Guest Post: (Un)measuring Success: Setting goals to become a happier, more fulfilled writer

Written By: Alyssa Martino

I experienced a writing revelation. No, I didn’t overcome an artistic block, weeding through grocery lists and deadlines to craft the perfect transition. I didn’t visit the alps or the slums, and, stunned by intense beauty or poverty, commit to capturing these moments on paper.

Ruler with background. Image courtesy of stock.xchng®My epiphany was founded on one simple and significant fact: we, as human beings, have control.

In any profession, but particularly writing, it’s easy to get caught up in the number game. How many hits did my blog get today? How many pieces did I publish this year? How much money does X publication pay per word?

Quantifying our work can consume us. I believe in marketing and analytics to find best practices, but I also believe in writing as an end, not a means.

When I say human beings have control, I don’t mean we can magically stop the clouds from breaking open or snap our fingers and secure a New York Times byline (Sigh. If only…).

What we can do is self-determine our own attitude, thoughts and actions. To me, this means plotting out goals towards success not measured in financial gains or readership. After all, without a higher sense of personal achievement and worth, aren’t these numbers devoid of any real meaning?

By tactfully integrating non-quantifiable goals within our professional frameworks, we can become happier, more fulfilled writers. Here are a couple things to keep in mind while designing your new objectives:

1.) Reward yourself. Memorize this mantra. Pick a couple milestones for which you’ll pat yourself on the back accordingly. Anne Wayman of About Freelance Writing is a fan of this method. Did you edit a section you’ve been dreading? Did you find the perfect place to pitch that stewing topic? If so, you like totally deserve a double fudge brownie.

2.) Make investments…in YOU. One of the first things I did after my first freelance gig was ask blog readers how I should invest in myself. The result was a new website, which hugely boosted my confidence. Think about what you want, not what you need, when purchasing. It’s just as important to have muses–brightly colored pens or a rich, mahogany desk–as it is practical supplies. What’s more, these investments are a great reminder that you believe in yourself.

3.) Think long term. Another excellent piece of encouragement is implementing steps to improve your skills. Think about what will help you in the long run, while still being fun to pick up. Learning something new might involve buying “How To” books, signing up for an e-course, or even returning to school. Either way, looking down the road shows you’re committed for the long haul–an empowering notion in and of itself.

4.) Give yourself a break. This isn’t an easy climb. So, if you’re struggling to get published or even to finish a pitch, don’t be too hard on yourself. If you’re experiencing more rejection than acceptance, you’re not alone. Jane Friedman recently wrote on There Are No Rules that only 10% of writers keep plugging, and it’s they who, regardless of skills, flourish. The fact that so many writers quit is all the more reason not to get discouraged: it will only bring you further down.

5.) Have fun! Isn’t that why you began writing in the first place? You thought it’d be exciting, maybe even therapeutic? It should be! Just stop worrying so much about numbers. Make your goals work for you instead of against you. Set small, reachable benchmarks in addition to larger dreams–ones that allow you to enjoy the art of writing as much as the payoffs. Free write every morning. Start a food blog. Experiment with feng shui. Hell, buy a snuggie! Sometimes, we have to stop measuring to find success that’s truly immeasurable.

Alyssa Martino is a copywriter, editor, and freelancer. She loves stories that connect people, place and possibility. Go ahead and visit her site.

10 thoughts on “Guest Post: (Un)measuring Success: Setting goals to become a happier, more fulfilled writer

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  2. You are so right. Sometimes we have to take a step back and remind ourselves why we write and how we feel when we do. When I put the pressures out of my head, my writing is so much better and flows more organically. Another thing that we have to remind ourselves of (and it never becomes much easier, unfortunately) is that there WILL be rejection. But I’d rather get rejected than never try; at least it means you’re putting yourself out there, right?

    • It’s a bummer to have to convince ourselves rejection is a given, but it does help our attitude in the long run, I think. I’d totally agree, Sheryl, about putting ourselves out there. I think someone once told me that if you aren’t getting rejected, then you aren’t aiming high enough 🙂

  3. This post was timely for me. This morning on my way to my day job, I was thinking about the essay for which I’m trying to find a home. When I began to feel discouraged I stopped myself. First of all, I wrote it and I’ve submitted it twice. The second editor loved it but had recently printed something on the same topic so couldn’t accept it. And, I had to remind myself that I’ve written and submitted more than ever before this year. That is something to celebrate! You’re so right–we need to keep long-term and short-term in perspective or it’s easy to lose sight of what we can and should celebrate. I’m off to buy that snuggie! (Loved your humor, by the way.)

    • Liz, I’m so glad this was/is a timely issue for you! Submitting is absolutely something to celebrate itself. Thanks for the reminder of that 🙂 I hope you enjoy your snuggie.

  4. Very good post-

    I would only comment that with respect to setting goals (SMART) for the “aspring” writer to be-that “one” needs to set both short and long term goals that are much more easier to achieve since you have desginated a specific block of time.

    For example, to to state your long term goal is to get a writing gig as an op-ed writer with the NY Times is stupendous-but… need to develop a short term plan that is dooable in reaching that long-term objective. What does that short term plan look like? Make your plan and stick with it. Otherwise it is just that-a plan..



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