching high school English, is important. In that same vein I am blessed to have been able to devote my summers and plenty of my weekends to writing but during the school year it gets tough as the job that pays my bills will always be my first priority.
I’m trying to essentially balance four, really I guess you could say five, separate writing projects on top of that. I’ve got this blog, which I’ve been trying to remain more diligent with keeping up with, where I both write and chronicle my adventures entering the writing world. I have PA Weekend Fun, which I really love writing. I’ve been trying to do an average of two posts a week there.
I also have posts for The Good Men Project, which is a site I’ve long admired and feel lucky to contribute to. I also enjoy producing these posts, working with the talented editors is improving my writing, I’m getting experience writing for a legitimate publication and it’s phenomenal exposure.
My other two outlets are fiction writing, I bounce between several long-term projects, and attempting to send out queries and pitches to garner other freelance opportunities, which at times seems a bit like a job in itself. And I’m not complaining or asking anyone to feel bad for me. If anything, I’m admonishing myself but we’ll get there.
On Wednesday, I had a piece, a rift on a piece I wrote here, published with Thought Catalog. I was excited. It’d provide a different audience for my writing and let me write in a different, more sarcastic tone then I’d been able to write previously. I was also excited for the feedback from readers, as I know that the commenters on Thought Catalog are generally more active than on The Good Men Project. I was ready to face some criticism. I was ready for the audience to not like what I said.
I was not ready for so many commenters to call me out for my poor editing. Again, I should not have been surprised. Editing and proofreading have never been my strong suit. I’ve been admonished for this professionally at school and had several people point out errors on PA Weekend Fun before, but had thought I’d gotten beyond that. I knew it was a fault, so in the past year, have been making a concerted effort to really proofread everything five, six, seven times before publication. But here was an article I wrote, one that I was excited and proud of and one an entirely different audience was seeing for the first time, riddled with mechanical errors.
My first reaction was indignation. Who notices these things? Who nitpicks on blog posts? Then I remembered that I’d certainly notice grammar mistakes in other people’s work. My second thought, and I’m just being honest here, was anger at the editors. How could they let my work go out looking unpolished? But you know what? It’s not the fault of the audience or the editors. It’s my and my fault alone.
Why were there so many errors in my article? The simple answer? Because I rushed it. During October I was somewhat of a writing machine. I’d gotten into a nice rhythm at work, was firing three or four posts off to The Good Men Project every week, was keeping up with two personal blogs and somehow tricked myself into thinking that the more I got out into the interweb, the better it was for my overall agenda. Seeing my name on legitimate websites was a dangerous aphrodisiac and I set ridiculous goals for myself. A to-do list from three weeks ago reads “publish two travel blogs, one personal blog, 4 articles for GMP, query four different sites, and send three stories to Thought Catalog.” I finished all of those tasks that week, but obviously not to my very best ability. My very best ability, and what would really put my best work out there, would be if I slowed down and devoted more of my time to less. A few really strong work pieces will always be better than a lot of error ridden garbage.
This week, I made a concerted effort to not publish anything to my blogs, or send any material I worked on out to be published. Rather, I’d start brainstorming some new posts, articles and pitches, and take my time proofreading the ones I had in queue over and over and over, even if it got boring. If I want to put work out there, I’m ultimately the one responsible for making sure it looks professionally done. I need to remember that quantity is not always inductive to quality.
And you know what? I don’t know why I’m in such a hurry to get all this stuff out there. The difference between a Monday or a Wednesday is really nothing, especially if the Wednesday material is just so much better.
Which leads me to spreading myself too thin. Maybe I’m trying to cram too much on my plate? I’m trying to do freelance writing, break into the travel market and write a manuscript. And don’t even get me started on the self promotion. Is it too much? Would I do better to really focus my energy making one of these things great, or is there no harm in trying to conquer several different avenues as long as I do it with care? I obviously have no idea of the answer, but do know that I’m not going to rush whatever conclusion I come to.