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Pocket change: Failure, gratitude, and financial struggle

The etymology for “essay” means to try or attempt, highlighting essays – and I’d say most forms of writing – are about failure at their root of understanding. Unlike other creative processes that are more visual or kinesthetic, writing combines the analytical with the creative, and this mash-up requires several rounds of failure.


How is writing about failure? Writers shape their critical thinking skills through various rounds of drafts. The first three drafts of fiction work are note-taking on the characters, their setting, and the true conflict. Writing is a living document that might take shape over time with various drafts.

Nonfiction writing is no different: resumes, essays, and copywriting all require several drafts before the idea marries with the analysis. Sometimes they’re full of drafts and other times it’s rereading a text message, LinkedIn post, or tweet before pressing send.


My writing journey comprises a series of failures and rejections. The lonely drafts are untouched because I was uncertain of their direction, the stack of rejection letters for my work, and even the odd rude reply from cold emails culminate in humility of failed attempts.


Writing for sweat equity

It’s time-consuming and rewards come slowly – so why write?


Money is one reason. For the past few years, I’ve seen a surge in copywriting courses promising writers financial freedom and professional fulfilment as a freelancer.


Gone are the boring 9-5 work days and here come adventurous trips throughout rustic or bougie travelling destinations, ideally working from a hammock on a laptop. Workplace gossip is replaced with freedom and solitude, only surrounded by the best friends who are whatever mix of creativity and decency imagined.


These copywriting courses are invaluable in teaching experience and marketing a business, but if going to six figures in six months were so easy, why isn’t everyone doing it? I read a stat on one of those courses: 18% of students write full-time. While 18% is surprisingly low for the success it advertises, that suggests that not everyone is cut out for the work.


Buying the courses are easy, but putting in the sweat equity is a massive financial and time investment. It’s a continuous dance with failure.


Useless humanities and financial problems


I chose my undergraduate university because at the time it was one of the few programs that offered a BA in Creative Writing. Sometimes I regret that decision since it’s the epitome of a useless humanity degree. A degree that has no market value and communicates a starving artist that’ll forever live from paycheck to paycheck.


I had an internal struggle based on the image I saw – a young woman who wanted to work – and the image reflected back – a loser who’s always financially strapped.


What I didn’t see was that I traded in problems. Of course, establishing emergency savings is still difficult. So are student loans and client acquisition. But housing insecurity is no longer an immediate problem I face.

Sometimes it’s too easy to fall back into the comparison of the social media successes posted everywhere, but that’s comparing a trailer to my behind-the-scenes. It makes no sense. No one knows all the troubles we’re facing in our lives. And along the way, I learned that patience is the writing game.


Writing during and after the school failures


I’m passionate about edTech copywriting because education is a constant exercise in failure. The purpose of school is to prepare students for life but it’s also traumatic. School is a social gathering that we’ll never see again because it pairs people up with those they wouldn’t choose freely. It’s also why some of us look at our high school and college years fondly, because who we associated with mattered more than who we are today.


My post-graduation years were a constant exercise in failure. During my MFA years, I wanted to appear approachable and friendly but I overdid it and made myself an easy target for gaslighting and harassment.


Growing up I assumed I’d become the professor type but I lack the aesthetic, the belief system, or the privilege to be a long-term academic.


My biggest takeaway during my graduate studies was that certain classes of people were set up for success. This goes beyond socioeconomic status to include family of origin.


For a whole host of reasons, my family couldn’t step up, so I lacked the stability or the social awareness to succeed in academia long term. Not to mention, academics earn very little money in most countries.

Establishing a career after a decade in education wasn’t easy, but I was determined to write.

Interviewers side-eyed my resume and once hired, bosses pigeonholed me as capricious and responsible despite my hours of hard work and dedication. For every writer, a romantic but self-destructive cliche emerges: Creatives are disloyal, disrespectful and flighty at best.


Writing to overcome stereotypes


I persevered because, for creative projects, it can take years for the right publications, the right clients, the right finances to find us.


In the meantime, writers must continue our commitment to writing and practice gratitude for where we came from, and where we're going.


Want to hear more from Christina? Follow her on LinkedIn or visit her page.

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