Mark Terry

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Keeping Score

October 15, 2008
In the spirit of a day that's getting nowhere fast, I'm going to excerpt something from a book by Michael A. Banks titled "How to Become a Fulltime Freelance Writer." I read it 5 or 6 years ago, before I became a fulltime freelance writer. I recently plucked it off my shelf on a whim (bathroom book, ya know?), and was reminded quickly of how valuable a book it is. Here's a particularly useful thing to think about:

"Keeping Score?
How do you define and measure success?

Success is often defined as meeting goals. If you write full-time, will you measure your success by your income? Or will you strive to write a certain number of books or articles each year?

Measuring your success by goals like these is okay--to a point. They are motivators, and allow you to gauge progress. But do they truly tell you how well you are doing? The danger is that the first time you fail to achieve a goal, you may feel a sense of failure. You may believe you are a 'poor' writer--not just in financial terms, but in writing ability.

But in the writing field, we all experience some failure. And writing ability, or lack thereof, is frequently not the cause of it. In fact, occasional failure may be needed in order to grow to be a successful writer....

Your career needs to be rooted in solid, well-planned goals. Think about how you will measure your success. Then develop a plan that will take you steadily there, step by step.

And don't confuse measuring your self-worth with measuring your writing success."

I think that last line's a kicker, frankly.

Cheers,
Mark Terry

9 Comments:

Blogger Erica Orloff said...

Hi Mark:
I think my world is just so huge, so chaotic and bsuy and full, that it would never dawn on me to measure self-worth by what I do for a living whether I was a CEO or a freelance writer or a short-order cook. I am forever reminded of The Little Prince (chapter one). Adults fixate on worth in terms of attainment. Children don't.

That said, I set a lot of goals . . . I like striving and reaching and working hard.

E

8:03 AM  
Anonymous Eric Mayer said...

For whatever reason I've never identified myself with my work and that's been true of writing. Even though I enjoy writing and have put more time and effort into it than any other activity, I don't think of myself as A WRITER. It's just something I do. Not identifying oneself with one's work is probably a good way *not* to succeed because it probably deprives the person of a lot of incentive and drive, unhealthy as it may be.

9:08 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

I think that's great for both of you, but I have wondered over the years that sometimes it was "write-or-die" and that's changed for me--a lot--but I suspect there are people that feel that if they don't make it as writers they're somehow failures.

The longer I make a living as a freelancer the more my life seems to fill up with things I feel are more important or as important and makes me richer for it.

10:48 AM  
Blogger lucidkim said...

The business side of my head immediately went to "you can't improve what you don't measure" and "balanced scorecard" etc. when reading this blog post.

I was thinking about what the article said - "the danger is that the first time you fail to achieve a goal, you may feel a sense of failure" - but who of us ever achieves all of our goals, the first time, every time?

And what I'm learning about being a writer is that if I were to hang my self-worth on my success in this area...I wouldn't have much. Good thing I don't. :)

kim

11:33 AM  
Blogger spyscribbler said...

I've been thinking about this post all day. On one hand, I recently decided to set a monthly goal. And then I took a two-week vacation, LOL, so...

But seriously, I'm all over that quota, full-steam ahead starting Nov. 1.

On the other hand, (this is going to sound stupid, but it's honest) I will feel like shit if I die before writing X amount of books. Maybe it's because I don't have kids. I just know I will feel like shit on my deathbed if I haven't written much, much more than I have already. It's the only thing I fear about dying. I feel like the universe looked me in the eye and said, "This is the only thing I have asked of you."

I don't care who publishes it, or what my reader numbers are. I just know I'm not done yet.

9:05 PM  
Blogger Zoe Winters said...

I think that last line is important too.

I think the issue is, in our society we are defined as what we do. People categorize others based on their occupation. So if someone is a plumber or electrician this is in a sense a part of their identity.

But I think it's a lot more easy for a plumber or electrician to keep their work completely separate from their identity.

With things like writing I don't think that's the case. Pretty much, no kid runs around doing plumbing and electrical work as kids.

And yet a lot of writers were already telling/writing stories even as kids. It's not really so much something we "do" as it is something we "are" and so when validation for that aspect of who we are gets attached to money and publication on "success" in the way our society defines it, I think it's much easier said than done, not to allow self worth to get somehow entangled in the whole mess.

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