GUEST POST: When Your Side Gig Takes Away From Your Dream

by Gurpreet Sihat

When I was 12, I decided I was going to be a published author. I didn’t know what I was going to write, where inspiration or ideas would come from, or even what it meant to be an author. All I knew is one day I was going to be published. 

Through my teen years I spent a lot of time writing angst-filled poetry in my bedroom and hanging out with the writer’s club at my high school. I always got the best grades in my creative writing projects, knocking my first and last creative writing assignments of high school out of the park with a perfect score, and my favourite English teacher calling me the Queen of the Thesis Statement. 

Fast-forward ten years and to my first job interview as a fully-fledged adult. The position was for an online marketer with an affinity with writing who would come in and write blog posts for a North American audience. Being born and raised in Canada, and wanting nothing more than to write, I thought the job was perfect for me. Apparently, so did the company. They hired me on the spot. That job catapulted me into nearly six years of on and off part-time work, with each job using more and more of my time to general, organisational marketing tasks rather than writing.

While working, I spent some time on my own manuscripts. I won NaNoWriMo writing an experimental manuscript and started to keep a journal to get stories out of my head and safely onto paper. What I hadn’t realized at 12 was that I wouldn’t be writing fiction when the time came as I had thought. My calling was to write about my own life and its trials and tribulations. 

After it was completed, I sent the manuscript to an editor – shout out to Full Bloom Editorial! – who came back with some solid feedback. The major highlight, though, was that there was a bulk of important details and connections missing. While I appreciated the feedback, it felt like I was being told that I wasn’t telling my own story well enough. That put me into a writing funk, even before the pandemic hit. 

It’s August 2021 now, over a year since I got my manuscript back from my editor, and I’m still over 20,000 words away from the finish line to send a revised version back. In the last year, I’ve quit a soul-sucking part-time job, become a freelancer, and am volunteering as a marketing coordinator for the non-profit organisation, Ki Culture. 

The money is good enough to keep me happy and fed, and the team I’m working with as a volunteer has given me everything I’ve ever needed from a team of passionate, like-minded individuals. But focusing most of my time on these endeavours has taken away from the thing that means the most to me: my writing.

As cliché as it sounds, I am writing the story I needed to hear when I was 24 and diagnosed with leukaemia. I’m writing the story of ups and downs and things that made me tick and scream and have panic attacks in a hospital bed 3000km away from home. And if just one person reads one page of my writing and thinks “wow, this person really gets me”, that will be success for me. 

So I made a plan! 

For the foreseeable future, I’ve scheduled ‘protected writing time’ into my calendar and given myself a weekly word count. My promise to myself is to accomplish either write for x amount of time on x amount of days through the week, or hit my word count. 

Last week I set three dates and a goal of 2,000 words, and I met one of those goals on my first attempt. So here I am, sitting with my schedule open in front of me, carving out my protected writing time. 

Will you join me?

by Darya Danesh

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