I cut way back on my writing for a couple of months – kind of on purpose, kind of on accident.
The purposeful part was dropping the client gigs in order to focus on other projects: mine.
For all the time I’ve been freelancing (almost 8 yrs now, wow), I’ve squished my projects – blogs, novels, nonfiction ebooks, so on – in between client work. And that’s worked… okay. Okay, at best. When I had all my stuff together and was marching my productive little march, doing the things that I knew worked for me – lists, focusing, not scheduling too much, focusing, planning, sticking to the plan, not planning too much – then I could rock it.
I could block time for client work, get it done, and move on to the time I’d blocked for my projects. But it was tough. I never felt like I was keeping up. And with the advent of home schooling upon me, I knew I couldn’t keep up with my work, client work, and educating my kids. So I dropped the client work in order to do what matters more to me: teach my kids, and work on my stuff.
But what I’ve really done in the past month is only the home schooling stuff. To be fair, it takes a lot of time, especially in the first year, trying to figure out how it all works. But the real reason I haven’t done any of my own writing is because of this sense of failure that’s been hanging around.
I’ve been writing for a long time, since pre-teen years. And I’ve been freelancing for 8 years… but I still feel like I’m trying to be a writer, not like I really am.
And I don’t feel like I’ve succeeded.
But have I?
What’s the measurement for knowing whether I’ve succeeded or failed? That’s a question worth asking, now that I think about it. In the last 8 years, I’ve done all my ongoing client work plus written
- one novel (first draft)
- four nonfiction books (published as ebooks)
- somewhere around 500 blog posts
- plus a good amount of one-off articles, newsletters, press releases, etc., for my own stuff.
- And social media content, sporadically.
The thing is, though, that I’ve never felt like I’m pulling it all off successfully. I’ve always felt like I’m running behind, not living up to my potential, not pushing myself enough, not being organized enough, productive enough, disciplined enough.
Perhaps it’s just my nature to feel like I fall short? Anyone else out there relating to this?
Here’s one problem that definitely contributes to the “failure” feeling: and that’s my lack of a clear definition of success. No matter how much I say I don’t, or don’t want to, I relate success to money. As in, somehow in my head I feel like when I am successful as a writer, I will be making consistent amounts of money from my writing.
And I have made consistent amounts of money from writing, from the client work. What I haven’t managed to do is make consistent amounts of money from my own writing, unless you count that one random Pinterest spike that brought in, oh, $100 of Google revenue. But that was random, so automatically disqualified.
That’s a hang up of mine, the money measurement. Because what’s the real measure of success for a writer? It’s in having written, having done the work. You kind of have to go at it like that, and hang the results. Maybe it will be published, maybe it won’t. (That’s not even really a question anymore; you write it, you can publish it yourself.) Maybe people will read it, maybe they won’t. Maybe people will love it, maybe they will hate it, maybe they will talk about it, maybe they will ignore it, maybe it will make you rich, maybe it will make you famous, maybe it will make you nothing. But in the having written it, you’ve achieved the success of being a writer.
It’s being a rich/famous writer that’s a different pot of tea.
How do you measure success in your work, your art, your industry, and /or your freelancing? There’s got to be a measurement beyond the money. Money is often a signal of a certain type of success, but it’s not the only signal. And you can’t let it be the only measurement.
Have I succeeded as a writer in the last 8 years?
Well. I’ve written. Maybe not all I wanted to.. but who can, ever? There are always so many ideas, so many plans. I’ve written. Not daily. Not to some consistent weekly word count. Not to any amount of fame or fortune. But the writing has happened, and now I’m back here, at it again, ready to go… and a little more understanding of what makes it fun, worthwhile, meaningful.
Psssssst. It really isn’t about the money.
What is it about, for you? If you don’t measure your work/productivity success in terms of money, how do you measure it?
I love the book of Proverbs in the Bible. I find so much wisdom there, really practical advice for everything, from how to handle relationships to how to manage and grow a business. Here’s one I read this morning that got me thinking on this track in the first place:
Do not weary yourself to gain wealth,
Cease from your consideration of it.
When you set your eyes on it, it is gone.
For wealth certainly makes itself wings
Like an eagle that flies toward the heavens.