But before we go there, let me tell you how this past year was great.
I love being creative. This past year, I got to be creative every day and write full time. I have never had that chance ever in my life. So 2016 was monumental simply because of that. But, this was also the year that I wrote my first adult novel, a suspense novel inspired by Snow White that’s been marinating in my psyche for the past eleven years.
This novel was my most complicated and challenging writing endeavor yet. It features three different points-of-view and nine key characters, and delves into domestic violence, PTSD, friendship, love, and the care of bonsai trees. Writing this story was hard, tiring, and emotionally draining. But I finished the first draft and I’m proud of myself.
But despite reaching my major goal for 2016, I was not happy. In fact, most days, I struggled with loneliness, fear, and depression.
For months, I thought it was because the material I was writing was dark and emotionally difficult. But as the months went on, I realized it was more than that. I realized that one of the big reasons 2016 was so personally difficult for me was because I was working against my nature.
You see, I don’t just love being creative, I also love being of service to people.
Being of service to people and helping them achieve their goals is something I’ve been doing for close to 20 years. It was through the course of this year that I realized I didn’t just help other people achieve their goals because I liked it, was good at it, and got paid for it; I also did it because it is something that is intrinsic to my nature. Being of service is part of my core being.
This led me to have an existential crisis last month.
I knew I couldn’t go on being a full-time writer at home, leading a creative yet solitary, lonely, and depressed daily existence.
At the same time, I had a difficult time imagining myself back at a job.
I have nothing against jobs (I’ve had 35 of them), it’s just that I know from experience that if I got a full-time job, I would be so dedicated to it that my writing would suffer terribly or even cease to exist. That’s just the way I am. And good part-time jobs that fit my skills and experience are hard to come by.
That day in December, I cried and cried. I’ve cried many times this year but this time, I also felt defeated. I told my husband Marcus about it that evening and he felt bad for me. I went to bed thinking I needed to give up my dream of being a writer so I could preserve my mental and emotional health by finding a job where I could be of service to others.
The next morning, I woke up and did my usual routine. And I meditated, as I usually do. That’s when it hit me.
What’s the one thing I most want to help people with, right now?
I thought, I’ve already been helping people with their writing and with achieving their goals for nearly 20 years.
Why couldn’t I do that again?
But as a business, not as a job?
It was right there before me.
I wanted to be a Writing Coach.
After a lifetime of writing, and helping others write, I’ve realized that we all write better and stronger when we receive encouragement and constructive feedback.
That’s what I want to do–give people the help, encouragement, and feedback they need to write better and to keep writing.
In 2017, I’m going to be a writer and a Writing Coach.
The irony of this is I don’t think I would have discovered this path had I not gone through this pivotal year of being creative but also being lonely, fearful, and depressed. I needed to go through this year to see what it was really like to be a full-time writer with all its peaks, valleys, and plateaus.
Now that I’m here, I’m grateful for this year. I’m grateful I’ve reached this fork in the road and I don’t need to pick either path.
I can forge my own path.
I hope my story has given you some inspiration as you forge your own path in 2017 and beyond. Please know that if you need some help along the way, I’m here for you.
Peg Cheng is the author of The Contenders, a middle-grade novel centered on the question, can enemies become friends? She is currently writing another novel that is a re-imagining of the Snow White fairy tale set in 1980s Seattle. Peg is also a writing coach giving help, encouragement, and feedback to writers from all walks of life.