Separating your self-worth from your writing work

Will Kelly
3 min readJul 15, 2023


Photo by Amanda Jones on Unsplash

Writers, marketers, and content creators always get hit when a downturn hits the economy. It’s the nature of the business. Layoffs can be devastating to a creative person’s psyche and self-worth.

There’s been a lot written about how to separate your self-worth from your work. I’ve had cause to think about it a lot during the last couple of years, especially now in the current down economy.

I learned to separate my self-worth from writing years ago. I guess it starts with being Dyslexic, meaning I must work hard at everything I do, including writing. Dyslexia conditioned me that failure isn’t an end state or even close to it. Dyslexia, for me, at least often played out as a failure, a comeback story, failure, and a comeback story again.

My perspective for years is that quality writing is subjective. Countless times during my writing career, I had to adjust to client standards. For example, some organizations are just fine with passive voice in writing (yes, there are some). Passive voice is like fingernails across a chalkboard for me. While I may disagree with clients who are fine with passive voice, I learned to make their content priorities my priorities. Quite often, a side project like an article or a personal blog post kept me happy because I could do things my way.

Closely related to subjective writing is that there will always be oppressed writers who lumber in as document reviewers and want to show you they’re in charge. It took studying this subspecies of micro-manager when I was coming up as a technical writer to learn that often these people are the most insecure in the room. There was no time I found more professionally lonely than being stuck with what I like to call a false thought leader who is bluffing on their subject matter knowledge with great zeal and verbosity.

While I can be a huge article byline whore, I know that I’m not entitled to them and must earn each article byline I get. Despite years of writing articles, I still treat each byline as a small victory. More than once, earning a byline saved me from a bad day at work.

It took me years to take another step back from writing, realizing I’ve lived a very B+ writing life. Some writers are a lot better than me. Also, many writers aren’t as good as me. This attitude has kept me always reading and learning to improve my writing.

Prolonged and chronic stress, such as the current economy and layoffs, can make it hard to concentrate and cause mistakes for a writer. It’s critical not to let your mistakes haunt you. The best cure I’ve found in this situation is to immediately make the necessary changes to your writing or editing process to ensure it never happens again. Also, I use it as a wake-up call to the stress levels in my personal and professional lives and practice some self-care to return to my normal equilibrium and regularly scheduled writing.

Here are my top tips for separating self-worth from writing:

  • Relish in your small victories, such as a byline or an invite to be on a podcast about your work.
  • Come to terms with the larger span of the business world that quality writing is subjective.
  • Remember that the micromanager is more insecure than you are as a professional and writer.
  • While failure feels like it’s an end state, it never really is because comeback stories do happen.
  • When stress becomes overwhelming, and you make mistakes, act immediately to fix them and ensure they don’t happen again.

Originally published at on July 15, 2023.

Will Kelly is a writer and keen observer of the IT industry. Medium is his personal publishing platform. He has worked as a technical writer, marketing manager, product marketer, and freelance technology writer. Will has written about the cloud, DevOps, and enterprise mobility, most recently for TechTarget. Follow him on Twitter: @willkelly.