Saturday, October 20, 2012

How Do You Measure Success?


By: Michala T.

Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other.
Abraham Lincoln
What is true success for a writer? Is it seeing your book on the NY Times best seller’s list? Is it selling a certain number of books in a certain amount of time? Is it writing that quota every day? Is it finally writing ‘the end’ even if mentally for a book? Is it getting a song onto that album or featured on a particular film? Is it getting a joke in Reader’s Digest? Is it getting to stand before a group of fans and reading a section from our novel? Is it standing on stage and saying your poem in front of so many other aspiring writers at a writer’s conference?

How do we mark our successes as writers?  There are key features that we can all utilize in our personal lives to mark the measures of success.

1.      Determine a set amount of writing you will (notice that I did not say ‘want’) to reach every day or week. It depends on the kind of life you have as to whether it is best for you to mark the time you spend by day or by week. A mother who has PTA meetings, an outside job, and many other daily chores to attend to every day might do better to set a specific weekly amount of writing to achieve. A waiter who works thirds and has class in the mid mornings would probably want to set a weekly amount as well. Someone who is already a freelance writer or has a job with a very set schedule could utilize a daily time goal.

2.      For those who are putting out daily and weekly pieces in hopes of publishing articles and such, keep track of when they go out, where they go out to,  and when you receive word back. If it is a rejection send it back out there. It doesn’t mean that it tanked. It means that there might be some needed touch ups (if they were kind enough to give remarks) or that they weren’t able to use that piece. Someone out there can. Keep it moving. If it was accepted…SUCCESS. Mark it down and jump for joy, have a drink or two with a friend, and then get back in the game (unless that success was what you had been striving for.) If so…what is your next big goal?

3.      For those aspiring novelists (like myself) I must say that the inability to complete a project is not something uncharacteristic of a writer. There are millions of tales to tell. Some of them are going to be told before you get a chance to finish your story. I HATE WHEN THAT HAPPENS. For example, I was writing a story about a futuristic time where there was a disease that prevented women from being able to conceive…only to watch a new movie come out that said very much the same as my tale (Children of Men, 2006). There will be times when you have written seventy pages only to realize that it is going nowhere. There are those who would throw it all away. I am prone to keeping it in a file. I have found many smaller characters, even their names or their habits, were likely and workable pieces for stories later on. Those unfinished manuscripts aren’t always failures. They are steps towards a future success. Keep taking steps. As long as you are, that means you aren’t going nowhere and that’s a huge measure of success. One who is trying will always succeed before the one who gives up!

4.      Rejection letters! We hate them. But they are not so bad. REALLY. Once again…one who is trying will always succeed before the one who gives up! If you received a rejection letter it means that you are still in the game, giving it everything you got! And those rejection letters that are personally handwritten…are even more cause to celebrate! Someone IN THE BUSINESS took the time to write YOU! There is a reason for that. Now, I hate to say but it could be because your submission truly sucked. If so, then at least you know what you are doing wrong. If they wrote you for another reason, try to determine what it was that made them take the time to write YOU!

There is no easy way to obtain success. It’s hard work. It requires time, attention, and dedication on your part. It’s a journey that you must be willing to stick with. Finding those small measures of success is vital to maintaining the vigor and courage to stick with it. Look within the events of your writing life and find those small measures of success. It will allow you to stay motivated until you are able to obtain that particular success that everybody else sees later on.

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