Ask Polly: Should I Just Give Up on My Writing?

This post by Heather Havrilesky originally appeared on New York Magazine’s The Cut on 9/16/15.

Dear Polly,

I feel like you get lots of letters from folks either starting out pursuing their passion, or looking for a passion to begin with, but here I am, midlife, mid-career, full of passion but in a slump.

I’m a writer — a peer of yours, I guess, though age-wise, I’m staring straight at the big 5-0. And I’m stuck. I can’t seem to get to the next level and I’m frustrated. I do well enough that it’s a bona fide career — not “here’s my Brooklyn duplex” successful, but a humble income as a freelancer, which, combined with what my partner makes in a stable job, sets us up okay. There are books with my name on the spine on my shelf. Some good reviews (some truly awful). All assembled, I’m a “success.” But not really. I can’t talk about this with many people because as someone who is mid-career and mid-level, I’m not crying from the outfield here, and I can’t be picked up with a “Dust yourself off, kid, you’re young!” speech, either. It’s hard enough to make a profession of writing so I don’t want to sound ungrateful. Many, many people are trudging uphill, trying to get a toehold, so I know how good I’ve had it, relatively speaking. With so many earnest climbers on this Everest just trying to get to base camp, they can’t see you’re clinging to the side of the mountain, running out of oxygen and losing sight of the summit.


Read the full letter, and Polly’s lengthy reply, on The Cut.